Standing ovations. Alla Resheten experienced this great feeling twice during the Agora in Zaragoza last weekend. Once, because she gave her final speech as manager of AEGEE’s Eastern Partnership Project. And for the second time, because she said goodbye as Agora chair. At an Agora, whose programme Alla and her team had renewed a lot. Read in the Golden Times interview how Alla experienced the Agora, its innovative agenda and why she is very happy with the election of her successors.

Alla presenting the Eastern Partnership Project

Golden Times: Alla, it’s over. How did you experience the last hours as chair? Sad? Happy? Both?
Alla Resheten: It was mix of everything. This Agora was very challenging for our team and me personally: many hours of work to prepare it in the best way and fulfill all needs of the Network, CD and local organisers. It was not the easy task. Plus I had a lot going on in my personal and professional life at the same time. That’s why I was really counting days till the Agora – and the moment when my term comes to the end. However, as I was really enjoying working with my team, it was a bit sad that this is the end. But as we know, everything is coming to an end at some point, so you just need to enjoy while it’s there.

Golden Times: Do you regret a bit that you didn’t candidate for another year as chair?
Alla: No, I do not. I think I’ve organized more than enough Agorae – seven altogether – being in different roles: local organizer, Secretary General, Chair Job Shadower and Chairperson. So it is the right time to give this opportunity to someone else.

Nearly 800 AEGEE members came to the Agora. For many it was the first time.

Golden Times: How did you personally perceive the Agora? Many people were a bit bored by the plenaries…
Alla: If to be honest, I was expecting that it will be like this. When I’ve checked the list of participants I’ve understood that there will be no discussions at all during plenaries. Let’s be honest and look back at the past Agorae. Who is usually asking questions during the Agorae? It’s people who are either active on the European level for some time or delegates for whom it is at least the second Agora. When you check the participants list of Agora Zaragoza you will see that we didn’t really have experienced people coming to Zaragoza, and the majority of delegates were at the Agora for the first time. Another factor is level of presentations given. We’ve had most of presentations being well prepared and majority of speakers being very good in their subject.

Golden Times: That is true…
Alla: So the combination of well-prepared presentations and inexperienced members is leading to the fact that we had no questions asked during the plenary. Or just simply people were afraid to go to the stage and ask the question. So if to judge by plenaries, the Agora was indeed not the most interactive one. However, I really enjoyed the prytannium and Q&A sessions. This was the place where people have shown that they care about the organization. In both sessions I was chairing there were a lot of people involved into the discussion. It was super cool! So probably for the future we should think about having more discussions in smaller groups, then bringing everything to the plenary if we want people to be involved.

Whereas the plenary was rather silent, the Question & Answer rounds to the candidates were very active.

Golden Times: You started some reforms regarding the Agora agenda. Which changes worked well, which less well?
Alla: I’ll share with you just my personal opinion on how I’ve experienced it. The official evaluation of the changes will take place a bit later and will be shared with everyone. First of all, I really liked how the Q&A session worked. I liked the fact that any kind of questions could be asked without any limitations on time or type of participant. For me personally this session has given much a better indication on who could be the best person to vote for then the presentations given by candidates. Such amount of time for questions could never be allocated during the plenary unfortunately. However, we should think on the possibility to provide everyone with answers given. I’m sure that in case the next Chair Team will decide to keep this session, they will come up with a proper solution based on the experience from this Agora.

Golden Times: Indeed, the questions were repeated later in the plenary, but not a summary of the answers given. What about the Activity Report sessions, which were moved from parallel sessions to the plenary?
Alla: As for the Activity Reports presented during the plenary, I do not have a strong opinion. On one side I think it was nice that the NetCom gave their report during the plenary, so everyone could see actually what is going on in the network. Also I have really enjoyed the presentations of the projects – but mostly because I am more interested in the thematic work of AEGEE than for example the work of Committees. For me it was interesting to see what actually is going on in the thematic world of AEGEE, which projects are coming to the end and which are still in full swing.

Alla and her chair team had a very good relation.

Golden Times: But…?
Alla: On the other side, some of reports were not well done because of not having much to say, or because the person was not able to present the information in front of 800 people. But again, I think that it’s good for SUCT, NetCom, projects and maybe working groups to present their results in front of the Agora to show what actually the reality of AEGEE is. And it is definitely a good idea to present some proposals during the plenary and not bring them to the prytannia. As you have seen there are some changes which do not require much discussion.

Golden Times: Based on this Agora, which next agenda changes would you suggest to your successors?
Alla: I would suggest keeping the Q&A session with improved overview of the session given to the Agora. Also I would suggest to follow up the part of Activity Reports and to come up with suitable solutions. For example someone who is actually working with the whole network presenting their report during the plenary, and some more administrative Commissions and Committees can do it during the separate session. As for something new – probably to make separate session for discussions on issues locals are voting upon. For example, a session on the discussion of the Activity Plan of the Comité Directeur or a session to discuss the budget with a very detailed explanation on where money is coming from and for what it is spent.

Alla’s farewell speech.

Golden Times: You were also giving a speech about the Eastern Partnership Project that you managed and finished and got standing ovations. Were you satisfied with the EaP project? 
Alla: Yes, I am. Of course, we haven’t achieved as much as we had planned three years ago. But this is the reality of AEGEE. We were idealistic back than and were thinking that we can do everything. And we could, but the reality is that we are all volunteers and on the project we are working during our free time. Plus as I have mentioned during the presentation, within these three years we have had around 45 members, of which in total 80% were complete newbies in AEGEE. This was one of the most challenging parts, as apart from educating them in the EaP field I needed also to teach them what actually AEGEE is and to convince them that we as AEGEE can fight for our rights and achieve results. Another point which was very demotivating sometimes is that 95% of our activities were organized in the non-EaP countries.

Golden Times: Why did it make the work so hard?
Alla: It was incredibly hard to work with locals in the EaP region in order to convince them to host the event or activity from our project. If you check the overview of our activities you will notice that plenty of events were done by AEGEE-Yerevan, some by AEGEE-Tbilisi and all others by locals in the EU. This was a very strange tendency for me, as we were working for young people from EaP, but we’ve ended up working more for the youth from EU countries to be aware of issues in the EaP region. But with all ups and downs we have managed to do a lot. And as in many AEGEE projects and working groups, everything was done thanks to a few motivated people who believed in the idea no matter what and were going till the end.

Alla received jamon ham as gift from the organisers…

Golden Times: Are there any open ties for you in AEGEE? Or are you totally finished?
Alla: First of all, the EaP project is still running. Currently we are working on the final booklet and waiting for the results of the Youth in Action application for our closing conference in Cagliari. So in the best case I will be busy with EaP till the end of May 2014. At the same time I will try to help the EaP2 team as much as I can and – depending on their final outline – I am also considering to stay as one of the project team members or as an advisor. There are few other things which are interesting for me in AEGEE and can keep me for some time in the organization. But this time not in the active role.

Golden Times: Are you happy with the choice of your successors?
Alla (smiles): Of course! Now I can be sure that everything what was done within my term will not be lost. Plus both Paul and Alberto have enough experience to organize and manage the Agora in the best way. And then, they know that in case they need support – I can always help them with an advice.

…and an AEGEE shirt from her antenna AEGEE-Kyiv.

Golden Times: Did you already try the jamon that you got from the organisers as thank-you gift?
Alla (smiles): Yes! I love jamon, so I could not wait long to try it. And I can tell you, that it is the best present I have got so far in AEGEE!

Golden Times: Will you be around at the next Agora? You said you wanted to stop, but I guess many people would miss you there…
Alla: Indeed, my idea was to stop on my tenth Agora – which was ZarAgora. I can tell for sure that I will not be able to come to Agora Patra due to my super busy spring schedule. But I’ll try to follow it online and actively contribute to the discussion in the Facebook group!

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