In May 2019, 24 NGO leaders from 13 countries completed an interactive four-day management workshop designed to strengthen civil society in young democracies. This was the fifth 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 second consecutive workshop held in Poland with Warsaw-based partner the Education for Democracy Foundation, which supports democratization and civil society development.
The 24 participants were selected through an open application process from a pool of over 400 applicants. Participants attended the workshop at no charge and came from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, North Macedonia, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Their NGOs focus on democracy, education, human rights, and youth.
Jan Jakub (Kuba) Wygnański, President of Shipyard – Centre for Social Innovation and Research and council member of the Education for Democracy Foundation, drew on his experience as a sociologist and activist to deliver the workshop’s opening keynote address on the present challenges facing NGOs. The keynote address and opening were held at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The evening began with welcoming remarks from museum director Dariusz Stola.
Participants took advantage of the unique opportunity to network with other NGO leaders from across the region. Beginning with the opening keynote and reception on the eve of the program, the camaraderie continued through a group visit to POLIN, an interactive walking tour of Warsaw, and a toast-filled closing dinner at a restaurant in Old Town Warsaw.
Through their evaluations at the program’s conclusion, participants expressed that the workshop effectively provided them new tools and methods to manage more sustainable organizations in their challenged contexts.