Bratislava, Slovakia —The International Republican Institute (IRI) gathered up-and-coming young leaders from around Europe for the first-ever Citycraft Institute from September 16-18, 2009 in Bratislava, Slovakia. Citycraft Institute helps prepare the next generation of leaders across Europe to govern more effectively at the local level. Focusing on the unique challenges faced by local political leaders and elected officials, Citycraft provides a tailor-made curriculum for participants actively engaged in municipal politics.
At the inaugural Institute, local Slovak officials from the city of Bratislava and the city of Martin spoke to participants about transparency programs initiated in their municipalities. Jozef Petráš, spokesman of Martin, described an online transparency project to allow citizens of Martin to view city spending habits and pending contracts. Marek Papajcík, magistrate of Bratislava, discussed the setup of Bratislava’s front office and later took Citycraft participants on a brief tour of the front office facilities and the historic city hall.
Trainers from IRI’s Leadership and Excellence in Advanced Politics Team also participated in Citycraft. Tomáš Jirsa, former Chief of Staff to the Mayor of Prague, provided strategic advice about communicating with the media. Agnieszka Pomaska, a Member of Parliament from Poland’s Civic Platform, presented techniques for running a local campaign and shared her personal experiences from local and national campaigns.
Citycraft speakers also focused on using technology at the local level. Gerhard Loub of the Austrian People’s Party engaged participants in a discussion of Web 2.0 technologies for political use. Mark Szabo of the Hungarian Perspective Institute explained the roll of microtargeting, focus groups and polling for local campaigns, using successful examples in Hungary as a case study. From the city of Bratislava, Martin Horvath and Milan Vajda presented the city branding strategy, explaining the challenges and benefits of successfully marketing municipalities internationally.
Citycraft is a new initiative based on IRI’s long-running Leadership Institute in Central and Eastern Europe (LICEE) series, focusing specifically on municipal campaigns and governance issues. Citycraft and the LICEE series provide political boot camps for up-and-coming political leaders aimed at equipping young prospective leaders in the region with skills to help them build successful political careers, and effectively advocate their interests in local, regional and national politics.