Silvia Nadjivan

“We have to listen to young people and to understand their points of view, instead of teaching them.”

Silvia is Programme Coordinator & Researcher of the European Capital of Democracy (ECoD) and currently engaged in the preparation of the first ECoD Call ever. “Just imagining that in the near future 10.000 citizens will vote for the European Capital of Democracy (ECoD) is indeed amazing – and necessary. Because current highly worrying polarising, autocratic and xenophobic developments show that we now face the right time for such an inspiring and motivating initiative”, she shares. So, in brief, she is contributing to fostering deliberative democracy in all Council of Europe member states and abroad.

What is your background, your professional journey, and what sparked your interest in currently working to support political innovation?

Driven by a deep aversion against right-wing populism and a high interest in political issues and media developments, I started to study Political Science and Communication Science at the University of Vienna. In parallel, I began to work in the fields of social research, journalism and civil society. After numerous research projects, educational and awareness-raising activities, events and publications, and in the context of rapid overall changes, I felt deeply attracted by the possibility of breaking new ground by political innovation and for the good of us all.

What is your first memory of politics?

When the long-time Yugoslav statesman Josip Broz Tito died in 1980. The pictures of his funeral were even shown on Austrian TV. What I also remember were the many faces of tears and deep sorrow in my surroundings. Shortly afterwards, rumors of a possible war in the near future came up which I did not take seriously. Wars were so far away and not imaginable to me. The opposite should come true in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

Please share a story that moved you deeply in your personal beliefs.

What deeply moves me is that on the one hand democratic achievements appear to be taken for granted in some parts of the world, while in others people are still murdered due to their engagement for human and civil rights.

We have to listen to young people and to understand their points of view, instead of teaching them.

Silvia Nadjivan

What’s your favorite part of your work? Why is that?

To turn theory into vision and later into practice is my favorite part of work. I can work on a scientifically elaborated basis and create something that changes the world for the better. And most important: That all happens in a great team.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

One of my long-time favorite books is “Vita Activa” by Hannah Arendt, where she defines power in clear distinction to violence and in accordance with human interaction and commitment. Another book I also like very much is Tamara Ehs’ “Krisendemokratie” which pointedly illustrates the fragility of democracy.

What is something you learned doing in one of your jobs that really transformed the way you experience work and life?

What I learned during my professional work is building up a holistic view and a permanent questioning of one one’s position. By that and active listening to what others say, I continually try to overcome possible blind spots and stereotypes.

Do you have any hidden talents or hobbies?

I am passionate about having enlightening and visionary conversations.

According to you, how can we get young people interested in politics?

We have to listen to young people and to understand their points of view, instead of teaching them. What they need are appropriate forums to express their wishes, visions and solutions. It is not a new idea to listen to the voices of young generations, but definitely the right time to do so.

Which historical figure would you most like to meet?

I would like to meet Sojourner Truth who became after her liberation from slavery a civil rights activist. With her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech in 1851 she laid the ground for intersectionality, a theoretical approach on discrimination based to the “trias” (gender/class/ethnicity) that by now inspires academia and various social movements (f.i. Black feminism).

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

My perfect day starts with a strong coffee and hearty breakfast, goes into great discussions about a better world, realizing a bit of it, and finishes with a cup of tasty tea.