Rosy's story: innovation and citizen engagement in Panama
International IDEA and the Electoral Tribunal of the Republic of Panama have a long history of cooperation. Since the first days of the Panamanian democratic transition, both institutions have worked together in the organization of discussion panels, seminars, workshops and research documents. In December 2018, the relationship took a step forward with the signing of the first cooperation agreement to support the 2019 electoral process. Further on, this agreement was extended with the implementation of a second cooperation phase that began on 1 August 2019, and will continue until 31 December 2020.
As part of this new phase, one of the central pillars has been to provide support in terms of strategic communication and engagement with citizens. It is known that these two tasks are fundamental to any electoral body since these have come to be the basic institutions for democratic participation. The other two pillars consist of providing expert support for the development of electoral regulations and strengthening the institutional capacities of the Electoral Tribunal for the effective performance of its functions.
The strategic communication activities were initiated with a diagnosis of the main communication models and initiatives of the Electoral Tribunal, both within the organization—its officials and directors—and outside—political parties, civil society and individuals.
As a result of this diagnosis, made with the support of communication specialists from the Institute of Technology and Higher Education of Monterrey (ITESM in Spanish), we have worked with the directors and officials of the Electoral Tribunal for the optimization of its communication strategy. We have advised those responsible for communication through traditional media (press, radio, and television) and digital media (social media), to evaluate new trends and resources in terms of institutional strategic communication.
During this exercise, we analyzed the virtues and strengths of digital media to disseminate messages and reach a bigger audience and doing so more directly. This was done taking into account both traditional and digital audiences and was especially aimed at young audiences who increasingly use social media to inform and communicate.
Among the central themes of the analysis and recommendations is the use of 'storytelling', in which real or fictional characters are used; and which at the same time, become protagonists and facilitators of the flow of information as communicators and influencers.
Right here is where the Rosy emerged as an emblematic character of the Electoral Tribunal.
Rosy used to be a stray dog, but after it was run over and injured in front of the Tribunal’s building, the security personnel of the Electoral Tribunal decided to adopt her. Since then Rosy lives in the Electoral Tribunal, where she has won the hearts of officials and users who visit the Tribunal for civil registration, identification or electoral purposes.
As a result of the analysis mentioned above, on 17 December 2019, the Electoral Tribunal opened two Twitter and Instagram accounts for Rosy (@SoyRosyTE). Both accounts have the purpose of engaging with citizens, solving inquiries about procedures and sharing important information about the services provided to citizens by the Electoral Tribunal, both during and between elections.
Rosy's innovative presentation as a character of the Electoral Tribunal has been a success nationwide in Panama. Rosy has received media coverage, including visits to two morning TV shows.
Rosy interacts with the public not only in relation to issues pertaining to the Electoral Tribunal but also on topics as diverse such as announcing that lost identity cards have been found and how people can recover them, promoting the protection of the environment and abandoned animals, as well as sharing and exchanging pet photos with the thousands of followers that Rosy has already accumulated, both on Twitter (2,273) and Instagram (12,600), as of 25 February 2020.
Additionally, Rosy has garnered very positive reactions from the public regarding the modernization and innovation of the Electoral Tribunal, generating hundreds of favorable comments on these two platforms.
In addition to having encouraged the interaction in social media of Rosy with the Electoral Tribunal users’ and with the general public, the project of cooperation between International IDEA and the Tribunal also included redefining and redesigning the institutional identity of the Electoral Tribunal, which is part of the broader exercise included within the 360 Institutional Strategy for Strategic Communication.
This strategy considers reviewing the logo of the Electoral Tribunal, as well as the vision and mission statements and the declaration of the institutional purpose. All this based on the renewed values, principles and fundamental symbols that govern and form the identity of the Electoral Tribunal.
The cooperation between International IDEA and the Electoral Tribunal has resulted in other tangible achievements, such as the creation of the Communications Coordinating Council and the recommendation to declare 2020 as the year of the commemoration of the 30 years (1990-2020) of the restoration of democracy in Panama and the re-foundation of the Electoral Tribunal.
In International IDEA, we celebrate and support the will of the Electoral Tribunal to improve its citizen engagement initiatives, all in favour of Panamanian democracy.