In October 2018, 25 NGO leaders attended an intensive four-day management training workshop designed to strengthen civil society in young democracies. This was the fourth annual workshop spearheaded by two University of Michigan units focused on strengthening emerging democracies: the Weiser Center for Europe & Eurasia and the William Davidson Institute. This year the program moved from Slovakia to Poland, in cooperation with a third partner: the Warsaw-based Education for Democracy Foundation, which supports democratization and the development of civil society.
The program targeted leaders of organizations in countries that have experienced great change over the past three decades as their societies have undergone democratic transitions. The 25 participants were selected through an open application process from a pool of 245 applicants. Participants from NGOs that focus on democracy, economic development, the environment, human rights, youth, and civil society attended the workshop at no charge. They came from 12 countries: Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
Aleksander Kwaśniewski, who served as President of Poland from 1995-2005, delivered the workshop’s opening keynote address on the topic of leadership. He was introduced by Professor Geneviève Zubrzycki, director of the Weiser Center for Europe & Eurasia. A lively Q&A session with the participants followed Kwaśniewski’s talk. The opening morning session also featured words from former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Dan Fried, who shared his insights into authoritarianism and democracy. “The current reactionary cycle we are witnessing around the globe will prove to be temporary,” he told the group.
In addition to the academic instruction they received, participants had ample time to network over the course of the week. In summary, the program reached its goal of equipping NGO leaders with skills and tools needed to run more sustainable and effective organizations. This training will help organizations counter authoritarian currents and enable democratic values to further develop in their societies.