When the AEGEE Academy was founded exactly 15 years ago, European training events were only for members exclusively and deeply rooted in a specific AEGEE environment. Today, Academy events and their participants benefit largely from a strong cooperation with other NGOs. The Golden Times spoke with Academy Speaker Andra Berila, her predecessor Maartje Natrop and the External Relations Manager in the Academy board, Urša Svetelj.

academy logoGT: The Academy opened the FRES to external participants. Is this a special case or are you planning to do this with all training events?
Andra and Maartje: We ​are currently working with Urša, our External Relations Responsible, on strengthening the cooperation with other NGOs like Best, Salto, YEP and more. We would like to involve them by sharing open calls for trainers and for participants. In return we get invitations for their events. This provides us with a dynamic mix of people with different backgrounds at events. As youth NGOs we have a lot to learn from – and teach to – each other. However, every AEGEE event is different and therefore we will review per event if it suitable to open up for externals. A European School 1 for example is less interesting for externals as it is aimed at providing AEGEE newbies with information about the history and structure of AEGEE and their possibilities to become active within the network.

Andra Berila3
Andra Berila

GT: Aren’t the AEGEE trainings in general too much built on AEGEE matters for external participants?
Andra and Maartje: That depends on the event. Thematic European Schools such as the Self-development European School, the Human Resources European School, the Fundraising European School or the Public Relations European School are just as useful for anyone. Of course there will be one or two sessions on that theme applied to AEGEE specifically, but the absolute majority is generally useful information. The Training for Trainers is also perfectly suitable for externals. Only European School 1 and 2 are probably too much AEGEE-focused to be interesting for externals.

GT: When did you open up an event for externals for the first time?
Andra and Maartje:We don’t really remember when we started, but I am sure we had collaborations for a long time. For example, the last FRES – three years ago – was also a collaboration between Academy and Tigro. So the participants were about half from AEGEE and half from BEST or even other NGOs.​

Maartje Natrop
Maartje Natrop

GT: Do you have more examples?
Andra and Maartje: Another example of collaborations is Training for Trainers, where we usually have trainers from BEST, AIESEC, EFPSA and other NGOs, so having externals at an AEGEE training events is not unusual. Also, both the T4T 2014 in Budapest and the T4T 2012 in Warszawa had, indeed, more than 50% AEGEE participants, but also participants from the European Youth Forum and local NGOs.

GT: What are the benefits of having events with external participants?
Andra and Maartje:It gives more value to our European Schools and trainings, from our perspective, because you can learn so many new things from volunteers of other organizations. And, of course, we are invited to send participants to T4Ts organized by BEST, EFPSA and others. It’s a win-win situation.

GT: Will there a quota at ES1, PRES, FRES and other trainings of reserved places for AEGEE members?
Andra and Maartje: There is a minimum of 50% AEGEE participants.

Ursa Svetelj
Urša Svetelj

GT: The Academy is an independent organisation. Is it possible that you make trainings completely for another association?
Andra and Maartje:Possible yes, but not likely. We were founded to serve AEGEE and will continue to do so. A healthy, strong and functioning network is our first priority, together with the development of our trainers. However, we will not exclude an external training or a collaboration with other NGOs in organizing an external training event. Never say never…

GT: Which name are you using? AEGEE Academy or just The Academy?
Andra and Maartje:In general we use The Academy, especially in internal communication. However, sometimes it can be useful to use AEGEE Academy so that people understand we work in service of AEGEE-Europe. So the main difference is whether we are communicating internally or externally.

GT: Developments often go two ways – how much did the teaching style and organisation style of trainings at BEST and other organisations influence Academy events?
Urša: All organizations learn from each other. There is no answer to this question, since I have personally never cooperated with BEST before and the board does not have an overview of past cooperations. I am sure all trainers in youth NGOs influence each other, not just between Academy and Tigro, I see this as something very good to broaden perspectives.

GT: Are there trainings at other associations that you can recommend to AEGEE members?
Andra and Maartje: Of course, there are quality trainings all around. Most of you heard of the Leadership Summer School, where each year we have Academy trainers and AEGEE participants. We are also proud of the ARC training, which is founded by Astrid Schroeder and Arne Reis, alumni Academy members – it is one of the best self-developments trainings in youth field.