NEOS LAB Summer School 2016

NEOSlab Summer School - Das Schloss

Event data

15. 9. 2016
NEOS Österreich
Schloß Zell an der Pram, Oberösterreich
Weiterbildung, Wahlkampfvorbereitung
Matthias Strolz, NEOs Parteichef
Angelika Mlinar, NEOS Europaparlamentarierin
Nikolaus Scherak, NEOS Nationalratsabgeordneter

From 15th to 17th September 2016 Christian Janisch and Anna Dichen attended the NEOS LAB Summer School in Zell an der Pram:

Christian Janisch’s Point of View:

Zell an der Pram, situated in deepest Upper Austria, not far from the border to Bavaria. Location of the second NEOS LAB Summer School. A mixed audience (surprisingly many from the older generation), most are already connected to the NEOs. From the outset, a good mood, a little reminiscent of a meeting of financial service providers: friendly, confident, perfectionist – with the difference that the people here appear authentic and they are genuine about their openness. Even as a declared non-member, you feel accepted by the majority.

That the Summer School above all concerns a motivational event for the “big tasks” (e.g. the parliamentary election scheduled for 2017) referred to by Matthias Strolz and the other local big names in the party quickly becomes clear in the regular talks in the conference hall and in the content of some workshops. Which is not a bad thing; after all, the movement wants to effect change. And with the presented personnel, as a politically experienced observer, you trust them to do just that. In contrast to many workshops which are held by companies for their staff, those present are truly interested in the topics raised. Their enthusiasm is obvious.

Matthias Strolz (left), the motivator, shortly before his speech
Matthias Strolz (left), the motivator, shortly before his speech

In almost every conversation, the FPÖ and their political statements and strategies surface as the main opponent: the NEOs offer the electorate a counter concept to right-wing populism and xenophobia – beyond the old parties. According to Matthias Strolz, the aim is to attain 10%+ – even if he does not delude himself that the electoral campaign has to run almost perfectly to achieve this. Above all, as regards the Kern-Kurz-Strache three-way battle for the office of Chancellor, it will be a great challenge to counteract the marginalization of liberal ideas.

Angelika Mlinar (centre), convinced European
Angelika Mlinar (centre), convinced European

All in all, the topic of the best of the five workshops which I attended related to story telling: How do I get across sometimes complex, political content and facts to voters in an exciting and comprehensible manner? Here it was clear that the formulation of visions at various political levels will be one of the future challenges for the NEOs (at least in the movement). Dramaturgy and tales of heroes – two concepts to develop visions. With Strolz as the leading light, the NEOs fall into the latter at first glance. But also Angelika Mlinar and Nikolaus Scherak performed convincingly at the evening events: Mlinar, a fanatical European, accurately analysed the problems of the EU and their relationship to the member states and fought the departure of Europe – from Visegrad to Donald Tusk – with the means available to her. She is well aware of her minority opinion regarding TTIP and CETA in Austria. Scherak, who held an informal Q&A session in which he replied to both personal and highly political questions (e.g. representative versus direct democracy? He considers the participatory variant a compromise). Not in political “oldspeak” but in his own words.

Nikolaus Scherak (right) - unwavering parliamentarian
Nikolaus Scherak (right) – unwavering parliamentarian

Informal contact between the grass roots and the members of parliament outwith party conferences is only possible in the new parties. It almost feels like a big family: small children and dogs in the workshops. Civilised discussions at mealtimes. People talk on a first-name basis. At times it all appears somewhat exaggerated especially the staged cheering at the meetings in the conference hall. But a little show is needed – after all, the one or other signal will be sent to the outside world via Twitter and Facebook – even if it “only” concerns the election re-run in Vienna’s second district.

All in all, a successful event. You may not find the Spartan surroundings of the Zell an der Pram palace with other parties. But also not the lively openness towards non-party members in discussions and events, which, at times, provided deep insights. Definitely exemplary, also for others.

Anna Dichen’s experience of the LAB:

I can only agree with Christian’s words. The NEOS team is, in my opinion, an ambitious, enthusiastic and professional team, which is constantly learning as well as looking to effect change. Even when Christian and I – in the course of introducing ourselves – informed the other participants that we were not members of any party, including the NEOs, we were still welcomed and in no way treated as outsiders. On the morning of 16th September, when Matthias Strolz held his talk, I was lucky enough to be able to exchange a few friendly words with him. And was impressed by his friendly manner and openness – in addition to his otherwise party-professional qualities. He encourages his people. And during his charismatic talk I also felt that he was talking to me, because “MUT” is good for us!

Matthias Strolz symbolically shows his gong, which has accompanied him for a very long time
Matthias Strolz symbolically shows his gong, which has accompanied him for a very long time

The courses which I attended at the NEOS Summer-LABs:

The course which I liked the most was the first course that I attended. It took place on 15th September at 2 pm, directly after arriving at the Schloßhotel:

“In a nutshell – Presenting my message concisely and to the point” Within 30 seconds we had to hold a talk on a subject of our choice in front of a camera and audience. I had never before attended this type of training and discovered that I actually had no problem with the topic, the time pressure and the actual message which should be delivered. However, I have to work on my body language, as a little nervousness and insecurity were evident 😉 But: practice makes perfect!

The course on the next day: “Not with us? asylum & integration in municipalities” confirmed that I already knew much about issues related to asylum due to my previous attendance at events and that I was able to pass on this knowledge to this audience in an easily comprehensible manner.

It was important for me to communicate with the people from NEOS during the breaks – Helmut Hofer, with his dry humour and his multi-faceted personality, remains my favourite conversation partner – because they are a group of educated, pleasant, easy going and ambitious people who, like all of us (and I am not only talking about our team at Idealism Prevails) are interested in effecting change, not only in Austria but beyond Austria’s borders and in encouraging a dialogue with the people. You could say that we are all pulling together!

I would like to thank the NEOS for their inspiration, friendliness, tolerance, for their useful feedback and expertise. I truly wish you all the best for the future! Let’s keep in touch!

Authors: Anna Dichen and Christian Janisch


Image Title Author License
Nikolaus Scherak (right) - unwavering parliamentarian Nikolaus Scherak (right) – unwavering parliamentarian Christian Janisch CC BY-SA 4.0
Matthias Strolz symbolically shows his gong, which has accompanied him for a very long time Matthias Strolz symbolically shows his gong, which has accompanied him for a very long time Christian Janisch CC BY-SA 4.0
NEOSlab Summer School - Das Schloss NEOSlab Summer School – Das Schloss Anna Dichen CC BY-SA 4.0