The year 2018 looks promis­ing for AEGEE, despite a rough start. In the focus: more the­mat­ic work, more con­fer­ences – and pos­si­bly a reform of the plan­ning process that gives a big­ger focus on the­mat­ic projects. An overview.

It was the main top­ic of last week in AEGEE: on 24th of Jan­u­ary two CD mem­bers simul­ta­ne­ous­ly declared their res­ig­na­tion, effec­tive from the end of the month. The remain­ing five CD mem­bers replied that they did not agree with the giv­en rea­sons and paint­ed a dif­fer­ent pic­ture. It was inter­est­ing to see that the net­work did not attempt to start a seri­ous dis­cus­sion on the AEGEE com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels. In the past, many peo­ple would write on the mail­ing list AEGEE-L and demand more infor­ma­tion. This time: noth­ing, except for a delet­ed Face­book post.

Does it mean that peo­ple do not care? Not at all. They don’t dis­cuss in the open, but pri­vate­ly – which is of course not real­ly help­ing either, because it just sup­ports rumours. The whole issue will prob­a­bly come up again at the Ago­ra Kraków. It will for sure affect the vot­ing result on the Activ­i­ty Report. In the past, it even caused votes of con­fi­dence sev­er­al times – either ini­ti­at­ed by the net­work or the CD itself. Could it also hap­pen now? It depends. Regard­less of what real­ly hap­pened in the CD, the net­work will see it as a fail­ure to keep the team togeth­er, despite safe­guard­ing mea­sures like the Medi­a­tion Com­mis­sion and the Advi­so­ry Board. How­ev­er, with only a cou­ple of months remain­ing and the need for a func­tion­ing CD, in this case the remain­ing CD mem­bers would prob­a­bly re-can­di­date and be re-elect­ed. There­fore the effect of a vote of con­fi­dence would be small.

Structural reforms on the horizon

On the oth­er hand, the CD mat­ter might take away the spot­light of anoth­er agen­da item in Kraków: a pos­si­ble review and reform of the plan­ning process in AEGEE. This has been fore­shad­owed since the Ago­ra Inspire ses­sion of Ago­ra Enschede last year, when a group of mem­bers declared that they want to bring back the Main Fields of Action, AEGEE’s pro­gram­mat­ic core. They were abol­ished in 2013 to increase the impor­tance of the three-year Strate­gic Plan.

Marina Klanjčić
Mari­na Klan­jčić

When the Gold­en Times asked 81 active mem­bers what they fore­see as the high­light or biggest issue in AEGEE in 2018, alto­geth­er 14 peo­ple gave answers in the cat­e­go­ry “Struc­tur­al reforms/Reform of plan­ning cycle”. No oth­er top­ic was men­tioned more often. The answers were best sum­marised by Mari­na Klan­jčić, AEGEE-Zagreb. Her reply to the ques­tion was: “I fore­see major changes in 2018! A ful­ly the­mat­ic AEGEE, focused on hav­ing a big impact on the soci­ety while at the same time, being rec­og­nized as the best organ­i­sa­tion for self-devel­op­ment of an indi­vid­ual — of course, with the well-known amaz­ing fun part along the way! Just wait for Ago­ra Kraków!”

In short, the con­di­tion for change is ful­filled: high aware­ness of the prob­lems, a prob­lem solv­ing strat­e­gy and moti­va­tion to act on it. These inter­nal reforms might be on the agen­da of 2018:

  • change of plan­ning process
  • return of the Main Fields of Action to give AEGEE a clear­er the­mat­ic pro­file
  • the return of the flag­ship project as high­light of the year

Ongoing discussions on identity, vision and position of AEGEE

Close­ly con­nect­ed, but a bit more vague is anoth­er top­ic that will come up in 2018: “the dis­cus­sions on the future, focus, iden­ti­ty and strat­e­gy” of the asso­ci­a­tion in 2018 were named by nine peo­ple in the Gold­en Times sur­vey – that was the fourth place among all answers. Indeed, AEGEE has some ongo­ing issues, such as the decreas­ing num­ber of locals and SUs, as well as the prob­lem to posi­tion itself clear­ly in the high­ly com­pet­i­tive fields of stu­dents NGOs. As for­mer Ago­ra Chair and AEGEEan Mag­a­zine Chief-Edi­tor Eri­ka Bet­tin put it last Decem­ber: “If I were to write a let­ter to San­ta, ask­ing for a wish, it would prob­a­bly be a clear iden­ti­ty and direc­tion for AEGEE. We should find again our place in the intri­cate world of stu­dent organ­i­sa­tions, stand­ing out by pre­sent­ing a clear goal. Keep­ing on pro­mot­ing bud­get trav­els and a mul­ti­cul­tur­al expe­ri­ence is not enough any­more.”

So we know the prob­lem, but don’t have a clear solu­tion? Yes. Maybe the plan­ning cycle reform will give AEGEE a major push. It won’t help though with oth­er issues such as the per­ceived bureau­cra­cy in the asso­ci­a­tion. With the AEGEE iden­ti­ty dis­cus­sion already going on for the whole decade, there will prob­a­bly some small­er changes pro­posed, like every year.

Pro­mot­ing cul­tur­al exchange is not enough.

A very good year for thematic bodies

2017 saw the cre­ation of new work­ing groups. All four of them look strong and plan lots of actions. This is for sure the result of a bet­ter Strate­gic Plan, but also very good man­age­ment of the work­ing groups. More­over, also changes in the soci­ety might help. With pop­ulism, nation­al­ism, xeno­pho­bia and iso­la­tion­ism spread­ing all over the plan­et, the soci­ety gets more polarised. And for every per­son that gets more pop­ulis­tic, there is anoth­er one get­ting more open-mind­ed, pro-Euro­pean and ready to act!

Next to the work­ing groups also the inter­est groups are doing fine. The new­ly found­ed Pol­i­tics Inter­est Group (POLIG) for exam­ple is a great suc­cess. Despite the fact that inter­est groups were orig­i­nal­ly envi­sioned to be dis­cus­sion cycles, sev­er­al ones of them plan con­crete con­fer­ences, train­ings and action days.

The Youth Devel­op­ment Work­ing Group — one of the great work­ing groups of AEGEE.

A great year also for interesting projects and conferences

After some years with a few weak­er projects, also the Euro­pean projects look par­tic­u­lar­ly good. Espe­cial­ly “Europe on Track 5” man­aged to gath­er a great team with lots of amaz­ing ideas. No sur­prise that this project got the sec­ond most men­tions in the Gold­en Times sur­vey about the high­lights in 2018. Its top­ic “Sus­tain­abil­i­ty” hit a nerve. In gen­er­al “envi­ron­men­tal top­ics” was men­tioned eight times as high­light of 2018, so there is a chance to look deep­er in these top­ics in 2018.

Anoth­er project high­light could be the 30th anniver­sary of the Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty project – men­tioned on 6th place in the sur­vey. Last year there were sev­er­al good brain­storm­ing ses­sions how the cel­e­bra­tions could look like. How­ev­er, there is no estab­lished project team yet, so we don’t know yet what will actu­al­ly hap­pen. Time is short to car­ry out good plans. Also the AEGEE Day looks promis­ing in 2018, and with Pablo Hernán­dez Rodriguez it has one of AEGEE’s most expe­ri­enced mem­bers in charge!

Oh, and let’s not for­get about the third edi­tion of Y Vote after 2009 and 2014. The focus of the project, which is aim­ing at inform­ing young peo­ple about the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tion in 2019 and moti­vat­ing them to vote, will be next year. How­ev­er, the project team around Philipp Blum from Aachen assem­bled already and is plan­ning its first activ­i­ties.

2018 will also see a renais­sance for the­mat­ic con­fer­ences. Every­one who attend­ed one, loves this type of events. How­ev­er, many mem­bers don’t know what to expect from such a con­fer­ence, which was once the dom­i­nant event type, next to the Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ties. We will see whether the con­fer­ences in Saler­no, Thes­sa­loni­ki, War­saw, Hei­del­berg and oth­er places will get enough par­tic­i­pants. It is hard to reignite a lost tra­di­tion. There might be set­backs, but this should not dis­cour­age the organ­is­ers.

Europe on Track is com­ing back!

Need for more transparency

There are not many neg­a­tive things to say about AEGEE in 2018. The lev­el of enthu­si­asm is increas­ing, AEGEE looks on a good path. A cou­ple of obser­va­tions though:

  • Dis­cus­sion cul­ture: AEGEE’s dis­cus­sions take place near­ly exclu­sive­ly on Face­book, with all its good and bad effects. How­ev­er, it seems that always the same peo­ple dom­i­nate the dis­cus­sions. It would be good to see more mem­bers par­tic­i­pate.
  • Events: In 2018 there are many the­mat­ic events, action days, action months and oth­er activ­i­ties sched­uled, but peo­ple and locals lack a clear overview on the many pos­si­bil­i­ties – despite nice new ini­tia­tives like the Telegram event chan­nel. This might frus­trate peo­ple. AEGEE needs more trans­paren­cy by trans­par­ent and cen­tralised info chan­nels. In addi­tion, AEGEE also needs to pro­mote its events more out­side of AEGEE, espe­cial­ly when it comes to con­fer­ences
  • Net­work devel­op­ment. There are hard­ly any new AEGEE Con­tacts. In the past half year it was only one: Stock­holm. At the same time sev­er­al locals are rather weak. There is no clear strat­e­gy vis­i­ble how to reverse the trend. Maybe we should try dif­fer­ent way to moti­vate exist­ing mem­bers and locals to help set­ting up new Con­tacts. What moti­vates peo­ple? Pres­tige and mon­ey. An idea: If a local helps set­ting up a new Con­tact in anoth­er city which then signs the Con­ven­tion d’Adhesion, then it could get the hon­ourable title “Star Anten­na” for a year – or get a mon­e­tary reward of a few hun­dred Euros. After all, the new Con­tact Anten­na will gen­er­ate income for AEGEE.
The net­work has been shrink­ing.

Statutory events in hotspots of Europe

Final­ly, many mem­bers expect a lot of this year’s statu­to­ry events: the Ago­ras in Kraków and Istan­bul as well as the EPM in Yere­van. Ago­ra Istan­bul even ranked third among the high­lights of 2018! Two of the three events take place in coun­tries that are not in the EU, the third will be in a coun­try that joined the EU in 2004. Also, the EPM Yere­van will take place in South­ern Cau­ca­sus, which is a polit­i­cal­ly del­i­cate area; while Poland under­goes EU law infringe­ment pro­ce­dures. Well, and there is no need to say that also Turkey has seen calmer days.

Final­ly, there has not been any Ago­ra in Poland since 2006 and in Turkey since 2010 – and for the Cau­ca­sus region the EPM will be the first statu­to­ry event at all. These three events will hope­ful­ly help to con­nect some weak­er areas of the net­work with the rest of AEGEE.

The organ­is­ing team of the EPM in Yere­van.

1 COMMENT

  1. About the dis­cus­sion of the CD mem­bers that resigned, I do not know why AEGEE-L should be used for this as I see AEGEE-L becom­ing a list that is used more for small announce­ments than actu­al devel­op­ments and dis­cus­sion with­in AEGEE. You refer back to this lat­er in the arti­cle that most of our inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion goes through Face­book and maybe it’s time to actu­al­ly look at that and see how we can have a com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nel (or plat­form) where we can express our con­cerns about these devel­op­ments (resigned CD mem­bers) and dis­cuss open­ly about it. I hope that we can cre­ate such a chan­nel in 2018 to make the com­mu­ni­ca­tion more clear and do not get stuck on backchan­nels that is unknown to newer/smaller locals on which they can feel left out of the whole dis­cus­sion that goes on about these kinds of top­ics and do not want to wait until the next Ago­ra (which will be in 3 months) where the resigned CD mem­bers have already been for­got­ten for the most part and we might already have moved on with­out hav­ing a real dis­cus­sion on this sub­ject.

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