The Agora returns to Novi Sad: from 23rd to 28th of April 2024 AEGEE’s general assembly will take place in the capital of Vojvodina. That’s not the only deja-vu: former Netcommie and AEGEE-Novi Sad President Novak Simin will return as main coordinator. But there is one major difference: this time the Agora is integrated into an AEGEE project about artificial intelligence (AI). There will be a strong thematic focus on the topic of AI. The GT asked Novak to tell us more about the event.

GT: Your antenna is hosting another Agora after just two years. Why?
Novak Simin: To be fully honest, we didn’t want to attend another online Agora. Figuring out there wouldn’t be any other applicants and that we have the experience and capacity to host another Agora, we decided to go for it. We believe live Agorae are very much needed in order for AEGEE to prosper and grow.

You are also main organiser again. What were the biggest learning points for you from the Agora in 2022?
There were quite a few, from how to manage a large number of team members, how to “sell” AEGEE, to some more personal ones. But the biggest learning point would have to be setting the expectations. Last time we were both hoping for a very good reaction from sponsors and a large, pre-covid number of applicants. This time I believe we are much more realistic, even though the number of applications surprised us once again.

Novak (right) and his core team in 2022.

There were 444 applications this time – two years ago there were 556. For the new members who don’t know you: can you briefly say what have you done in AEGEE so far?
I am not sure how brief I can be. I was a member of three European Bodies: NetCom, MedCom and ACT; I was a board member of AEGEE-Novi Sad for five years with two as a president, I have organised more than a dozen European events in my antennae, I am also a Safe Person and a trainer. And I was the Main Coordinator of the last Spring Agora in Novi Sad.

Are also the other core team members the same as in 2022?
Some are, but we also have new faces. Milana, Vice Coordinator and Incoming Responsible in 2022, and Nevena, Treasurer in 2022, came back to organise this Agora as well, while Mia was involved in submitting the application for the previous Agora. She is now fully engaged in organising this one. We also have five completely new team members, shout out to Laura, Zorana, Milica, Dijana and Jelena!

What do you want to improve compared to 2022 and did it work?
I think the biggest improvement point would have to be the food and social programme. Due to lacks in budget, we had to cut on these two points last time. By being more realistic with the expected number of people and by putting more efforts in fund-raising I believe we managed to resolve these issues rather satisfactory.

When you check the website, you see the title “Towards a reliable future – AI roadmap”. Apparently the Agora is part of a local project about IT. How come?
This is mostly due to Mia’s and my personal interests in the topic of AI. On top of that, we were looking into the focus area of Digital Culture, and realised AI will play a huge part in not just shaping our digital environments, but our lives in general. Hence, we decided to combine the Agora with the ongoing hot topic of artificial intelligence. Furthermore, a one-year long project is a much better selling point to the sponsors than a five-day long general assembly.

Novi Sad is a beautiful city.

Definitely! What is the AI project about, what are the other events?
The project examines the ethical use of AI in different aspects of human lives. So far, we had three panel discussions on the topics of “AI and Society”, “AI and the World of Work” and “AI in Education”. Each of these represented one core pillar of the project. We will follow these events with two more, one focusing on AI’s influence on individuals, and the last event before the Agora should explore how young generations, us, should prepare for a future in which AI will be integral part of our everyday lives.

So, how much will we talk about AI at the Agora?
We plan on making the Agora fully thematic, having several workshops on the topic of AI, and if the Chair Team agrees, dedicate one day to the topic of AI. Apart from the regular procedural points at the Agora, we believe AI will take central stage.

Did the idea to improve fundraising with this concept work out?
Partially it did, though I must say not as much as we have expected. IT companies, which we were aiming for, regarded the theme to be a bit to socially oriented and therefore not a part of their aims. However, we still improved compared to last time.

Last time in Novi Sad: great fun in the plenary hall.

In any case: is this one-year thematic framework also a good concept for other Agora hosts?
I would definitely say yes. AEGEE boasts itself on delivering thematic content and always being ready to tackle youth related topics. What better way to aim for this than by setting a theme that is closely related to AEGEE’s Focus Areas, and combining it with the biggest event we have.

What can you tell us about logistics, for example accommodation and university venue at the Agora?
For those of you that have attended the previous Agora in Novi Sad, it will be a good memory refreshment. The accommodation and the plenary room will be hosted at a sports centre, literally one next to each other, while the parallel sessions will take place at the university facilities just a seven-minute walk away. The locations are very centrally located and easily accessible by foot from all the main sites in Novi Sad. The sports centre also offers plenty of facilities to relax during the breaks, such as a swimming pool, mini-golf course, and other sport halls.

What can you tell us about the parties and their locations?
Traditionally we will have the Opening party with the smart dress-up and the European Night. For the Opening, we plan on holding it in a theatre, followed by a party close by. The EU night will be within two minutes from the accommodation. As for the rest of the parties, we are planning on having three thematic parties: “Jumping into Year 3000”, “Barbie World” and “Chained up in the Dungeon”. All of the party locations will be within walking distance of the accommodation and we also plan on adding some surprises along the way.

Last time in Novi Sad: exciting elections.

How are the preparations going so far and what do you still have to arrange in the remaining months?
They are going fine. We have booked the venues, arranged the Opening Ceremony, finished the design and planned out the logistics. What still needs to be done is arranging the food and finding an adequate number of helpers for the Agora. Luckily most of the major things have been taken care of until now, but there is still a lot of work to do.

How many members does AEGEE-Novi Sad have and how will you tackle the need for staff and helpers?
We have around 30 to 40 active members, out of which we are not sure if all will be able to participate during the Agora. However, we made a plan in such a way that active members of Novi Sad will take care of coordinating the helpers and taking care of supervising. As for the helpers, we plan on borrowing members of other youth organisations in the city and using the international helpers.

Will your antenna host another Agora in the next couple of years?
We started thinking of submitting a proposal to set the location of Spring Agora always to Novi Sad. Jokes aside, I hope we managed to motivate some other locals to host the Agora, but there is always a chance we come back in a few years.

Last time in Novi Sad: the Agora fair is always inspiring.