Today, even highly successful modern democracies such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, are in need of strong, character-driven leadership to meet aggressive challenges to democratic societies the world over. In its mission to strengthen U.S.- Baltic tries, the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation (BAFF) has established a partnership with Arizona State University’s McCain Institute for International Leadership in supporting such leadership development.
Over a three-year period from 2017 through 2019, each year, BAFF is sponsoring an established mid-career leader from either Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania in participating in the highly acclaimed McCain Institute Next Generation Leaders (NGL) program.
The NGL Program at the McCain Institute empowers emerging global leaders through the Institute’s tailored professional development experience. The program offers a unique blend of professional development, exposure to top-level policymakers and formal training in leadership. At four junctures throughout the year, the program provides hands-on training focused on values, ethics and leadership, media and communications skills; and best practice examples of American business, political and civic life. The highly selective program carefully screens and admits up to 20 participants annually out of hundreds of applications.
A key aspect of the program is each NGL’s preparation of an individual Leadership Action Plan (LAP). Aimed at defining the tangible steps and actions the NGLs will take to bring about positive change in their home communities, the LAP becomes the central project of the development year. LAPs represent the character-driven leadership vision of each individual NGL and do not reflect positions of the Baltic American Freedom Foundation or the McCain Institute.
The first NGL beneficiary of the BAFF-McCain Institute partnership is Latvian parliamentarian Ilze Vinkele. She is hosted for her professional development experience at the International Republican Institute in Washington, D.C.
Liisa Past is the Chief Research Officer at the cybersecurity branch of the Estonian Information System Authority. She is a cyber defense and strategic communication professional whose current work focuses information security, and the social and political impact of technology, including risk and vulnerability management. In particular, Liisa designs, leads and carries out analysis related to cyber security, including threat and impact assessment. Recently, her comprehensive risk assessment was the basis of inter-agency cooperation on election security in Estonia. Liisa Past leads a pan-European initiative to provide guidelines for cyber security of election technology.
Liisa’s past assignments include Head of Communications for the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, a Tallinn- based cyber security think tank and training facility. This included the launch of the Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the applicability of international law to cyberspace and leading the volunteer StratCom team at the world’s largest international technical cyber defense exercise Locked Shields. In the latter capacity, Liisa recruited and managed the team that advanced the exercise scenario my simulating the media and a number of political players. For two years, she was also in charge of the external communications of the exercise, increasing its media coverage 30 times.
Liisa has contributed to a number of non-profit causes, particularly in the areas of democratic education and human rights. As a member of the advisory board of the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations since 2014 she offers strategic counsel as well as advice on communication and leadership. She has been deeply involved with the global debate movement and advised NGO-s ranging from the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association to the Roundtable for
Development Cooperation and Chamber of Disabled People. In particular, Liisa is proud to have been part of the team that lobbied for the passing of the gender-neutral partnership bill in Estonia.
Liisa Past holds a BA from Barnard College, Columbia University in Political Science and a MA (cum laude) in Media Research from Tartu University. She has taught courses in rhetoric, public relations and communication strategy, media and minorities and political culture at a number of universities and spent research time at the University of Oslo.
ILZE VINKELE – Latvia
Vinkele is a former member of Parliament of the Republic of Latvia and the former Minister of Welfare. She is passionate about promoting democratic values and reducing inequality.
Vinkele has implemented several significant public sector reforms, such as raising the retirement age, reforming mental-health institutions and defending the rights of LGBT individuals. She chairs the Education, Culture and Science Committee, where she works to amend higher education laws. With political participation low across Latvia, Vinkele seeks to engage more citizens in the nation’s political process.
Regional Program Director, Baltic States
Baltic-American Freedom Foundation
CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange
21 Kr. Valdemara Str. Riga, LV-1010, Latvia
Director, Enterprise Foundations
Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)
300 Fore Street, Portland, ME 04101 USA
Phone: +1 202 601 4298