After traveling to Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia, we meet a tired but pleased programme manager, Ulrika K Engström:
-It has been an incredibly educational journey. I believe that the most significant lesson was understanding the conditions for civil society actors, learning more about their region, and recognizing the tremendous power within civil society.
Ulrika K Engström shares that before the trip they worked hard to identify and reach out to the right target groups.
-We conducted thorough groundwork to identify interesting organisations and contacted them. We used social media such as the embassy’s channels. Our contact with SI alumni was also crucial. It was nice to see that so many SI alumni want to stay connected with Sweden. They are truly the core of everything and our best ambassadors.
The outreach efforts were successful:
-We have had fantastic engagement from the right target groups and have met hundreds of people. There was great interest in the networking events that we organised together with the embassy in each country. The purpose of the trip was to share information about SI: s offer regarding project funding, scholarships, and leadership programmes, but also to gather insights to better understand the region and to disseminate that knowledge within our own organisation.
In each country, a full-day training was organised with about 20 leaders from civil society. The goal was for them to experience our leadership programme SI Leader Lab through a day of experiential learning.
SI Leader Lab is a leadership programme where 100 leaders in civil society annually develop their advocacy and leadership skills during eight months. During the training sessions focus was on leadership with interactive exercises allowing participants to explore different leadership styles, tools, and models for group dynamics and self-leadership.
– It was rewarding to see that it is possible to create a transformative experience in just one day. Participants had the opportunity to get a taste of what it’s like to be part of SI Leader Lab and the strength of exploring their leadership, says Ulrika K Engström.
– I really appreciated the fact that both the structure and the content of the training was based on neuroscience, said Doina Dragomir from WatchDog, one of the participants of the training. The approaches and tools that we introduced to are scientifically proven to be effective and relevant for me as a manager.
For Ulrika K Engström, the highlight of the journey was meeting so many SI alumni and other representatives from civil society who have been crucial to the democratic development and societal change in the region.
– To mention a few examples, Transparency International Georgia has played a key role in combating corruption, and in Moldova, organisations like Promo-LEX and WatchDog have been central in monitoring electoral processes and reporting violations of democratic principles. It gave me hope, both on a professional and a personal level, to see the difference civil society can make and how we can contribute to that development.