On 19-23 August the sixth annual Summer Academy organised by the British Labour Party, Foundation Max van der Stoel, European Forum for Democracy and Solidarity and partners in Ukraine from the New Social Democratic Platform was held Lviv, Ukraine. The Summer Academy is organised for young social democrats from Eastern Europe and is aimed to help the participants learn new skills in political ideology, campaigning, communication and debating as well as gain enough confidence and knowledge to be able to repeat the training themselves. The participants were selected from social democratic parties from 4 countries - Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. Trainers from the UK and The Netherlands facilitated the training together with trainers from Moldova and Ukraine (who were themselves alumni of previous Summer Academy editions).
Social democracy and ideologies
On the first evening no workshops were planned, the group discussed objectives and expectations of the Summer Academy. The first actual day of training started on Thursday. The day was mostly facilitated by trainer Kido Koenig, from The Netherlands, with the help of trainers from Ukraine - Olesya Medvedeva and Andrii Shevchuk - and Moldova – Artiom Gusan and Victoria Ostap. Kido started with an overview of Social Democracy and encouraged participants to start a discussion on what social democracy meant for them. Participants discussed issues relevant in their own countries and also enlisted more general issues such as promoting youth movements as a driving agent, spreading the idea of social democracy, dealing with gender issues, youth problems, workers' rights and questions of ecology.
The Ukrainian trainers were invited to share how social democracy is implemented in Ukraine and what the major obstacles are. They emphasized that the rapid transformation from the soviet system to a liberal one, which led to wild capitalism and establishment of oligarchy and major social inequality, created very unfavourable conditions for the spread of social democracy. Apart from that, it was and still remains hard for social democrats to distinct themselves from communists and prove they are the right choice for the people of Ukraine. Another major problem is social populism. Later Kido introduced conservative and liberal ideologies after which Moldovan trainer Artiom Gusan gave a presentation on Conservatism and Liberalism in Eastern Europe. In the workshops participants had to design a social democratic policy and later modify it applying other ideologies.
The second day of training, Friday, focused on campaigning strategies. This was mainly facilitated by British trainers Sarah Brown and Ali Craft who are experts in campaigning, elections, media and communications. Ali gave a short introduction on how to form a campaigning strategy and pointed out that one of the most important aspects within a campaign strategy is a SWOT analysis. The groups were split by country and were asked to make a SWOT about their parties.
After the workshop, the Ukrainian and Moldovan trainers shared their own experience in campaigning in their own countries. Olesya and Andrii gave a presentation on digital media and explained how they develop their message and present it to the public. Victoria presented the importance of figure heads in campaigning explaining why people vote for a person, a social image, rather than a party and the ideology.
The final workshop of the day was “Conducting an interview”. 4 people from each group were selected to give an interview in front of the camera while the rest of the participants were acting as journalists. All interviewees fulfilled the task really well while being interviewed on prisoners' right to vote, taxation on certain products, banning smoking in all public places and same sex marriages.
Saturday focused on speech framing and how to defend a position in debates. The workshop was a simulation of three rounds of real debates when participants were split into three groups - liberals, conservatives, social democrats- and each group nominated one representative to participate in the debate. The first group debated the issue of registered partnership for people in same sex relationships. The Liberals argued that it should be allowed as it is every person's right and it does not stand against the constitution; social democrats agreed and added that it may have an influence on the economy because of additional funding to the budget for marriage legislation and problems of children in boarding schools and orphanages could be solved. Conservatives were against it and emphasized the protection of traditions which according to them were more important. The second group debated issues of surveillance, text messages tapping in particular. Social democrats and liberals were against it and considered it to be illegal while conservatives considered it to be necessary in order to prevent terrorism, crimes and other internal threats. The last group debated the issue of imposing taxes on sugar products. Social democrats argued that a healthy society is a priority and taxes should be imposed on sugar products but at the same time national, local, ecological production has to be supported. Liberals stood against controlling sugar as it will affect the profits of companies while conservatives suggested to introduce a substitute for sugar and encourage the usage of it.
The day was finished with a presentation by Ali on training skills. The participants were asked to prepare a 1 day’s training programme.
During the last day the participants had the chance to summarize what they liked about the training and what could be improved. Many were thankful that the training helped to better understand the social democratic ideology and how to act as a social democrat in order to promote your ideology. Participants were glad to have been provided with a chance to try themselves in an interview and debates as well as group work where they could deeper discuss the issues covered during the training. All in all, participants considered the training to be a good combination of theory and practise with a number of interesting tasks.