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Could you please introduce your organisation?

We, the Collective Leadership Institute, are based in Germany, and we also have an office in South Africa. Our main goal is to build capacity in the field of collaboration and collective leadership skills, which we understand as training people to collaborate better with each other, have better dialogues, lead together in teams and organisations, but also together with their stakeholders. This sounds very easy, but in practice there is so much trouble around this topic in different projects and organisations that we have adapted scientifically proven and practical methodologies and approaches on how to train people in the form of open courses as well as project work on site together with our partners. When it comes to collaboration with Russia, it is very new to us. Formerly we used to work in Germany, the European Union, Africa or Asia, because we do many development cooperation projects. But now, due to the collaboration with EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, we are trying to bring these methodologies to Russia and Eastern countries as well.

Before we come back to Russia, why do you think that collaboration and collective leadership are so important nowadays?

That is actually a good question. If you look at the world as it is today, you will see that there are many fractions: not only political ones, but also in terms of companies, civil societies and the public sector. They are somehow working in silence, not so much cooperating with each other. But then if we look at sustainable development goals, for example, they can only be achieved through collaboration. Different sectors, different nations, but also different actors on the regional level from different perspectives need to bring in their best. That is why we as an institute think that it is more and more important to acquire these skills – to overcome certain barriers and borders from the past and collaborate together on eye level.

You mentioned sustainable development goals. You were also contributing to a partnership project of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, which took place in Russia. What are your impressions from this collaboration?

Yes, first of all, it was a very new experience for me personally. I had never been in Russia before. We were invited to this project, and it was amazing to see that there were so many committed people and NGOs out there who care about sustainability. It was a good chance for us not only to promote what we are doing, but also to learn from the participants about their approaches to tackle these sustainability challenges. I would say it was a great experience also because it was focused not only on the St. Petersburg region, but people from all over Russia attended the workshop. And not only we as a German institution were there, but also some Finnish colleagues, some colleagues from Latvia. There was a real mood of collaboration and real exchange between us and them, on eye level, on how to work better together. I think that working in this style in Russia was a really good experience. Thanks for this fantastic project!

For the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum it was really a good cooperation, because your organisation decided to join the Forum. So, what was the idea behind that? And how did you find the first month of membership at the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum?

Exactly, that was one of the outcomes after the workshop in St. Petersburg, that we decided as an organisation to join the Forum. Of course, we had a kind of internal, not to say approval process, but a kind of discussion on whether and how we should do this. Then we also had a chance to participate in the General Assembly in Bratislava in May this year. This further helped us and convinced us even more to become part of the Forum. I think there are three different levels of why it is important for us. On the meta level, from the wholeness perspective, Russia is such a large country, and it definitely has an effect on sustainable development. We should somehow collaborate with people from this country. That is number one – the wholeness perspective. Then, on the level below that, we of course know about the current tensions between the EU and Russia, Germany and Russia and so on. They should somehow be overcome. And if politics does not work, if economy does not work, I think it is the task of civil society to do something against that. To stay in contact, to stay in dialogue and enhance this collaboration. And the third very practical fact for us as an organisation is that due to the Forum we have a fantastic opportunity to exchange directly with Forum members who work directly on certain sustainability challenges, human rights challenges, social, ecological or economic issues. And this is exactly the context we imagine working with. We believe that such collaboration can lead to a much better world, and that is what we hope to continue within the Forum.