In partnership with the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), Demo Finland has been active in Myanmar since 2014. Until the coup in 2021, our democracy education programme was a big part of this work. Through intensive retreats for political actors from across the political spectrum, we worked to break down polarisation and create a more open and inclusive political space.
This work was temporarily halted after the coup. However, the Myanmar team continued to explore innovative ways to preserve and promote democratic knowledge and values in an increasingly hostile environment. One of the results of this exploration has been the creation and launch of the MyDemocracy School application.
The MyDemocracy School app is an online and web-based application that aims to empower marginalised groups in Myanmar who are interested in politics with an accessible, comprehensive democracy education toolbelt that provides them with knowledge and skills to mindfully participate in democratic processes and dialogue.
Although MyDemocracy School will be available publicly on both Google Play and Apple Store, alumni from Myanmar whom NIMD/Demo Finland have worked with in the past will be targeted for priority first access to the application.
MyDemocracy School is a free, low-data usage, web and mobile application. Users have unlimited online and offline access to expertly curated, interactive content that had been developed by NIMD/Demo Finland teams based on source materials provided by different actors as referenced in the application. NIMD Myanmar wants to ensure democracy education is available anytime, anywhere, to anyone who is interested. That’s why making information consistently accessible – online and offline through the app – was a priority in designing the app for target users. To offer an interactive and engaging experience to users, the content within the application takes the form of both articles and audio files. There is also a forum – currently available exclusively to Democracy School alumni – at the end of each chapter, where users can anonymously discuss their takeaways and key lessons in order to engage in meaningful dialogue around the topics presented. The application features and the content support bilingual capabilities – both in Burmese and English.
36 alumni from past Democracy Schools attended the exclusive online launch event for the MyDemocracy School app on 7 December 2022. This was not only an opportunity for NIMD Myanmar to introduce the app to target users, but more importantly it was an opportunity for the alumni network to reconnect with each other and reinvigorate their shared commitment – together with NIMD and Demo Finland – to democracy education, even in polarising and complex political circumstances.
The alumni who attended expressed great excitement amongst each other, exchanging greetings and thoughts about the application’s potential as a comprehensive and accessible learning tool. Htet Oo Wai, Country Director of the Myanmar programme, reflected that their attendance at the launch event reminded her of the valuable, fond moments of learning and dialogue that the Myanmar programme team and alumni shared during democracy school trainings in Myanmar. Attendees took part in a short pop quiz game on key concepts of democracy, with the highest scorer earning a prize at the end. The alumni who attended the launch event also engaged in an in-depth Q&A about the app, especially around the security features that will ensure the privacy and safety of users.
These interactive activities, led by the event organising committee, garnered critical initial feedback that will help the app – which is in its initial stages with room for continuous adaptation and improvement – become the most effective resource for potential users. Moreover, they sparked curiosity and brought smiles to the faces of attendees, underlining the importance of maintaining close relationships with the people whom we work with, who continue to stand for democratic values in the face of adversity.
The launch event marks only the beginning of the Myanmar programme’s exploration of innovative ways to support democratic knowledge and skills in Myanmar. Democracy needs democrats, and the MyDemocracy School app will strive to make democracy education accessible to those who need it most – wherever they may be.