The Democracy Academy: With the Right Goals and Strategies, MPs can be Agents of Change

To kick off the month of February, Mzalendo Trust in a joint initiative with the Netherlands Institute of Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) conducted a Democracy Academy training module aimed at building the capacity of Parliamentary Leaders towards enhancing engagements with constituents. 

Participants were drawn from both the National Assembly and Senate, and also catered for special interest groups (SIGs). The program focused on practical sessions that would (i) improve constituency relations, (ii) engaging stakeholders and, (iii) advocating and influencing. The session begun with an assessment of best practices on constituency relations through a series of examples from Europe and Netherlands by Femke Brouwer, a Programs Advisor from NIMD.

Thereafter, former South Mugirango MP, Hon. Omingo Magara shared a story on his leadership journey on how being grounded on values such as integrity and service helped him navigate politics, serve his constituents, and manage constituency development initiatives. Hon. Omingo Magara placed emphasis on serving citizens first as a vital priority for political leaders. He equally cautioned on the risk of being lost in opulence, and how it places leaders in a position to compromise their ethical standards.

The proceeding plenary session engaged participants in a conversation about leadership.

“As leaders, we have no excuse but to deliver to the citizens. Most have high but yet very reasonable and achievable expectations,” Hon Omingo stated. “A leader's capacity to influence is not limited to the corridors of Parliament… A leader should be able to nurture relationships, support and help constituents, and coordinate all these efforts to realize set agenda targeting to benefit the people,” he added.

Mildred Ngesa, a transformational leadership coach, built on the momentum of the preceding sessions by giving exercises that helped the participants; to understand perceptions of their constituents and stakeholders; and identify areas that improve, develop deeper connections that touch the hearts and minds of the citizens. Her session adequately challenged the leaders to develop closer connections with constituents, and center them in their roles.

“While certain red tapes might delay or hinder MPs from advocating for constituents pressing needs, either because of political affiliation or the bureaucratic nature of our systems, they should be able to identify non-state actors for instance development partners willing to support their development initiatives at the grassroots. Service leadership is unattainable without being in touch with the citizen. Continuous engagements with citizens and being open to feedback can foster trust and dependability of a leader,” she said.

Michael Orwa, a political strategist, introduced an aspect of narrative framing that is required by leaders towards advancing their legislative agenda, whilst advocating and influencing to actualize the agenda.

“How can you navigate the political playing field to achieve impact? It is all in the strategy. Upon assuming office, you need to develop a plan, identify tools to execute plan, the team, the resources, and timelines to bring the plan to fruition… This plan requires periodic assessment to gauge its effectiveness, in order to revise and improve so as to achieve agenda,” he urged.  

As the training came to a conclusion, the MPs were reminded that their future in political leadership is not guaranteed, a truth that is supported by the high attrition rate that the Kenyan Parliament experiences every electoral cycle. “You have to realize that the only time you have to leave a legacy is while you occupy your respective seats. To be productive you need to prioritize self-care and self-improvement because human beings cannot pour from empty cups. This involves better management of time, better management of personal and public resources placed in your dockets… take holistic care of your wellbeing,” Hon Omingo encouraged the participants.

Parliament resumes sittings next week, Mzalendo Trust remains confident that participating MPs shall apply the lessons learnt and utilize the skills to transform them into agents of change in their constituencies and among their colleagues.

Posted by Loise Mwakamba on Feb. 9, 2024

Categories:  Influence   Transformational Leadership   Democracy Academy   Strategic Leadership



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