GMF Leadership Programs Announces New Alumni Leadership Action Projects

April 27, 2021
9 min read
The German Marshall Fund of the United States’ Leadership Programs is delighted to announce the new winners of this year’s Alumni Leadership Action Projects cycle.
The German Marshall Fund of the United States’ Leadership Programs is delighted to announce the new winners of this year’s Alumni Leadership Action Projects cycle. Each year, GMF awards special mini-grants to alumni who are passionate about creating positive change in the transatlantic community. As we begin planning to rebuild our societies after the coronavirus pandemic, these ALAP mini-grants will prove to be some of the most impactful to date. This year, the GMF program is funding 19 impressive projects in four thematic areas: Future of Democracy, Identity and Inclusion, Business and Society, and Citizens Diplomacy.

Identity and Inclusion

Marginalized—a Podcast

Terry Bruner (MMF’14), Lynette Barksdale (MMF’19), Kellie Hawkins (MMF’13), Sebastian Schwark (APSA’05)

The project seeks to advocate for a more inclusive democratic society and economy by starting a podcast highlighting the issues of under-resourced groups in Europe and the United States. The podcast is designed to explore the impact of social disintegration across diversity markers and to amplify the voices of the economically disadvantaged, people of color, women, religious and ethnic minorities, and other traditionally vulnerable populations, in matters of transatlantic policy, security, business, culture, education, and development.

Women and Power: Amplifying Female Voices in the Public Sphere

Marina Ridjic (TILN’19)

The goal of the project is to empower women around Bosnia and Herzegovina to become future leaders advancing women’s rights and gender equality in their communities. A series of regular podcasts streamed by Al Jazeera Balkans and a two-day training on women’s rights, gender equality, and public speaking will help guide young girls and women (18-30 years old) to fulfill their leadership potential.

Help Yourself First

Anastasiia Nekrasova (LL’19), Sofiia Kryshtal (LL’19)

The project aims to empower and support local leaders from Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine who struggle with emotional exhaustion and burnout. Sixteen professionals from Donetsk Oblast will receive qualified psychological support and coping techniques, which will help them be better prepared to deal with the psychological challenges caused by operating in a state of crisis and an ongoing military confrontation.

The Italian Inclusion Leaders Network

Anass Hanafi (TILN’19)

The project is a continuation of the Italian Inclusion Leaders Network (IILN) successful past three editions, and it will continue to focus on creating a safe space for future politicians and leaders to acquire skills and knowledge in engaging and representing diverse communities and reshape inclusion practice and policymaking in Italy. For this year’s edition the goal is to connect northern and southern Italy, offering the opportunity for new members to expand and impact their networks.

Inclusive Entrepreneurship: Bringing Together Refugee, Migrant, and Host Communities

Basak Kale (MMF’11)

The project’s main goal is to encourage the integration of migrant and refugee communities in Turkey by developing networks among host and refugee communities through a training module on entrepreneurship. The module consisting of various training seminars, held by experienced trainers from the Migration Research Program (METUMIR), will allow 50 participants to acquire and develop the necessary skills to become successful entrepreneurs and, more importantly, create bridges and collaboration between the native and the refugee and migrant communities.

Citizen Diplomacy

Transatlantic Network for Better Health Services for Military Veterans in Armenia

Samvel Grigoryan (PDN’20), Meri Katvalyan (TILN’20)

The project aims to support military veterans affected by the escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by utilizing GMF alumni potential to analyze existing health services for veterans in Armenia and compare those with the best practices worldwide, and to develop recommendations for post-conflict recovery. The recommendations will be shared with relevant decision-makers, and the newly created pool of experts will organize capacity-building activities for professionals working with military veterans and their families.

Lawyers Across the Atlantic (LATA)—Organizational Phase

Chad Readler (MMF’09)

The goal of the project is to bring GMF-participating lawyers together to address legal issues spanning the Atlantic. This lawyer network from both sides of the Atlantic would work to identify legal solutions to pressing issues facing the transatlantic relationship. From trade to immigration to health care to government structure, legal questions are at the heart of the debate.  

The Future of Democracy

Empowering Young Leaders in the Time of the Pandemic

Irakli Gabidzashvili (LL’19), Maria Stratan (LL’19), Alexandru Rotari (LL’19), Sergiu Gherghelejiu (LL’19), Teona Surmava (LL’19), Yevheniia Romanova (LL’19)

The goal of the project is to support democratic development in Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine by empowering young people aged 18-25 from these countries and creating an online number of 25 to 30 students and young professional who will gain a better understanding of democracy in the 21st century through a series of trainings, webinars, and mentoring sessions. The topics will include finding creative ways of solving problem at the grassroot level, fighting disinformation/fake news, active citizenship during and in the post-pandemic era, and trust in institutions.

United States, Eastern and Central Europe: Sharing Best Practices on Searching for the Vision about the Role of the Media in Digital Age and Polarization

Nataliya Gumenyuk (MMF’17), Rickey Bevington (MMF’14), Amol S. Naik (MMF’10), Hanna Shelest (MMF’2016), Leonid Litra (MMF’20), Karine Ghazaryan (MMF’20), Bartosz Wisniewski (MMF’20)

The project’s goal is to conduct research, transatlantic interdisciplinary webinars, and debates with experts, researchers, media analysts, and practitioners from the United States, and Eastern and Central Europe, who are searching for ways to articulate the role and mission of the media in overcoming toxic polarization in the public sphere and guarding liberal values.

Your Online Freedom

Tamar Mkurnalidze (LL’19), Lilit Arzoyan (LL’19), Ariadna Shatova (LL’19)

The project aims to improve digital security for women and girls from minority groups in Armenia, Georgia, and Ukraine by raising awareness of cyber risks and promoting safe digital behavior. The project identifies digital literacy and safe digital behavior resources and best practices to create a set of digital literacy cards to be disseminated online, covering the following issues: personal data protection, safe use of social media, cyber threats and beyond, fact checking, and online educational resources.

Lead the Future

Dirkje Jansen (MMF’14)

The project goal is to develop a relevant and future-oriented training curriculum for female political talent in the Netherlands that would allow them to progress in their carriers individually and as a group. Six selected participants will take part in a three-day journey-mapping leadership program, based on expert trainings and tailor-made webinars, to develop their skills and create a support network around them that will allow them to leverage like-minded coalitions across political parties. GMF alumni will be invited to share best practices as well. The long-term goal is to create a level playing field in which female political talent can rise and be sustained.

The Oligarch Project—Economic Power, Democracy, and the Responsibility of the West

Vasyl Myroshnychenko (MMF’19), Sebastian Schwark (APSA’05)

The project aims to help consolidate young democracies by analyzing and assessing the impact of oligarchs on democratic transition as well as the role of Western infrastructure and the complicity of Western actors in oligarchic power. The initiative seeks to identify best practices for civil society and political leaders in their struggle for more democratic political representation and government in dealing with oligarchs and oligarchic power structures, and to raise awareness of potential loopholes in the West that allow the oligarchic power structures to flourish, by hosting an international conference with stakeholders from both sides.

Disinformation in the Post-Pandemic Era

George Melashvili (PDN’20)

The goal of the project is to strengthen citizens’ trust in public institutions that was diminished by the disinformation campaigns during the coronavirus pandemic. The project will look to increase public awareness on the significance of vaccination, identify fake news and conspiracy theories on vaccines, and reveal the truth through by engaging relevant experts in discussions as well as by creating a reliable set of informative materials to support immunization.

Building a Common Europe-U.S. Community of Online Citizen Counter Speakers

Léa Bodossian (MMF’13)

The project aims to address hate speech and misinformation by fostering and developing the engagement of U.S. citizens to counter these threats online. The #iamhere movement established in Europe will serve as a best practice example for building a similar online community of citizens, using the same methods, in the United States. The approach is based on an online community of citizen-activists responding to hate speech and disinformation with respectful, fact-based comments, and attempting to shift the conversation to a more conciliatory one, on issues permeating from the virtual space into anti-democratic actions and attitudes.

Equal Partners: Transatlantic Perspectives on Young People’s Role in Strengthening Democracy

Jennifer Ross (MMF’12), Ruth Hunt (MMF’11), Sam Dick (MMF’14), Kajal Odedra (MMF’20), Zoe Flood (MMF’17), Jenny Kleeman (MMF’13)

The project aims to inspire action to strengthen young people’s role as equal partners in democracy by showcasing perspectives and initiatives from the United Kingdom, across Europe, and the United States through a series of alumni and youth expert dialogues. The project will culminate in a transatlantic dialogue between alumni experts and young experts to draw out the key findings of the process and the key messages and stories that will be showcased in a short film. In addition, the project will explore the possibility of establishing a transatlantic youth and democracy network to continue the dialogue, inspiration, and information sharing.

Learn to Trust Again: Overcoming the Crisis of Trust in the Transatlantic Space

Alina Poghosyan (PDN’19)

The project aims at a better understanding of the crisis of trust in public institutions and the changes of overcoming it on both sides of the Atlantic. This crisis of trust has various manifestation and structural reason but just as many similarities for the transatlantic countries. The initiative proposes a series of video-talks involving ten GMF alumni from Europe and the United States to highlight the shared aspect of this crisis as well as the regional specificities. The videos will be produced, broadcasted, and disseminated worldwide with the support of the BoonTV’s media production team in Armenia.

Business and Society

Human Action Lab: Virtual Salons

Chelsea Collier (MMF’18), Igor Goncharenko (MMF’16)

The goal of the project is to develop a global virtual community dedicated to addressing civic and social challenges, to share lessons and practices, and to replicate them across the network. Virtual salons will be hosted across four cities—Austin, Berlin, Hamburg, and Kyiv. These events will be the catalyst for the Human Action Lab, which will provide frameworks and communities of for co-creating solutions for civic and social challenges. The virtual gatherings will be moderated discussions between representatives from seven sectors: government, industry, startups, academia, nonprofits, creatives/artists, and citizens/residents.

Transatlantic Characteristics of Regional Industry and Workforce

Patrick Schaefer (MMF’18), Giovanni Farese (MMF’17), Joanna Ridgway (MMF’12)

This project seeks to fill an important gap in the transatlantic dialogue between governments, business, and civil society with vital insights and data regarding the structure of industry and workforce at the national, state, and regional level. The main task will consist of research and mapping of data from European, U.S., and international databases, regarding crucial industry and workforce indicators in order to assist public- and private-sector stakeholders not only to better strategize and collaborate across the Atlantic, but also to collaborate in mitigating the loss and dislocation suffered in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Corporate Board Diversity

Joanna Ridgway (MMF’12)    

The ultimate goal of this project is to improve gender diversity (women and women of color) on corporate and significant non-profit boards, particularly MMF alums who bring a unique transatlantic perspective to a boardroom. The project aims to create opportunities for alums to be included at a senior professional level that is dominated by Caucasian men.