Forum 50%: Reflections on the US Programme

Jana Smiggels Kavková, Director of project partner Forum 50%, reflects on the GEPLE Project’s trip to the USA, where we met with leaders in Civic Tech and Democratic Empowerment. The trip was organised by our project partner VoteRunLead, who are well versed in using tech to advance their cause.

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The GEPLE Project Partners in Washington DC

I have spent last two weeks traveling with our team from Forum 50 % around the US. Together with our partner organizations from Finland, Poland and Ireland we took part in a study trip to New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC, organized by our American partners VoteRunLead. The aim: to gain experience with empowerment of women into politics in the USA.

We saw and heard a lot over the fortnight; I am still trying to sort out all the impressions, experiences and encounters, sitting behind my desk in Prague with a heavy jet leg. Personally I really appreciated the diversity of the program, enabling us to meet with a wide range of people and organizations. From a visit to the William Way LGBT community center in Philly´s gayborhood to National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of Latino groups who runs a leadership program for women „Latinas Represent“ and progressive think tank New America in Washington.

And since the world today, including politics. is moving more and more to cyberspace, there were also visits to, amongst others, Facebook Washington DC and Pipeline Philly, a co-working space for start-ups. We discussed about the use of technologies for public good. But also about giving voice to people and communities which are currently underrepresented in politics: young girls, Latinas or immigrant women. And how to make the electoral system more democratic and accessible to everyone.

Big thanks to our dear colleagues Erin and Karen from VoteRunLead for the fantastic program. There is so much to remember!

A big thank you to all of the organisations who shared their knowledge and experience with us during this trip. We really appreciate it and look forward to using our learnings in our own countries. Thank you to to the Erasmus+ programme for giving us their support and making all this possible.

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The GEPLE Project visits New York

Runa Ismark, a representative from project partner Brand-Sofi, reflect on the GEPLE Project’s trip to New York, where we met with leaders in Civic Tech and Democratic Empowerment. The trip was organised by our project partner VoteRunLead, who are well versed in using tech to advance their cause.

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The GEPLE Project Partners outside Barnard College where we met the Athena Scholars

The GEPLE group stayed in New York City for four days to meet up with different organisations, to learn about civic tech, leadership studies and much more. Now, a couple of days later, there are a few things that stay very vivid in my mind and which have made a lasting impression. Firstly, the feeling that everything is possible in NYC, because of the huge networking possibilities. Secondly, that civic tech can be a big opportunity for NGOs. Knowledge (and data) is power. We want to know our crowd and we want to be able to keep in touch with them. We want to show them what we have to offer or point at a certain problem. Civic tech can help us with exactly that.

20160907_191212Thirdly, what I like to highlight the importance of good friends, cooperation with other organisations and the notion that new ideas come from
working with others; people who see things differently, with different experiences or who see things from a different angle. Civic Hall is a great example of an environment where organisations work together and inspire eachother. This is where solutions are made.

Moreover, the importance of leadership studies, mentoring and a kind of sisterhood for women, who have ambition to build a career and who, sadly, are likely to experience some resistance in the shape of misogyny or structural imbalance, when they are taking up more space than a woman ”should”. The Athena Center and New Americans were very inspiring in this area.

Our meetings in NYC ended with a visit to the New York Women’s Foundation. I especially learned about the psychology behind giving. I am not sure if it is directly transferable to Finland, but it seemed quite universal. The idea is to find a common ground, to know what the target person or group is interested in, what they are willing to give and for what purpose. The conclusion again and again is that you need to know your crowd.

Runa Ismark

 

A big thank you to all of the organisations who shared their knowledge and experience with us during this trip. We really appreciate it and look forward to using our learnings in our own countries. Thank you to to the Erasmus+ programme for giving us their support and making all this possible.