The Democracy Works Foundation (DWF) is an African, non-partisan and non-profit company that operates in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi and South Africa. DWF opened its doors in 2014 in South Africa in response to the weakening of public institutions, corruption and declining citizen participation. It is an initiative committed to promoting and building democracy in Southern Africa and supporting inclusive development and regional cooperation.
DWF analyses the health of democracy and implements innovative interventions and technologies to foster inclusive development through a deepening of democratic culture and capacity while ensuring sustainability and independence of its operations.
DWF is a values-based organisation, and believes that values such as integrity, independence, inclusivity, innovation and accountability are necessary to make democracy work. It also believes in developing home-grown and innovative solutions that support public officials and states to be more open, transparent, responsive and accountable. It also works to build the capacity of citizens and provide tools enabling them to impact better their democracies, meet their obligations and claim their rights. DWF works on the supply and demand side of democracy.
DWF believes that democracy is always a work in progress, where all citizens and all officials must continuously work towards building a system of government that is free, open, transparent and responsive to the needs of the people. It is critical to ensuring the development of the region to benefit all citizens.
As a result, DWF’s activities and programmes aim to:
- Promote broader civic engagement by citizens across the region;
- Promote a political culture that is inclusive, particularly of women, youth and historically marginalised groups;
- Promote openness, transparency and inclusiveness among public officials and institutions;
- Contribute to the development of strong, accountable and responsive institutions;
- Develop and enhance south-south cooperation and problem-solving around democracy;
- Create tools to measure the strength and capacity of public institutions and democracy;
- Provide tools that enhance critical engagement and public participation.
DWF’s work is centred on four programmes – the pillars that the organisation is built on:
Monitoring – DWF develops tools to observe, measure and enhance democracy and public accountability. These tools allow DWF to observe the health of democracies and to ensure that nations are meeting their goals. Its most recent achievement in this regard has been the Integrity Idol initiative, which aims to identify, name and fame outstanding public servants for their commitment to accountability and service of those they serve.
People and Leaders – DWF builds the capacity of citizens to better participate in their democracies, empowering them to engage critically with their leaders and to be more open-minded to the views of their fellow citizens. It works with leaders to build their capacities to establish more participative policies and develop the skills to be accountable and effective public representatives. Recent work includes the Passing the Baton project, which saw youth engaging in inter-generational dialogue with South African leaders and developing skills as citizens.
Institutions – DWF aims to ensure that institutions are effective, independent and respected. It views strong institutions as core pillars for the long-term sustainability of democracy. Well-functioning institutions ensure the smooth operating of the political system, the critical delivery of services and the establishment of and adherence to the rule of law. Strong institutions also ensure the separation of powers. DWF’s work in this regard supports institutions, provides technical assistance, and aims to be vocal in preserving institutional mandates and powers.
Spaces – DWF creates platforms for deep and critical engagement on the challenges and opportunities facing democracies. It is essential to create space in democracy for diverse opinions and ideas, and to give room to those who have been historically marginalised by society. DWF holds frequent dialogues and recently created an important space for women to dialogue around their participation in politics. DWF’s youth political cafes is another project within this programme.
DWF has offices in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi and South Africa. All offices are administered centrally from South Africa, while country offices are responsible for programme management and implementation.
DWF believes in collaboration across sectors, and in social pacts. No single sector, organisation or government holds the key to sustainable, equitable development, and each sector and organisation will have unique knowledge, skills and resources to contribute to a collaboration that works towards its institutional objectives and mutual interest in sustainable societies.
DWF is currently implementing the Southern African Political Party and Dialogue Programme in consortium with the Centre for Multiparty Democracy – Malawi and Freedom House Africa, with financial support from USAID Southern Africa. It is also implementing the South African Civil Society Participation in Provincial Legislatures Programme with the Westminster Foundation for Development, with financial support from the European Union.
DWF has recently collaborated with the Accountability Lab to implement South Africa’s first Integrity Idol, and works with many other organisations in Southern Africa such as the In Transformation Initiative.
This is the eighteenth NGO profile of my #NGOs4Africa Campaign.