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CEU Democracy Institute Leadership Academy (DILA)

The CEU Democracy Institute Leadership Academy (DILA) is a unique, 12-week part-time English-language leadership training program offered by the CEU Democracy Institute for a new generation of public leaders in Central and Eastern Europe. The course addresses the needs of mid-career local, municipal and national leaders, political party representatives, policy experts working at parties, in civil service and think-tanks, and civil society activists who seek to promote democratic change

The DILA program explores current challenges civic leaders and political parties face in European democracies - in cities, in national and in European politics - with the guidance of our leading international faculty of scholars and experienced practitioners. The curriculum covers topics on democratic governance and equips fellows with a wide range of strategic and leadership skills that are instrumental for a successful career in public life.


During the 12 week-long hybrid course three four-day-long residential sessions take place in Budapest at the CEU Democracy Institute. Between residential sessions, bi-weekly interactive online sessions take place on Thursday mornings from 8.30 -12.00. Participation in the residential and the online sessions is the precondition of the completion of the course. 


The program is designed for mid-career public leaders from the
Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. 

The language of the program is English.


Tuition fee, travel costs to Budapest, accommodation and meals during the residential sessions are covered by the DILA program. Selected applicants are required to pay a registration fee of €300. 

The program is funded by generous support from a European family foundation.


Interested candidates should apply with a Curriculum Vitae, a two-minute motivation video, a leadership problem description and a letter of recommendation.

For more details please click here.

Should you have any questions, please contact us at


What does the Democracy Institute Leadership Academy offer to its fellows? 
  • Our intensive, part-time, modular training program focuses on current challenges political parties and political activists face in European democracies - in cities, in national and in European politics; 
  • Interactive course work address democratic practices: deliberative and participative methods, democratic mobilization and efficient interest representation in different national and European contexts;
  • CEU’s international faculty will provide insights into the intellectual context of contemporary debates such as climate change, geopolitical and domestic divides and technological change;
  • Our team of experts is committed to developing a wide range of leadership and political skills to assist participants in their daily work, such as strategic thinking, negotiation skills, polling and data literacy and resource mobilization;
  • Our program fosters opportunities for networking through peer-to-peer learning and social events in a politically diverse international environment;  
  • Fellows completing the course will receive a certificate of participation awarded by the CEU Democracy Institute. 
What is the structure of the DILA program?
  • Fellows will participate in a twelve-week-long hybrid program.  
  • Residential sessions will be held in Budapest at the campus of the Central European University 
  • The online, bi-weekly interactive sessions take place once on a weekday (8.30-12.00 am) between the residential sessions.
  • Fellows should assign another 3-4 hours/week for individual preparation and team assignments.  
Who is eligible for the fellowship? 
  • Governmental and municipal leaders, political party representatives, civil society activists and think-tank policy experts with 5-10 years of political or professional experience. 
  • We are accepting applications from the following countries: Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Who is an ideal candidate for the fellowship?

DILA fellows are leaders with integrity and a strong commitment to democracy who align with causes greater than themselves. They recognize the reality of transnational interconnectedness and openness for collaboration. DILA fellows value personal experience and learn through exposure, dialogue, and reflection.

An ideal DILA candidate has

  • A profound sense of integrity; 
  • Between 5-10 years of professional or political experience; 
  • A commitment to democracy and diversity across profession, gender, race, ethnicity and political ideology; 
  • A desire to affect real and sustainable change in a democratic society; 
  • The ability to apply knowledge and leverage networks; 
  • A working level (reading and speaking) skill in English language.  

How to apply? 

Candidates should apply online by filling in the online form (click here for the details) and by providing the following: 

  • A Curriculum Vitae
  • A letter of recommendation by a professional superior
  • A motivation video
  • A short essay on democracy

You will receive instructions on how to upload your files once you submit the application form.

Curriculum vitae
  • The document must be formatted in MS Word Document (.doc) or Adobe Acrobat PDF (.pdf), all other file types will not be accepted.
  • The English language resume should list in order of priority the following:
    • Your educational credentials, including all degrees earned
    • Awards and honors if applicable
    • Publications if applicable (please do not include an exhaustive list)
    • Your professional experience with your most recent position listed first and dates of employment

  • Please do not send CVs longer than 3 pages. Please note that once you submit the application you will not be able to make any changes. We ask that you carefully review the form before submitting it.

The motivation video

  • Candidates are expected to record a maximum two-minute motivation video
  • The video should explain why the applicant is interested in applying for the fellowship, why she/he/they thinks is the best person to be selected and how she/he/they plans to apply the new knowledge and skills in her/his/their future work. 
  • Using the webcam, cell phone or video camera, please record yourself presenting your responses to the questions above. All videos should be titled with your full name.  
  • The maximum size is 600 MB. You will receive instructions on how to upload your video once you submit the application form.

Essay on democracy

Applicants are required to write a short essay with the title: ‘Is democracy my problem?’. The essay should describe a phenomenon which demonstrates a problem or dysfunction of democracy, which the applicant believes to be a serious concern in his/her closer or wider social environment, affecting the life of a significant group of people. The essay should explain how the selected phenomenon influences the life of a community and what the applicant thinks should be done to resist the negative impact of the selected democracy problem. The essay should specify the question of who is in charge of bringing about positive change in the given problem.

Please limit the description of your essay to 300 words.

Reference letter

Candidates will need to request one letter of recommendation from the applicant’s professional environment to support their application to the program. 

  • Letters must be submitted in English in MS Word Document (.doc) or Adobe Acrobat PDF (.pdf)
  • Letters should be written on official organization letterhead, and signed with the name, official position, and contact information of the referee.

Selected candidates will be invited for an online interview. All interviews take about 20 minutes in English language.  Working knowledge of English is an important prerequisite for participation in the program.

All applicants will be contacted regarding their application status by e-mail. 

Who evaluates the applications?

Applications will be evaluated by a committee drawn from CEU Democracy Institute senior management. All application materials and the committee’s evaluations remain confidential. 

Applicants will be selected based on leadership potential, professional and academic merit, as well as the essay they submit in their application.

The privacy of your personal information is very important to us. We collect, use, and store your personal information in accordance with the requirements of the applicable data privacy rules, including specifically the General Data Protection Regulation. To learn more about how we manage your personal data during the recruitment process, please see our Privacy Notice at: (Hungary: Közép-európai Egyetem, Central European University).

DILA 2023 Program Kicks Off

September saw the kick-off of the 2023 CEU Democracy Institute Leadership Academy (DILA) program with the first in-person session attended by a dynamic cohort of 19 outstanding fellows from Central Europe.

Call for Applications: CEU Democracy Institute Leadership Academy

Applications are now open to our unique, 12-week-long, leadership training program for a new generation of public leaders in Central and Eastern Europe.

New Podcast: Backsliding Democracy

Zsuzsanna Szelenyi, Program Director of the CEU Democracy Institute Leadership Academy joined the Mark Leonard’s World in 30 Minutes podcast series of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

New Book by Zsuzsanna Szelenyi

The new book of Zsuzsanna Szelenyi, Program Director of the CEU Democracy Institute Leadership Academy, entitled Tainted Democracy, offers accessible, nuanced insights into the global rise of populist autocracy, and how it can be challenged.

Internship Opportunity at the CEU Democracy Institute Leadership Academy - CLOSED

We invite applications for a part-time internship position in Budapest, with the possibility of working remotely for some parts of the program.

Call for Applications: CEU Democracy Institute Leadership Academy - CLOSED

The CEU Democracy Institute invites applications for a unique leadership training program for a new generation of public leaders in Central and Eastern Europe.