Our bootcamps bring together the next generation of politicians and journalists in an effort to strengthen democratic dialogue. We’re working to break the toxic cycle of media and politics, which treats politics like a game and politicians like boxers fighting each other in a ring.
So far we have carried out this work in Kenya and Denmark, but we are always interested to hear where we can expand the project to other countries.
Get in touch
Cynara Vetch, International Project Lead at the Constructive Institute
How we got here
Democracy has a problem: The fast and cynical culture of conflict in the media and public discourse has led to the erosion of shared facts and the extreme partisanship that comes along with it. According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, greater political polarization is tied to lower levels of trust in the news – meaning the outrage machine that drives the cycle of media and politics is not only toxic, it’s broken.
But the media isn’t the only issue. You can’t change political coverage if you only change journalism – you also need to change the way politics works. So the Constructive Institute decided to do something about it.
Timeline of our work in Denmark
In November 2018, we facilitated a series of debates in a new constructive format, where Danish politicians, journalists and several hundred citizens met to debate ways to improve trust in media and politicians in order to strengthen democracy. We partnered with Trygfonden and The People’s University for the first “Democracy Debate.”
After the June 2019 Danish elections, we hosted 30 newly elected parliamentarians for talks about the kind of job that actually awaits newly elected officials – an event we called “24 Hours for Democracy” and held in partnership with Statistics Denmark and Rødding Folk High School, the oldest folk high school in Denmark and the world.
Since then, we’ve trained newsrooms in constructive political journalism and helped them strategize about their upcoming local elections coverage. Ahead of the 2022 national elections in Denmark, we surveyed the global public on what they want from their politics, and shared the results with politicians and journalists.
We then hosted 12 party leaders, the Danish finance minister and 500 voters at Aarhus University for a sold-out democratic experiment that asked: Can an election debate be about ideas and solutions – and not just attacks on the others? The answer, resoundingly, was yes.
In January 2023, we hosted the newly elected Danish parliamentarians for a Democratic Bootcamp, giving them the opportunity to work across the aisle to bring down the temperature on political dialogue, in service of a more constructive future.
Breaking the toxic cycle in Kenya
Our work in Kenya launched in March 2022, when we hosted an exploratory day for innovators and industry leaders in Kenyan media, hosted by the Royal Danish Embassy Kenya. Journalists across the sector declared an interest in constructive journalism to meet the challenges of reporting in Kenya. A key area of concern was conflict-focused political reporting, with coverage of female leaders considered particularly problematic.
A year later in March 2023, we adapted our Democratic Bootcamps for an East African context. We ran four sessions on how journalism can support civic empowerment and build constructive dialogue in Kenya:
After two days of discussions, female journalists and politicians created a manifesto how to change political coverage of women leaders from within newsrooms.
Young politicians and journalists reflected on the challenges of the past — and how their work can shift political narratives going forward.
Students at the University of Nairobi joined an online workshop to reflect on a new way forward for media and politics.
The People Dialogue Festival is an annual event that brings together political leaders and citizens in Nairobi. We focused here on how journalism can bolster civic empowerment and build constructive dialogue.
With support from: