European Women's Academy for Political Leadership and Campaigning 2018
How can aspiring female leaders become more influential politicians? How to empower more women to become more self-confident and better prepared to take high-ranking positions in politics? What can we change in the environment to break stereotypes, prejudice, internal party culture and other barriers to equip ever more women to pursue careers in politics both as candidates and campaign managers?
The liberal answer to all of these quests is the European Women's Academy for Political Leadership and Campaigning (EWA). EWA East Europe is a state-of-the-art training programme, organized by the European Liberal Forum, supported by the Regional Office of Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) for East and Southeast Europe, in cooperation with the ALDE Party. EWA East Europe Class of 2018, consisting of 12 inspiring female leaders from 7 countries, are about to graduate soon in June the second and final session of the insightful training.
EWA’s Track Record of Success
FNF remains committed to supporting EWA, especially in the light of the successful pilot edition of EWA East Europe in 2017 and after 2 generations of EWA alumni from the West Europe edition, organized by ALDE. EWA East Europe 2018 Class met for the first time for intensive four days in March in Varna, Bulgaria, for a comprehensive programme focusing on personal career, values, strategy, goal setting, data and research, fundraising and media relations. There are already election success stories from both EWA East and West Academies. Just recently EWA participant from Class 2018, Mane Tandilyan has been appointed as Minister of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia.
Strategy and Tools for Success
Annika Arras, EWA co-founder and trainer, explained that EWA is very instrumental in equipping the women with a strategy how to achieve their political ambitions. She emphasized that one must start preparing strategically and only then one will be best positioned to seize the opportunity when it arises. However, it all starts with the values, mission and personal story and motivation of the candidate. Hunger for power play will not suffice in the long term marathon of politics.
“Politics is a marathon. It is for everybody. If you really want to be successful, you start with small steps, go step by step, election by election, you learn, you get better. And then finally you can become a Prime Minister.”
The political career canvass, a future search methodology, is the cornerstone of the EWA training. All participants were invited to reflect on the insights from the inputs from the top-level trainers, and to draft their personal canvass for the next ambitious goal in their political careers under the guidance of Annika Arras. The canvass presents a map, starting with the end goal – the desired position- and constructing back the way how to get there. EWA East Europe trains the promising starts on every step of this journey- from mission and values, building a personal political brand, data- and research-driven strategy, building one’s campaign strategy, fundraising tips. Bettina Stark-Watzinger, an EWA alumna and now a Member of Bundestag, FDP Germany, shared that she kept her canvass on the wall during her election campaign in 2017.
“We need a majority of women to have political aspiration and to pursue their political dreams with discipline and values. It all starts with ambition and aspiration.”
Political and Personal Leadership
Radu Magdin, an international political consultant and CEO of Smartlink Communications, gave useful tips and tricks about personal strategies of becoming a political leader, of the power of framing and reframing, strategic storytelling. Leadership always comes first, while strategy - only after. According to the expert, the path to political success starts with aspiration and ambition, which are translated in clear objectives with a timeline, all to be pursued zealously. The secret ingredients of the formula for political leadership include will, values, vision and life story/storytelling.
Furthermore, politics is about hope management, according to Radu Magdin. Since to a large extent emotions drive voting behavior and emotion trumps reason, the ability to create a passionate case for specific cause/candidate is becoming ever very crucial, especially in the face of rising populism. What is required is to simplify complex issues- craft simple messages with emotional appeal, while offering credible solutions. Another smart strategy is for a politician to try to own a topic in the media debate, by offering a unique angle on it.
“A well-driven woman is very well equipped to advance in politics given her natural skills in terms of flexibility, coalition building, smoothness of style and language.”
Any successful politician should position oneself as a leader, be able to clearly state her objectives, put them in the right wording and formulate specific sound bites, while thinking of the framing and perception of the audience at the same time. Building trust, credibility and respect should be of first priority in politics. A valuable skill to master for any influential politician is the process of labeling, framing, reframing – managing perceptions of people. As perception is projection.
A practical advice from Radu Magdin to gauge the prevailing mood in the country is to understand how one’s voters see their future, the direction in which they would like to see their country go. Utilizing the basic 7 plots of storytelling, among others, could help audiences identify closer with a politician.
A strategy is not enough, execution with discipline is needed. The group discussed political ends, ways and means in a political campaign.
The Power of Data, Fundraising and Change
Ian Marquardt, consultant from ALDE party, in the data session, summarized that data research should answer three specific questions: it should give you the exact amount of votes one needs to achieve the respective objective; the specific profile of one’s core voter (socio-economic data); where and how to contact and convince the voters to vote for a politician and how to start and maintain your conversation with them. Data research is worth investing in if the candidate knows clearly her objectives.
“The philosophy behind EWA is to give women in the liberal parties the practical skills, knowledge, training, support to win elections. The goal is not only to assume positions of power, but as well to do things differently, to improve the process of running campaigns”.
One of the overall goals of EWA is to change the culture in the party how parties communicate with voters, raise money for campaigns, use data for campaign strategies. One can notice already impact and best practice examples of EWA alumni, who are bold enough after the training to apply these insights and be the ambassadors of change in their parties, showing others it can be done.
In the fundraising session, Ian Marquardt informed the group about the best practices to attract donors for the campaign using the personal example of a former EWA alumna from Norway. The more specific you are when searching for financial support as to where and for what the money will be invested, the more likely it is people to trust you not only with their vote but also with their money.
The Power of Political Branding
Annika Arras shared with the group the success story of the Estonian Reform Party, explaining the importance of political branding. A clear brand creates an emotional connection with the voter, builds loyalty with time. Even though visuals are important when creating or establishing a brand, the reality is that a brand is more than just a logo – it is a promise and a personality. The story of Annika Arras exemplified how the brand personality of the Estonian liberal party has evolved through the years, in the face of different challenges, without losing its core promise and staying true to its values.
For more photos of the event, please visit the Facebook album below.
Stay tuned soon for an update from the second and final session of EWA East Europe in June in Bansko, Bulgaria. There will be a series of video interviews with a few EWA participants and the trainers.