Building Bridges between America and Central and Eastern Europe and Asia
by Zbigniew Bochniarz
The author at the Network of Institutes and Schools of Public Administration in Central and Eastern Europe (NISPAcee) Conference in Budva, Montenegro on May 14th, 2009.
After 17 years of working as faculty at the Warsaw School of Economics, I arrived in the United States in November 1985 as the husband of a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Minnesota (UMN). In January 1986, the Faculty Council at UMN appointed me as Visiting Professor at Humphrey Institute and granted me a beautiful office in their new building …but no funding. So I had to reinvent myself, learning how to raise money for interesting projects that would attract American donors.
As a former member of Solidarity and an active member of the Polish Ecological Club (in fact, the official representative of the PEC in the US for five years), I felt obligated to look for assistance in resolving the serious environmental problems that confronted Poland and other Central and East European (CEE) countries - in my country, 27% of territory was listed as “areas of environmental hazards” and was inhabited by about 33% of the population. I knew that the United States could offer a great body of intellectual capital and practical experiences in resolving these issues, but bridges between America and CEE countries had been broken by the Cold War and the imposition of martial law in Poland in December 1981.
Fortunately, after few years of hard work at the UMN, I received a small grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in 1987 and started building my first “narrow transatlantic bridge” with a small project – Economic Mechanisms for Environmental Protection in Poland and Other East European Countries. This project, which was focused on market-based incentives for environmental protection in CEE, initiated some “intellectual traffic” between the US to Poland, and later to eight other CEE and two Central Asian countries. The project contributed significantly to institutional and policy reforms and to the human and social capacity-building necessary for the smooth transformation of these countries to civil societies with sustainable market economies.
Run by three faculty members and one graduate research assistant at the Humphrey Institute, the project touched on territory still within the “evil empire.” It worth mentioning that, despite the limited funding, the project attracted top American experts, including 2007 Nobel Prize winner Professor Leonid Hurwicz (UMN); Michael Levin from the Environmental Protection Agency, who initiated first cap-and-trade (CAT) policies; John Palmisano, who pioneered the emissions trading business; and Dan Dudek and Richard Liroff – leading experts on CAT policy in the US NGO sector. The project's universal message was to resolve serious environmental problems by sharing academic expertise and the best American experience. Its final accord took place at an international workshop in Poland in September 1989, when the rest of CEE was still under Communist rule and the Berlin Wall symbolized the deep division between East and West.
Bochniarz presenting at the 5th Balkan Conference in Sibiu, Romania.
The spirit of change, however, was there already, clearly articulated by representatives of CEE countries in their desire for profound institutional change that would lead to democratic political systems providing social justice and sustainable economies. Long, honest discussions among American and CEE participants of the workshop helped to uncover the most needed area of assistance – institutional theory and the practice of design, reform and evaluation. It was the critical moment for the Humphrey Institute to start designing and delivering foreign assistance to the CEE region and to build its strong presence and a solid brand recognized all over the region.
Since the fall of 1989, which brought freedom to most of the CEE nations, we started building “wider transatlantic bridges” by establishing joint American-CEE research teams, and a “vehicle” – Center for Nations in Transition (CNT) at the Humphrey Institute – to facilitate smooth delivery of the assistance. The teams have focused on institutional reforms that have improved economic, ecological and educational systems in the region. Joint in-country and CNT teams completed comprehensive planning blueprints containing recommended policies for sustainable development in Poland (1990), Czechoslovakia (1991), Hungary (1992) and Bulgaria (1992).
Three “catalytic” institutions – independent nonprofit research and action centers – were founded (in Warsaw, Prague and Budapest) to facilitate implementation of the blueprints. These have been in operation since the early 1990s. All these activities and institutions have helped establish working relations with governments, academia, NGOs and businesses in the region. They have inspired the design of national environmental institutions such as the Eco-Fund and the Bank for Environmental Protection in Poland, and shaped environmental and business legislation in several CEE countries. Finally, this work led to the drafting of a regional report on sustainable development under the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
The resulting regional report – Capacities and Deficiencies for Implementing Sustainable Development in Central and Eastern Europe – presented an evaluation not only of institutional but also of educational capacities for sustainable development in CEE. One of the most difficult barriers to sustainable development, the report concluded, lay in the unsupportive priorities of the education process. Too much attention, it explained, was devoted to the transfer of knowledge and too little time to the development of appropriate interactive skills and attitudes. For example, managers learned about the environment through the natural sciences but not about how to deal with actual problems. And they were unprepared to apply what they learned.
In addition, the report found severe gaps in modern management and neoclassical economics education, leaving business leaders ill-prepared to design and implement effective sustainable development projects. Furthermore, the academic curricula had basic gaps in environmental economics, natural resource economics and environmental management. The report also identified a severe lack of rudimentary market-economy and environmental knowledge among public-sector decision makers. All of these educational shortcomings became painfully obvious during the institutionalization of the market economy and the implementation of new environmental legislation in CEE.
In response to those educational needs, we had to build “larger transatlantic bridges” which could facilitate movement of large public-private consortia, which led by the CNT, developed and delivered four multiyear educational projects: Management Training and Economic Education Program for Poland (1991–2000); Environmental Training Project for Central and Eastern Europe (1992–2000); Ukrainian Business Strengthening Activity (1999–2002); Business Management Education in Ukraine (2002-2005). These four projects trained more than 42,000 participants in management and economics, providing them knowledge and skills for success in a market economy. All of them received financial support from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The capacity-building projects not only trained local people but also built the sustainable capacity of local trainers and educators and assisted in institutionalizing modern curricula in undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate programs at CEE universities and business schools. The first Ukrainian project also helped to produce the latest of the series of blueprints—Building Management Education in Ukraine: a Blueprint for Action (2001). This document is the most comprehensive institutional and programmatic reform guide for business-management education ever published in Ukraine.
The first three projects have affected education systems in many ways. The following are some of the major examples of new institutional arrangements which the institute and its international partners took the lead in:
- Establishing new academic units such as the College of Management at the University of Warmia and Mazury (UWM) in Olsztyn, Poland;
- Institutionalizing new curricula, such as the executive Master's degree in Business Administration at Warsaw School of Economics (WSE), the executive Master's program in Agribusiness Management, and the executive dual-degree Master's program in Business and Public Management at UWM
- Facilitating curricular reforms in management and economics in seven CEE countries by retraining more than 2000 faculty members to develop contemporary course materials and to use interactive teaching techniques;
- Implementing revenue-generating activities, such as executive short courses and executive MBA-type programs at the CEE centers for excellence;
- Establishing a NGO for the enhancement of Ukrainian management education— the Consortium for the Enhancement of Ukrainian Management Education (CEUME);
- Bringing together all major stakeholders of business management education in Ukraine— governmental officials, business representatives, academic leaders and faculty from public and private universities, students, representatives of NGOs, and donors—through national conferences and regional roundtables;
Management-education programs that developed from the project at WSE and UWM are among the best in Poland and all of CEE. For this reason, both Polish universities joined the Consortium for the Enhancement of Ukrainian Management Education to share their experience with their Ukrainian partners and to strengthen Ukrainian business-education institutions and establish long-lasting academic relations between those countries.
Another distinguishing feature of the CNT's projects was the introduction of monitoring and evaluation systems that not only fostered program improvement but also identified achievements. For example, studying the CEE alumni surveys from those four projects, we have learned that graduates of our programs have been associated with more than $3 billion of environmentally friendly investment during the past fifteen years. This was an impressive sign of return from investment in CEE human capital made possible due to generous sharing of knowledge, skills and experiences by American academia supported by …US taxpayers.
The excellent performance of the most of Central European countries and recognition of the CNT contributions to their historical transformation, particularly for environmental and educational reforms, brought us to China, Japan and Central Asia - Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan - to share our experience. In this way, I started building “transpacific bridges” to reach out to Asian nations and assist them in their transformation.
Professor Sandra Archibald, Dean of the UW Evans School of Public Affairs, had participated in several CNT projects in CEE and conducted research with me on the sustainability of transformation in that region since the mid 1990s. In 2007, she finally convinced me to move to Seattle, a more convenient place to build “transpacific bridges” than Minnesota. So here I am at the great University of Washington, working hard to expand my “transpacific bridges” significantly while at the same time maintaining the “transatlantic bridges.” I am here to share my more than twenty years of experience with institutional reforms in transforming economies and eighteen years of building human capacity in CEE. I hope that my intellectual assets will be capitalized in collaborative efforts with faculty and students of the UW, particularly from the Evans and Jackson Schools. Together, we will continue expanding “bridges” to emerging economies in Asia and helping them to move toward a sustainable path of development.
Zbigniew Bochniarz, Ph.D. is Visiting Professor/Senior Lecturer at the UW Evans School of Public Affairs. His research focuses on the sustainability - economic, environmental and social - of transformation in post-communist countries and in China and Vietnam, as well as on competitiveness in advanced and emerging economies. Recently, he initiated an international research project with Waseda University in Japan on the impact of alternative climate change policies taking into account emerging conflict between energy and food security. In addition, he is working with Romanian academia and government agencies to build capacity for implementing a National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and for introducing a microeconomics of competitiveness program.
At the University of Washington, Dr. Bochniarz is scheduled to teach the following courses open for all internationally oriented students: Winter 2010 - Competing for Prosperity (4cr), and Diploma Project Seminar with international focus; Spring 2010 - Comparative International Environmental Policy (4cr) and DP seminar.