In October 2019, 25 NGO leaders from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia completed an interactive four-day management workshop designed to strengthen civil society in young democracies. This was the sixth 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. It was the fourth workshop held in Slovakia and the first organized in partnership with the Bratislava-based NGO Ambrela, an umbrella organization of NGOs in Slovakia dedicated to development.
The program targeted leaders of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia which have all had challenges in their democratization process, especially in the most recent era of fake news and disinformation. In this environment, NGOs have had a particularly difficult time navigating. The 25 participants were selected through an open application process and attended at no charge. Their NGOs represented focus on democracy, education, human rights, and the environment.
Participants had many opportunities to network during the week. Beginning with the opening reception on the eve of the program, the camaraderie continued through a group visit to Svätý Jur to enjoy a view onto the charming village and a trip to a small winery, where participants learned more about local wine production, regional grape varieties, and toured some of the vineyards.
Evaluations were extremely positive, with measured outcomes of the overall program receiving high approval: relevance of content to organization; applicability to work; and match with expectations. Nearly all participants reported they would strongly recommend the workshop to others in their field.