Populism and distrust of politicians are on the rise across Europe. The ‘political class' is blamed for being aloof, self-interested and out of touch with voters' (and non-voters') concerns. Increasing political polarisation has citizens at the political centre frustrated about how the fringes are dominating much of the public discourse.
To refresh political processes all over Europe and to overcome voter apathy, more people of different backgrounds should run for political office. In many countries it is indeed ‘old elites' controlling access to important political positions, which is why people seek to influence decision-making outside of the established structures. Yet, the cases where new political parties emerged to channel citizens' anger have so far produced mixed results - whether Neos in Austria, En Marche in France, Alternative for Germany just there, or Ciudadanos and Podemos in Spain.
The course's aim is to encourage more - and in particular young - people to become a candidate by raising their awareness of the related challenges and equipping them with some tools for a political campaign. It is a leadership training for those who dare consider running for public office, be it at the local, state, federal, or European level.
The course combines elements such as personal motivation and goal formulation, democratic theory and political campaigning, team leading and communication training. It will also tackle the question of whether to join a party, found a new one, or run as an independent. Over time, it is intended to develop a cross-party network of aspiring candidates, fostering both an individual can-do attitude as well as a group spirit among those who partake in the course.
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