IRI Holds First Euro-Mediterranean Leadership Institute

The International Republican Institute (IRI) and the Eduardo Frei Foundation (EFF) of the Netherlands, in coordination with the Justice and Development Party (AK) of Turkey, co-hosted the first Euro-Mediterranean Leadership Institute in Izmir, Turkey from April 17-21, 2008.

The Izmir Leadership Institute is an expansion of IRI’s Leadership Institute for Central and Eastern Europe series, a boot camp for up-and-coming political leaders to gain campaign and leadership skills.  The Izmir seminar included participants from Turkey for the first time and, as a cooperative endeavor with the EFF, represented the Dutch foundation’s first formal activity in the country.

The Leadership Institute curriculum provides participants with a diverse range of skill-based knowledge to help them advance their own political careers and leadership in public life.  Trainers from IRI’s extensive network of political operatives across Europe and the United States lend their expertise to Leadership Institute participants and serve as mentors to these future leaders.

Experts from the Netherlands, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States provided both practical and theoretical training at the Euro-Mediterranean Institute.  On the first day, Jamie Fisfis, a pollster from California, provided a comprehensive introduction to public opinion strategy, focus groups and campaign messaging.  Participants learned how to analyze polling data and then developed their own campaign strategies using these skills.  

Sadi Kunduroglu, senior consultant to Egemen Bagis, Vice-Chairman for Foreign Relations of the AK Party, served as the keynote speaker.  He drew upon his experiences from the parliamentary election campaign of Egemen Bagis in his discussion of the real-life challenges of campaign management.

The second day featured trainers from the Dutch Christian Democratic Appeal and EFF.  During the morning session, Jeroen Alting von Geusau led a discussion about the intersection of religion and politics, including the historical background of the Christian Democratic tradition in Europe and its relevance for political parties in the Muslim world.  In the afternoon, Jeroen de Graaf, senior political advisor to Dutch Prime Minister J.P. Balkenende, provided training on message development and political communication, including how to respond to negative campaigning.

Duncan MacFarlane, political consultant for the Conservative Programme of the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party, served as the final day’s trainer.  Rallying the participants with political chants from Africa, MacFarlane explained the complexities of political organization and campaign strategy.  In small group exercises, participants developed strategies for recruiting new party members and later presented these plans to the group.  MacFarlane also offered a case study on the Conservative Party’s efforts at re-branding the party and their recent campaign in London.

This first Euro-Mediterranean seminar provided a unique opportunity to expand the Leadership Institute series to the future political leaders of Turkey and provide regional networking opportunities for participants.  

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