Alena Vachnová graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2022 with a Master’s in Public Administration. During her time at HKS, she was a Fulbright Scholar and an Edward S. Mason Fellow the Center for Public Leadership. She has a PhD in social work and has dedicated her career to the development of Eastern Slovakia. Working for almost ten years with the local and regional governments, she was instrumental in developing projects, such as Kosice – European Capital of Culture 2013, a local implementation of the EU-led initiative focusing on the transformation of the cities through culture. After switching to the nonprofit sector and human services, Alena was selected to the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program 2017-2018 (under the umbrella of Fulbright Programs) as a fellow in economic development at Boston University. This Humphrey year influenced everything she has been doing since to address inequalities in her country. Inspired by approaches focusing on prevention and ending of homelessness, such as the Housing First approach and integration of health and social services, she took over the role of Development Manager of Foundation DEDO and started to pilot these approaches in Slovakia to address the growing homelessness of families and individuals.
As a Cheng Fellow and an advocate for ending homelessness, Alena worked on developing a systemic approach towards ending homelessness in her city and country. Her end game is a paradigm shift in approaching homelessness in Slovakia from managing it to ending it. She aimed to achieve this by developing affordable housing and supporting services for people with the experience of homelessness and building integrated municipal systems able to prevent and end homelessness of its citizens.