The meeting was opened by Jerzy Koźmiński, who emphasized that the “PAFF Leaders” Program, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is an initiative of special importance for the Foundation. “You are the special alumni of a special program. It is a program of a cross-sectional nature and it sums up the essence of PAFF activities. You have decided to cross over the line beyond which your social, civil activity becomes the active presence in the local authority,” the PAFF President said. He recalled the success of the local government reform, implemented 25 years ago, which constituted an important part of the political transformation of Poland.
The special guest of the meeting, Secretary of State Olgierd Dziekoński, spoke about the current position of the local government and its role now, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the self-governance of Poland. The secretary of State at the Chancellery of the President of Poland quoted the results of the opinion poll carried out during the local government elections, which confirm relatively high level of trust in local government (ca. 62%). However, he pointed also to the disturbing data – almost 40% of the respondents declared that they do not need local government, and only 14% of them would decide to run in the local elections. This may reflect the fact that Polish self-governance is in the state of crisis. “It is a paradox in the context of the 25th anniversary of self-governance. We do not want to participate in governing,” he said. As one of the reasons of this situation Minister Dziekoński pointed to the lack of dialogue between local governments and the local community, which in turn causes the citizens’ reluctance to participate in local government. “There can be no freedom without effectively functioning local governments,” he emphasized.
The meeting made an opportunity for the PAFF Leaders to share their experiences. The program alumni and experienced members of local authorities, sitting at the expert tables, answered the questions asked by the participants of the meeting during the discussion held under the “Leaders to Leaders. The Experienced to Debutants” title.
Grzegorz Dudzik, the mayor of Zielonka, presented his experience in reduction of his commune debt; Brygida Wiencek, the Strzeleczki commune councilor, told about building local partnerships; Rafał Mathiak, the mayor of Klembów commune, conducted a discussion on the applicability of experience gained in business to work in local government, while Dorota Nowosad, the town councilor of Zamość, spoke about cooperation between the NGOs and local governments. The moderators of the discussion were Przemysław Radwan-Röhrenschef of the School for Leaders Foundation and Radosław Jasiński of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation.
As many as 154 alumni and participants as well as two tutors of the “PAFF Leaders” program (89 women and 63 men) ran in the 2014 local elections. 67 of them won seats. The majority (65%) of PAFF Leaders candidates represented the local committees.
The objective of the “PAFF Leaders” Program, implemented since 2004, is to support the development of skills and qualifications of individuals working for the benefit of their communities. This is achieved mainly through the use of the tutorial method which involves the regular cooperation of a an experienced tutor with a local leader. The program is addressed first of all to active participants of local projects financed by various programs of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation. The core part of the program is a twelve-month cooperation between a leader and a tutor coupled with a series of training sessions adapted to the participants’ needs and priorities. The skills acquired in the program help leaders undertake activities benefiting their local communities. The program alumni get permanent support from the Foundation under the “Alumni” initiative.
As a result of the program’s nine editions, the qualifications of 501 local leaders from all over Poland have been improved, and an active nationwide network has emerged. In addition, more than 60 tutoring experts have been trained. In the 10th (current) edition, which began in 2014, 36 leaders and 10 tutors are participating
The program is managed by the School for Leaders Foundation.