School of Transnational Governance

The STG: Building Inwards, Looking Outwards

A conversation with Miguel Poiares Maduro and Fabrizio Tassinari, Director and Executive Director of the School of Transnational Governance.

Written by Kathryn Carlson 

Little more than a year after the EUI’s School of Transnational Governance (STG) was launched in autumn 2017, the School is making waves in the European policy sphere. With its far-reaching Policy Leaders Fellow programme, High-Level Policy Dialogues and Executive Training Seminars, and an upcoming Master’s programme, the STG is proving to be an exciting part of EUI.

We caught up with Miguel Maduro, Director of the STG, and Executive Director Fabrizio Tassinari to discuss the School’s foundation, the importance of transnational outlooks, and what the future holds for the STG.

We start with the School’s foundation. Why was it so important to create a specifically transnational school of governance? “There’s been a tradition in recent decades of developed schools of governance”, Professor Maduro says. “But these schools of government have usually been focusing on government within a state…and we believe that increasingly, governance is taking place beyond the state.” What might be causing this spread in geographic scope, he says, is “the increase in interdependence in a variety of domains, from the financial sector to trade to climate governance to migration.”

Schools of government have usually been focusing on government within a state…and we believe that increasingly, governance is taking place beyond the state.

Dr Tassinari adds that the new School is needed to create new ideas for governance in the face of recent European crises: “I think the times we’re living demand a rethinking as to how to approach complex [governance] questions in Europe and more broadly. We used to assume that Europe was and is a role model for the rest of the world, that governance is increasingly supranational and global… but the backlash that we have experienced since the sovereign-debt crisis, and even more since the refugee crisis, requires us to rethink how we approach and even more teach these issues.”

Concurring with Maduro, he goes on to cite the complexity of worldwide issues as the driving force for the new School: “The school aims to try to tackle global phenomena like migration and climate change, challenges that are international and often interrelated. It is crucial to understand how transnational governance plays out and how we should operate as a result”.

The school aims to try to tackle global phenomena like migration and climate change, challenges that are international and often interrelated.

The Policy Leaders Fellow programme, which brings early and mid-career professionals with a focus on policy to the EUI for up to nine months, has become more high-profile and competitive than its relatively recent launch (2017) might suggest. Why are these fellowships so sought after?

“You have from a high civil servant from South Sudan, to a high civil servant of the European Commission, that get to know each other here”, Professor Maduro says. “And when you have that on a larger scale with a group of 25 people from all over the world, just getting to know the challenges of others has an extremely high added value. It’s an opportunity for people engaged in the policy world to step back from what they’re doing on a daily basis, and think about what they do, and think about how they could do it better. We offer that context, and specific training on how to make use of data, how to prepare policy briefs, how to communicate.”

The School’s regular High Level Policy Dialogues have brought prestige, but also debate, to the school. The talks, which take place between high-profile visitors and academics in a closed-door setting, are by invitation only and are not open to everyone. But for Dr Tassinari, the ends justify the means: “If you want to attract very senior policy-makers, you have to provide an environment where they can be candid and have the chance to raise issues and doubts and challenges, without risking misinterpretation. The closed-door setting is not meant to exclude, but rather to encourage meaningful discussion among the most relevant actors. Then one of the outcomes of the policy dialogues is that we publish anonymised policy briefs, laying out the issues that were discussed. This way everyone can benefit from the knowledge that was produced.”

The STG proposes a radical “long-term learning curve”, with practical education for professionals at all stages of their career.

One facet of this is the Executive Training Seminars, which Dr Tassinari describes as “one of the main pillars of the School”. “We offer mid-career professionals the opportunity to come here for a couple of days, and learn a different way of approaching transnational issues”, he says. “While much of the offering out there is about training in issues-areas or institutional approaches, here we offer transnational governance as a systematic lens through which we analyse the different topics. Judging by the response, I think it is working.”

The School already has a packed schedule, with its Policy Leader Fellow programme, Executive Training, and High-Level Policy Dialogues, and will soon be adding further to this with a new Master’s programme and a move downtown to Palazzo Buontalenti, currently under renovation. What does the future of the School look like? “First of all, it will look like that building in downtown Florence”, Tassinari says. “It is symbolically moving the EUI to an urban environment, which is appropriate for a school that engages with policy. At the same time, the School will populate itself with Master’s students - that is really going to bring to life many of the things that we are putting in store. And the third thing is the geographical and professional scope. I really hope that in a couple of years’ time, the promise of the school to reach out systematically beyond Europe will be fulfilled, and therefore we will begin to see the diversity that now you have in a microcosm in our Fellowship programme.”

“We believe that it is one of our crucial tasks to merge the gap between policy knowledge and the policy world”, says Maduro. “The School invests fundamentally in three things: the Master’s programme, and therefore teaching and preparing a new generation of leaders for transnational governance; providing a context for people that are already in the policy world through our Policy Fellowship programme; and providing a platform where science and policy can meet, where policy makers and experts can exchange knowledge and information.”

We believe that it is one of our crucial tasks to merge the gap between policy knowledge and the policy world.

Dr Tassinari adds: “At times like this, where nativism, populism have become dominant forces in our political life, and in Europe in general, the creation of a School focused on transnational governance sends an important signal - we didn’t create Europe out of thin air, and what we created is worth studying.”