I’ll start simple. When, on an autumn afternoon in a small dusty room, a makeshift office at Levstikova 15 in Ljubljana, we decided that the time had come to found a social democratic think tank in Slovenia, an institute that would research and connect, I didn’t really know (or even understand) what it was before us and what the decision to establish the May 1st Institute brings. I was, like all people who enter new stories, naive and excited. The naivety and enthusiasm remain even after a year, but I would only add that before starting a new story, you should also be appropriately scared and humbled. However, this, as usual, comes with experience and trials, which I so firmly believe make us better (although it is not always clear how and why).
When I was putting together the first schematic representation of the new story, when I was writing down the key turning points and when I was drawing the first timeline, I was, I have to honestly admit, overly optimistic. But it was so right. And when the director of the sister (and partner) foundation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung for Slovenia and Croatia cautiously put it on my heart that we were to embark on a venture that had already left many more experienced, more knowledgeable people under the unreached peak, I (naively and excitedly) just smiled and said: Sonja, we have it, don’t worry. When I asked my first colleague, “Jan, what exactly is this, what will my job be”, I simply replied that I didn’t know yet and that we would figure it out together. I simply wanted to work with people again as a trainer and organizer of trainings and creative processes. Like many, I romantically overlooked the obvious gap between ideal and reality, but today, when I look back on the first year of our operation, I am glad that it was so.
Thus, in the first year of its operation, the May 1st Institute hosted outstanding personalities of our time. Martin Schulz, former President of the European Parliament and former leader of the German Social Democrats, and today the leader of one of the largest and most influential global political foundations, visited Slovenia at our invitation. Maria Joao Rodrigues, former Portuguese Minister of Labour, former European Commissioner and today the president of the largest and umbrella association of progressive and social democratic political foundations in Europe, took part in the May 1st summit. We hosted the leader of the Progressive Alliance, Conny Reuter, and ambassadors, male and female members of parliament from various European countries participated in our events. On the international stage, we entered into new partnerships from Latin America, through the USA, to numerous project partnerships in Europe. We are associate members of FEPS and at the last annual seminar organized by Das Progressive Zentrum we had the opportunity to work with the most respected global think tanks. dr. Anja Kopač has assembled an exceptional group of people in the institute’s expert council, who generate new ideas and solutions with incredible insight. More than 300 people participated in the events under the auspices of the expert council. Almost 4,000 people have listened to our podcasts, which often raise dust on both the left and the right. In Slovenia, more than 500 individuals took part in education and training organized by the May 1st Institute team. We conducted the first Future Search, and we are ending the year with a provocative discussion that proves that the Institute succeeded in realizing its main mission on May 1st – to be an open space for dialogue, without prejudice. We allow ourselves to open up and ask all questions, and we talk about the values, role and ideas of social democracy through the understanding that social democracy is much more than a political party, it is a way of understanding and co-creating the community, it is a way of life that wants a better world for everyone, not given our differences and differences. We sincerely believe that it enriches us. That is why I was most proud during the year when we received very different messages and impressions during the organization of our largest consultation on the future of the Slovenian healthcare system. Because we raised many eyebrows with the choice of speakers and because we didn’t want to buckle under the pressure that any of the invitees should not be among the speakers at the social democratic thought event. It is precisely in this that I recognize the greatest potential of the May 1st Institute for contributing to long-term changes in our society. That with us it is possible to face arguments openly and safely and that with our work we seek the best solutions and bridges between ideas that want good, but on different foundations and through different perspectives. If it wasn’t completely clear to me a year ago, today I unequivocally understand that this is exactly the mission of social democratic thought.
In the coming year, we will therefore enter even more decisively into the most challenging social issues, open up even more of the most difficult issues and search even more intensively for common solutions where the differences in our society today are the greatest. In the year when the House of Advanced Ideas at Levstikova 15 will also come to life (hint, you’ll really like what we’re preparing), that’s why I sincerely hope that everyone can find their place at the events, activities and premises of the May 1st Institute , “who think well in our hearts”. I want Slovenia to become a modern, open and advanced society, the best home for all of us.
And before the curtain falls on 2023, allow me to thank the people who made this year especially exceptional and (no offense) also very difficult and unpredictable (naughty smile). Thank you Tanja and Klemen for your trust, thank you Dejan, Živa and Dejan for their guidance, a shoulder to cry on and complain about, thank you Anja, Maja and Aljaž – for everything.
Above all, thank you to all of you who in 2023 were users, co-creators, active or passing guests of the May 1st Institute story. As we started, so we will continue. Go ahead.
Director of the May 1st Institute