Desireé Van Langen from AEGEE-Amsterdam is already a member of the Youth Development Working Group (YDWG). At the Agora in Kraków she wants to run for the position of Coordinator of the YDWG. Among her plans is more collaboration with the other Working Groups, the AEGEE-Academy and other European bodies – and she expresses her opinion about the locals’ awareness of the Focus Areas.

Matteo Lai: Please introduce yourself.
Desireé Van Langen: Five years ago I discovered AEGEE-Amsterdam “by accident” and I am really involved ever since. I have a Bachelor in Health and Life Science and the upcoming year I will do my master. Next to my studies I became firstly active on the local level in AEGEE-Amsterdam and two years later, in 2015/16, I worked full time as Secretary. Currently I am a proud member of the Youth Development Working Group and besides that I am a Subcommie of Maria Zwartkruis, Junior AEGEE Academy trainer and I just finished my term as advisory/supervisory board in AEGEE-Amsterdam. I have been active on both the local and European Level and I like to travel, meet new people and learn new things. (Desireé smiles)

What do you think it is the main job of Youth Development Working Group Coordinator?
In my opinion a coordinator has several responsibilities but the main task would be to manage the team. This includes sending the open call for Youth Development Working Group members and a Policy Officer, followed by selecting a good team. After the selecting procedure we – as a team together – should decide on a task division and our goals. During our term, I will work closely together with the CD appointed person, I will keep the overview as a coordinator regarding our progress, provide help and feedback and I will make sure that everyone feels free to share his or her opinions and ideas. Last but not least I will do my best motivating the team!

What do you think is the most important quality to be Youth Development Working Group Coordinator and why do you see yourself as the perfect person to fulfill the position?
In my opinion the most important quality as a coordinator is being a team worker in order to be able to keep an overview, motivate and work. I am the right person for this function because I really enjoy working together in a team, I have experience in coordinating a team, I am open for feedback and willing to learn and improve myself.

How would you implement the Action Agenda objectives?
The Action Agenda objectives were drafted during the EPM in Yerevan. When drafting the objectives, the subgroups already wrote down the meaning of the objective together with some examples and ideas. Together with the rest of the Working Group we will make our Activity Plan in order to be able to fulfill the Action Agenda objectives. Because of this, it is  in my opinion not totally possible to answer this question as I do not decide on this myself. However, I think it is really important to communicate our objectives and our plans towards the Network. This can be done by continuing the current Facebook page, the newsletter and e-mails. We need the help of the Network in order to be able to fulfill the Action Agenda of course!

How would you implement the drafting of the policy paper?
The Policy Paper will be voted upon during Agora Krakow. Afterwards, if it gets accepted, the current Working Group will already start with the implementation. I would like to give the next Policy Officer the freedom to come up with a plan on how to implement the Policy Paper. Within AEGEE I would personally like to see the results communicated towards all members. This can be done by using visuals for example – and via different communication channels. Furthermore I would like to discuss the results and needs of the network with the involved bodies such as Netcom, HRC and Academy. Externally we can present our Policy paper towards other youth organisations, other NGOs and key people in the policy making process.

Can you tell us something in advance about the activities you would make in cooperation with other Working Groups, AEGEE-Academy and other European bodies?
First of all, I am a big fan of working together with other bodies. The activities for the upcoming year are depending on the Action Agenda which first needs to be accepted during Agora Kraków, followed by the selection of the team and our own activity plan. I personally would like to see a second edition of the Working Group Months in order to get more attention for the Focus Areas. This will be done in collaboration with the other Working Groups. Besides this, we should also align our work. Other potential cooperations would mostly be together with AEGEE-Academy and NetCom, but of course I am open to any other cooperation regarding Youth Development. It would be great if the AEGEE Academy and its trainers can contribute to the materials database, which is on one of the proposed objectives. The other way around I would like to collaborate on promoting learning opportunities inside and outside AEGEE. Of course we will also cooperate with the NetCom because the contribution of locals is important to achieve our objectives.

According to you, why are locals not so aware about the Focus Areas in organising their events?
In my opinion locals are aware of the existence of the Focus Areas, but I guess that they think it is too boring or difficult to organise something related to a Focus Area or the Action Agenda. This is not true of course! You, as a person or local, can organize a lot of different activities and you can always contact us for help and ideas. Also check the guidelines for our Youth Development Month for inspiration. Of course we will keep promoting our Focus Area and the opportunities for locals in the upcoming year via different communication channels to make them more aware of the existence and possibilities of the Focus Area.

You mentioned “external representation” in your candidature. What do you mean with this expression and how would you get it?
This can include the implementation of our Policy Paper for example. Which means presenting our results and advocating for certain actions which are described in the recommendation part of the Policy Paper. External representation can also include a Policy Trip which has been organized this year – see the interim activity report of the Youth Development Working Group for more information – or by attending a conference or meeting on Youth Development or anything related to it. This can also be done after consultation by the CD, other Working Group members or the Policy Officer.

How much time would you dedicate to your European position? Would the fact that you are active also in the local level being an obstacle?
I will invest as much time as is needed. I finished my term as a member of the Advisory board of AEGEE-Amsterdam and I will quit my function as main organizer of our Event committee if I am elected. I already discussed this within my local. I will – if I am elected – prioritize being a coordinator above any other function or task so being active on local level will be reduced and not an obstacle at all.

Question from the Network

Question one: Would you still join the Working Group even if you won’t be elected?
I am not sure yet if I will join the Working Group again as a member if I am not elected as the coordinator. For sure I like being a Working Group member and I really like Youth Development. However, I like to challenge myself and learn new things and therefore I also applied for the position of coordinator.

Question two: In every working group there is a policy officer in charge of possibly drafting a policy paper. Of course, you will have to discuss the topic with the team but what are some areas that can be tackled when deciding on the topic?
This year our Policy Officer already wrote a Policy Paper and I really don’t see the point of writing a new one the upcoming year. I personally would like to see this Policy Paper implemented internally and externally see my answer before for more explanation on the implementation.

Written by Matteo Lai, AEGEE-Cagliari

You can read Desireé’s application here