Since 2004, NDI has worked with Roma to help them build the skills necessary to successfully contest elections and wage effective advocacy campaigns. Yet Romani elected officials often face the challenge that typical good governance practices such as constituent outreach are insufficient in the face of the protracted problems prevalent in their communities such as high unemployment and economic underdevelopment.
Beginning in spring 2007, NDI focused its efforts in Bulgaria and Slovakia on working with locally elected Romani officials to aid them in fulfilling their mandate through good governance practices. In Slovakia, NDI and several of its program graduates have moved beyond typical governance training methods to develop the unique, issue-based tools necessary to aid Romani local councilors in effectively confronting these economic challenges and delivering tangible benefits to their constituents.
Drawing on experience from Romani economic initiatives in Slovakia, the Institute organized a regional governance workshop for Romani program participants from Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia. Because Romani elected officials often represent constituencies with high unemployment and poverty, this regional workshop focused on helping local councilors respond through innovative initiatives such as municipal social enterprises and public private partnerships.
In Slovakia, past program participants Peter Pollak and Roman Estocak have each fostered the development of such businesses, including a wood manufacturing enterprise and bio-herb farm, which offer a unique method of expanding a municipality’s budget while combating unemployment. With help from NDI graduates and representatives from US Steel, the Slovak-Japanese Commerce Department, and the United Nations Development Program, NDI provided workshop participants with the effective policy tools necessary to create a business plan, attract investment, negotiate private partnerships, manage a sustainable enterprise, and advocate for corporate responsibility to help benefit their communities.
NDI concluded the workshop by asking participants to synthesize this information by developing real business plans to implement in their home towns, allowing them to apply the lessons they learned toward tangibly improving the quality of life in their communities.
Published on November 1, 2007