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Kosovo's dynamic think tank - IKS

Rreze doing an interview in Cerrce (Kosovo) historical map of Pristina
Rreze doing an interview in Cerrce (Kosovo) historical map of Pristina

To illustrate how labour intensive capacity building is we can use the example of ESI capacity building in Kosovo with a new think-tank, IKS, since early 2005:

Following an initial seminar and the formation of a local research team a joint ambitious research agenda is defined in early 2005: to undertake a governance assessment of the (obviously badly governed) capital of Kosovo, Pristina.

Research begins: it involves collecting a large number of official documents, and dozens of interviews. It involves coming up with a draft outline of how to approach the issue of governance in Pristina: what in ESI parlance is called a Storyboard. Interviews are collected, analysed, discussed in the research team. The first collections of research, ESI Material Collections, are put together.

However, by the autumn of 2005 it emerges that the best way to tell the Pristina story and change perceptions and assumptions of policy makers and the wider community (and thus influence the wider public debate on governance) is to focus on specific sub-stories which need to be researched more: one is the story of the strategic urban plan 'Pristina 2020' and the effort by the local urban planners to manipulate data and information to engage in an expensive exercise of 'utopian planning'; a second is the difficulty of finding any information on the development of the city since 1945, and how this 'missing' identity might be related to current governance; and a third are current economic trends internationalisation through the strong UN presence, deindustrialisation, and the remittance economy - and how they affect different parts of the city and different social groups.

On each of these subjects more interviews are made and more material is gathered. By late 2005 some 150 interviews have been made. There are now material collections on Pristina History and Identity, and on Pristina Planning. There are numerous drafts. Some very powerful conclusions are emerging.

At this stage the team makes the decision to launch the Pristina governance debate immediately with a short paper on what might appear at first to be a side issue, but is emblematic of the wider problems: the fate of cultural heritage protection in the city, illustrated through the interaction (and failures) of four institutions: the municipal and national institutes for the protection of monuments, the national ministry of culture and the municipal department of urbanism.

This involves additional research and reading on cultural heritage protection policies in Europe, Council of Europe conventions, interviews with the foreign experts active in this field in Pristina and Kosovo, reading a new set of books and articles. The specific Pristina story is then told through one list lying in the institute for protection of monuments and the fate of the 21 legally protected buildings included on that list. A first paper is produced, and a presentation of initial findings is organised in the National Museum of Kosovo. It works: the story of the monuments triggers a wider debate on the legacy of "destroy the old, build the new" that has informed Pristina's development since the 1940s. It highlights the lack of enforcement of legislation and of any cooperation between institutions at different levels of government.

Spin-off products at this phase of the project are the first ever map of the historical centre of Pristina that IKS and ESI commission, showing all the protected monuments, as well as a folder for distribution in Kosovo's schools.

However, the larger objective to provide an analysis of governance and trigger a broader debate on the future of the city has not changed. Research continues intensively and by June 2006 IKS and ESI organise another event, this time with the mayor (who was surprised by the strong echo to the cultural heritage protection event) and the main urban planner, on urban planning and development in the city. A discussion paper is produced for the occasion ('Planning Utopia') and widely disseminated. Media pick up the story; IKS and ESI analysts go on national TV to explain some of their conclusions from the research. Meetings are held with leading politicians at the national level as well.

Today, the Pristina research as well as IKS as a new think-tank is already well known. Kosovo media report that the international press picks up the discussion paper on Pristina. The World Bank disseminates the 'Planning Utopia' paper. New civic initiatives form in Pristina to work on a "My Pristina" campaign, together with IKS, taking both the cultural heritage and planning research as starting points for campaigns of civic activism. In the meantime IKS and ESI continue to work on the final, large report on Missing Identity - Economy and Governance in Pristina today.

Within the space of 18 months, IKS has emerged as one of the most dynamic, visible and credible policy analysis teams in Kosovo. What this concrete story illustrates is also that while the objective was clear from the start – discover what is going wrong in the governance of the capital and make an impact on the debate through a large well researched report – the concrete steps were adopted to research findings and informed by a strategic assessment of how to present these findings most effectively.

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