Smith Fellow Spotlight: Natalia Macyra


The Smith Fellowship, one of the many programs of Atlas Network’s Leadership Academy, brings up-and-coming leaders from around the world to Washington D.C., where they receive varied training in marketing, fundraising, management, and other relevant skills.

A recent alumna of the Smith Fellowship, Natalia Macyra, is general manager of European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE), a partner organization based in Brussels, Belgium. She was one of the Cornerstone Talks presenters at Europe Liberty Forum 2018, and she completed Atlas Network’s Smith Fellowship in July 2018.

Atlas Network recently conducted an interview with Natalia learn about the fellowship’s most impactful moments and how it has helped her in her work.

Atlas Network: Can you tell us a little about ECIPE?

Natalia Macyra: ECIPE is a Brussels-based think tank that focuses on free trade and digital policies. We represent the community that endorses the creation of open markets and free trade and support key decision-makers by providing readily accessible, sound, economic and political analysis. For over a decade ECIPE’s experts and scholars have been working to promote free markets by publishing reports, studies and books. We organise events in Brussels with European stakeholders and provide economic arguments to further trade liberalisation between the EU and its partners.

Our research is focused on three main areas that include: trade policy & globalisation, European trade and Single Market, digital trade and innovation. We have recently also started a project that focuses on future UK relations with the EU and other trade partners.

ECIPE is an independent think tank, meaning we do seek nor accept funding from the EU Institutions. ECIPE is governed by a Board of Trustees, responsible for general and financial supervision, and has an Advisory Board with highly respected academics and practitioners to advise on research projects.

Our research and administrative staff include policy analysts, economists, researchers, general manager, and two directors. Since our founding in 2006 we have increased the number of our permanent staff threefold, from 4 to 12.

How has the Smith Fellowship been useful for your organization's work?

During the Smith Fellowship I focused on the management and communication part of my work in order to increase our capacity and efficiency in delivering our research. Given the increasing interest in trade as a subject, ECIPE is often a go-to place for media and stakeholders to obtain commentary, opinions and facts. This means our workload has increased and we often have to deliver research within a limited time period. Since we also have grown rather substantially in the past 4-5 years we now need to develop a sound management and research structure in order to perform our tasks. Hence, during the Fellowship training, I focused on three crucial elements

Organisational Development

  • New structure including division into departments — Definition & Diffusion Model of Teamwork (a great tool to assess your current state of organization and identify potential shortcoming and strengths)
  • Defined roles, activities and responsibilities for each department
  • Implementation and evaluation processes (goals and objectives)


  • Deliberate Message Statement that I was introduced to will help create an interesting narrative for our research projects and allow ECIPE experts to be better prepared for live interviews, it is also a good tool to improve our written press releases
  • Research on trade communications and storytelling from the U.S. perspective

Fundraising Strategy

  • Creating fundraising strategy and implementation plan together with a benefits package for potential sponsors
  • Revision of project and grant proposals and updating our templates

As I was able to collect my colleagues’ feedback alongside my work on the above-mentioned issues, I believe that I have secured buy-in both from our research team and directors to implement all the necessary changes in our operations to make our workflow leaner.

What was the highlight of time in the U.S. during the fellowship? What are you most excited about in getting back to work at ECIPE?

The thing that I’m looking forward to most is the implementation of the processes and strategies that we have defined and created during the Fellowship. Given the current stress level at ECIPE I believe that everyone will welcome a more streamlined approach to our work and appreciate clear division of roles and responsibilities. I think the strategies we created will also motivate my colleagues and allow them to better understand our objective and goals. I really enjoyed working on more of a business approach to think tank management as it is something rather unusual in the Brussels environment. I have learned a lot and I genuinely hope we will be able to go through this organisational change and become stronger and better adjust in order to continue promoting trade liberalisation, economic freedoms and prosperity for all Europeans.

Thanks to the Fellowship I have also renewed some of ECIPE’s contacts in Washington as well as created new connections that I believe are invaluable if we want the world, not only Europe, to stay open, free and democratic.

What other main projects are you working on?

The biggest project to this date is the Digital Trade Estimate, whichis a novel and groundbreaking project that consists of a database and a report. The database covers over 100 measures that affect digital trade in 64 countries worldwide. The report ranks and compares how these countries manage their digital economies, including measures relating to e-commerce, data flows and internet platforms, as well as taxation and tariffs on related goods and services.

For the past few years, the majority of our work has focused on digital economy and innovation including a recent proposal by the European Commission to impose a so-called ‘digital tax,’ the discussion on the future, and the European Digital Single Market, where we publish reports and organise a series of events with Member States representatives to have a dialogue on the future risk and opportunities for the European economy. Our experts also provide their expertise on current international trade developments (i.e. U.S. tariffs, trade war with China, Brexit) in the international media outlets and via policy briefs published on our website.

What is the intellectual and sociopolitical climate in Europe like currently?

Europe is now facing an important decision regarding its role in the global trade policy. With the U.S. adopting a more protectionist approach and an associated weakening of the multilateral system at the World Trade Organization, the EU has now an opportunity to take a leading role in creating a new free trade narrative and become a forerunner in a global trade. However, there are both internal and external challenges for the EU and its Member States to fully succeed in this position:

  1. The increase of the populist and nationalist parties across the Member States (Poland, Hungary, Austria, Italy) that might jeopardize liberal traditions of open borders and open marketsThe upcoming European Parliament election and possibility that the Anti-EU movements gain substantial number of seats when they might be able to block major pro-free trade initiatives
  2. Civil society and grassroots movements that oppose free trade and globalisation and which are gaining more and more support and a voice across the EU
  3. Slow economic growth in major European economies together with a real possibility of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit and ongoing dispute among Member States how to handle the refugees coming from Africa and the Middle East are serious threats to the European stability and open borders, as well as can negatively impact EU’s future decision-making ability

What does ECIPE do to overcome those challenges?

With our research and advocacy activities we aim to provide fact-based evidence that can be later used by politicians and lawmakers to propose reforms supporting growth and the European economy. We support open markets and free trade policies and looking into ways we can respond to the backlash against globalisation and free trade. We are involved in a discussion with governments, institutions, but also NGO and academics to find the best way that allows European citizen to prosper.