Conference: Research and Advocacy in a Challenging Policy Environment: Sharing Experiences from the Western Balkans

Populari’s head of research Vesna Malenica participated in the first ever TRAIN Alumni Conference “Research and Advocacy in a Challenging Policy Environment: Sharing Experiences from the Western Balkans” held in Berlin between 27 and 30 June 2013, organized by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).

The Conference gathered thirty public policy researchers and analysts from the Balkan region, all of which participated in the TRAIN Programme since its start in 2010. The Conference served primarily as a platform to exchange and discuss content of participant’s work, but the overarching theme of the Conference was the issue of policy advocacy: cooperation and communication with local policy makers in their respective countries as well as with EU actors, the use of media and new technologies, and coalition building among civil society organizations.

Malenica was invited to participate in two thematic panels during the Conference.

The public panel “Enlargement on the eve of Croatia’s EU accession: views from the Western Balkans region” addressed the challenges Croatia’s EU integration has brought into the region. Malenica, together with panelists from Croatia and Montenegro, discussed the consequences of Croatia’s accession for the EU’s future enlargement policy with Christoph Retzlaff, Head of the Division for EU-Enlargement, European Neighborhood Policy, and EU External Relations in the German Federal Foreign Office.

During the second thematic panel under the title “Spreading the word: The use of media and new media in policy advocacy – Reaching out to the public,” Malenica presented Populari’s innovative methods of dissemination, shared ideas and Populari’s good practice with the participants on the panel. She pointed out that even though think tank Populari is focused on policy makers as its primary target group, it recognized the need to reach out to the BiH citizens in order to inform them of the EU and the reform processes currently taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to make them be able to exert pressure on the policy makers and make informed choices at elections.

During the second day of the Conference, additional suggestions and critical thoughts on the work of think tanks in the Western Balkans were provided by Goran Buldioski, Director of the OSI Think Tank Fund. He focused on the fact that think tanks in the Balkan region still too often limit their dissemination activities to merely publishing the results of their research, without spending sufficient time and resources on targeted communication of their ideas and findings. He further claimed that the key driver to research policy is evidence, while in the Balkans emotions work better.

The highly interesting and inspiring Alumni Conference was ended with the outlook on the future TRAIN Alumni activities and the promise that this network will survive the initial after-event enthusiasm and will live on to facilitate future regional cooperation.

More details on the conference can be found in the agenda and videos on the right side.

Agenda: 1st TRAIN Alumni Conference (.pdf) >>>

Video: Interview with Cornelius Adebahr from DGAP (Vimeo) >>>

Video: Interview with Goran Buldioski – Director of the Open Society Think Tank Fund (Vimeo) >>>

Presentation: Goran Buldioski: Policy Research in Times of Populism and Apathy (.pdf) >>>