By Daniella Bien-Aime
Haiti’s presidential elections are in full swing. The first round took place in August, and the second round is scheduled for Oct. 25. Although the initial results were considered ‘slimy’, some are justifying the outcomes as progress. Despite this, we’re moving on.
What’s striking is the emergence of candidates in the digital space.
As I interact and watch hopeful presidential and senate candidates on social media, two thoughts occurred to me: one, Haiti’s Internet penetration is gaining steam, and two, there is an opportunity to train these potential leaders on using the medium to engage likely donors and voters.
Haitian politicians want to gain support from the diaspora through social media, but a lack of knowledge is hindering their efforts. There seems to be an assumption that self-promotion with no plan to interact and articulate their vision will motivate followers. For example, I recently had a politician follow me on social media, and the next day I received a direct message telling me that he hopes I can push his message in the coming weeks. He had no idea of whether I agreed with his political agenda or not – so that was a huge mistake. Imagine meeting someone at a party for the first time, and within the first thirty minutes that person is asking you on a date or for money. The words pushy and strange would come to mind.
Building a Dynamic Social Media Platform Takes Time
Another observation is the length of time it’s taken some politicians to use social media as a communication platform.
Hence, a note to future politicians – if you’re reaching out to your potential constituents three months prior to the elections, you’re already too late.
Therefore, this post is for the aspiring politicians who are looking to connect with the diaspora beyond the 2016 elections. Now, mind you, I’m cognizant that others can expand on the ideas below, but you’ll get the general impression on how to draw our attention and move us to act on your behalf.
Social media has the power to connect the disenfranchised with the rest of the world; so build your presence and make it count. There are two ways you can build your social media presence where it counts. Firstly, you can raise the bar on your professional image and behavior in public – meaning that your image should look presidential. The diaspora needs to have the confidence that you can do the job and your image should confirm it.
The use of social media has become a lethal weapon in how people access and communicate their ideas to create a movement – similarly, a movement can be created for you if we believe you. Just think of how quickly people have been able to mobilize and bring attention to a cause. Consider some of the most recent crises, such as the genocide crisis in the Dominican Republic with people of Haitian descent, Ferguson and Baltimore, among others. All these causes were magnified through the revolution of social technologies.
Secondly, create a community of people who believe in your message. Make it a habit to converse with a diverse group of people. Respond to questions and have conversations with the “average” followers. After all, you never know if one of those “average” people will embrace your ideas, support you financially and help spread your vision.
Competence and Transparency Will Build Your Credibility and Help You Gain Followers
The world’s political atmosphere is drowning in mediocrity, and the international community does not have the power to force the Haitian diaspora to engage with leaders who do not represent their values and are disrespectful. Many of us consistently watch those in authority discredit their self-respect while their lack of skills and qualifications scream ‘unfit’.
Thus, it will be refreshing when you lead with the populace in mind instead of a self-entitlement attitude. Your ability to show previous success where your work had an impact and can be quantifiable will give you the lead. And a genuine desire to help people escape the chronic survival of life’s disparities and hopelessness will help you gain converts. Many of us are alert and on fire to advocate for credible leadership.
In the words of Cornel West: The Fire of a New Generation ‘s interview, “… And when you love people… You tell the truth. You sacrifice your popularity for integrity.”
You should sincerely ask yourself: What are my qualifications to lead people, much less a country? Jack Ma best summarizes how to tell the truth when he warns, “You first have to revolutionize yourself, before you can revolutionize others.”
Provide Sound Leadership When Managing the Public’s Money
Several hopeful politicians faced a financial accountability problem during this electoral process. A number of candidates assumed they were above the law when it came to providing a financial account of missing funds. The poor management of funds correctly led many to be disqualified.
The diaspora is aware that events planning take precedence over paying teachers, embassy personnel, and helping those displaced by the earthquake find homes. Yet, family members and friends of politicians who have no careers, limited college education, nor full-time jobs own hundred-thousand-dollar homes.
Practice sound financial management with the public’s funds. Haiti is a small island, yet, over 1500 legislative candidates and 70 presidential contenders are running for office. We have no other choice but to conclude that they see politics as a get-rich political scheme to gain upwards mobility.
Daniella Bien-Aime is the founder of the Bien-Aime Post, a digital platform that focuses on business, leadership, education, and social media, within the context of the Haitian diaspora and Haiti. You can follow her on Twitter @dbienaime.