Among all the elec­tions, the del­e­gates of Spring Ago­ra Kraków have the del­i­cate task to elect the next leader of our organ­i­sa­tion. One of the two can­di­dates is Spy­ros Papadatos, cur­rent speak­er of the Net­work Com­mis­sion. The 23-year old mem­ber of AEGEE-Ioan­ni­na made the mem­bers the core of his pro­gram, want­i­ng to imple­ment the Strat­e­gy for Learn­ing and Train­ing of AEGEE, which is up for approval in Kraków. “Some­times we just need to think out­side the box and offer some­thing new”, is one of Spy­ros’ mot­tos. Get to know him bet­ter by read­ing the inter­view below!

Eri­ka Bet­tin: Can you please intro­duce your­self, your life in and out AEGEE, your pas­sions?
Spy­ros Papadatos: I’m Spy­ros, 23 years old AEGEEan and I define myself as an active cit­i­zen and a trav­el­er. I love beau­ti­ful land­scapes, long walks lis­ten­ing to music and dis­cus­sions with inspir­ing peo­ple. Also as a his­to­ry-lover I can­not resist to read­ing old reports and Ago­ra min­utes. (Spy­ros laughs)

What is your vision for AEGEE?
I envi­sion AEGEE as a safe place for dis­cus­sion, offer­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to young peo­ple to learn, explore and devel­op. The idea for a bor­der­less Europe still remains our core val­ue after 33 years; yet there is still a long road to go to achieve it. How­ev­er, through­out the years AEGEE has proved that it is capa­ble to ini­ti­ate the change both to the local and the inter­na­tion­al lev­el by bring­ing young peo­ple clos­er and giv­ing them space to real­ize their ideas and their ini­tia­tives. Unit­ed we stand stronger and that’s what Europe needs today.

Sev­en peo­ple who some­times do not know each oth­er or nev­er worked togeth­er, liv­ing and work­ing in the same envi­ron­ment. Sev­en dif­fer­ent ideas on how things should be in AEGEE and new ideas on how to change it. The task of a Pres­i­dent is to lead the pack and to dic­tate the direc­tion of the board of direc­tors. What is your pri­ma­ry con­cern in lead­ing the team? What is your lead­ing style?
For one whole year, sev­en dif­fer­ent peo­ple work and live togeth­er in the same house. As some of us can imag­ine this can be very tricky, hav­ing to coor­di­nate both the admin­is­tra­tive and cre­ative work of the Euro­pean board of AEGEE. And in order to work and live in a healthy envi­ron­ment, you have to man­age the stress, the pres­sure, the hun­dreds of dead­lines, all the over­whelm­ing feel­ings this demand­ing atmos­phere can cre­ate. How­ev­er, as in every local or project or body of AEGEE, a per­son doesn’t have to han­dle this sit­u­a­tion alone. They are part of a team, a team of sev­en peo­ple who are in this togeth­er, hav­ing each other’s back, sup­port­ing and moti­vat­ing every part of the team. And this is also the role of the pres­i­dent; to under­stand the team dynam­ics, to make sure to forge a com­mon vision, to sup­port their team mem­bers, to make sure the team func­tions and feels a team. Cer­tain­ly this is not easy; you need expe­ri­ence in team man­age­ment, hav­ing served both as a reg­u­lar team mem­ber, not only a team leader. You need expe­ri­ence in con­flict and cri­sis man­age­ment, a pos­i­tive and sup­port­ive char­ac­ter, as well as a vision and pas­sion to keep every­one moti­vat­ed. Of course no one is per­fect, how­ev­er I feel ready and com­pe­tent to take that step and I will try my best to fol­low this vision if I get elect­ed. More­over, I have already worked more or less with all the oth­er CD can­di­dates, some of them I am even lucky to call friends. There­fore, I believe it will make the job and the team bond­ing process eas­i­er and smoother.

Con­nect­ed to the pre­vi­ous one, sev­er­al can­di­dates are com­ing from the Net­work Com­mis­sion. How would you make sure that the same pat­terns of the last CD term won’t repeat dur­ing this year in CD? And how would you make sure that those who are not from Net­com are not left out?
After being part of Net­Com for two years and hav­ing worked close­ly with three CDs, I can say that it is always valu­able to have expe­ri­ence work­ing with locals from dif­fer­ent parts of the Net­work and hav­ing a good under­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion of the Net­work, inde­pen­dent­ly if you are Net­work Direc­tor or Exter­nal Rela­tions Direc­tor or Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al. No mat­ter which posi­tion or porto­fo­lio you hold, if you have expe­ri­ence with work­ing straight with dif­fer­ent locals, you can serve bet­ter the Net­work as a whole. Out of the ten CD can­di­dates, four have been mem­bers of the Net­work Com­mis­sion. To be hon­est, I find it a good bal­ance and here’s why. On one hand, the next CD could pos­si­bly have sev­er­al peo­ple who have worked already direct­ly with locals; but it can have also at least the oth­er half of the team com­ing from dif­fer­ent back­grounds, bring­ing dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, that we as Net­Com­mies might not see so eas­i­ly — we are some­times falling in the trap to think inside the “Net­Com bub­ble”. That is why it is cru­cial to have this vari­ety and I believe that the Ago­ra will have the chance to come up with a good and bal­anced com­bi­na­tion for the next CD.

One of the biggest part of the President’s port­fo­lio is to deal with Exter­nal Rela­tions, both in the EU bub­ble and with oth­er NGOs, often coop­er­at­ing with them to advo­cate togeth­er. What do you think should be high­er in the advo­ca­cy process of our asso­ci­a­tion and with which NGOs and Euro­pean insti­tu­tions would you pair up to reach the result of a suc­cess­ful advo­ca­cy cam­paign?
There are sev­er­al hot top­ics on the Euro­pean table right now that AEGEE can work on and con­tribute to; the Eras­mus+ update “Eras­mus x 10”, the new EU Youth strat­e­gy start­ing from 2019, the Euro­pean Sol­i­dar­i­ty Corps, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions of 2019 and youth par­tic­i­pa­tion. These are all top­ics that sev­er­al Euro­pean stake­hold­ers are work­ing on, like the Euro­pean Youth Forum or Euro­pean Move­ment Inter­na­tion­al or fel­low youth NGOs. In addi­tion to this, the local and region­al lev­el enhance­ment is some­thing that the Coun­cil of Europe sup­ports and pro­motes a lot, while it aligns with the core val­ues of our asso­ci­a­tion — plus the point regard­ing the net­work of empow­ered cities of our Strate­gic Plan.

You men­tioned that a con­sis­tent PR is not only being “Visu­al Iden­ti­ty freaks”, but we need to go to the roots of the prob­lem. In your opin­ion what is it? and what are your con­crete plans to solve it?
The root of the prob­lem in my opin­ion is con­nect­ed to how we mar­ket our­selves to poten­tial new mem­bers, but also to local stake­hold­ers and not only — basi­cal­ly local exter­nal rela­tions. I men­tioned already in my can­di­da­ture the exam­ple of recruit­ing mem­bers through the SU project and pro­mot­ing the project as an oppor­tu­ni­ty of cheap sum­mer hol­i­days, a prac­tice that has been proven dan­ger­ous for our recruit­ment.
Anoth­er exam­ple of how we sell our­selves is at our local com­mu­ni­ties. Usu­al­ly local stake­hold­ers like the uni­ver­si­ty or the munic­i­pal­i­ty treat the locals like just a group of peo­ple who is only ask­ing — for finan­cial sup­port, office, venues and more. How­ev­er, if we start pro­mot­ing the locals or AEGEE-Europe as reli­able part­ners, build­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions and even­tu­al­ly part­ner­ships with them, depend­ing on the indi­vid­ual cir­cum­stances of each case, we can improve our vis­i­bil­i­ty in the local com­mu­ni­ties and thus the AEGEE pres­ence in them. PRC can be of great help in this case, pro­vid­ing the locals with per­son­al­ized advice and mate­ri­als, as well as cre­at­ing a con­sis­tent PR strat­e­gy for AEGEE-Europe. Last but not least, the cur­rent Inter­im Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Direc­tor has been improv­ing a lot the vis­i­bil­i­ty of the AEGEE oppor­tu­ni­ties both inter­nal­ly and exter­nal­ly with a pro­fes­sion­al and fre­quent newslet­ter and a more coher­ent approach in the social media — applause for this! These are prac­tices that it would be great to con­tin­ue and build fur­ther on them.

In the past few months we have seen that many con­fer­ences were indeed organ­ised, but along with them came the Extend­ed Open Call, a crit­i­cal sign that par­tic­i­pants were need­ed. What is, accord­ing to you, the rea­son for this per­pet­u­al need of Open Calls? And how would you tack­le the prob­lem?
I think when it comes to pro­mot­ing the con­fer­ences and in gen­er­al the events that are being orga­nized, one crit­i­cal point are the ways we pro­mote them and what we offer. Shar­ing the same post in every AEGEE Face­book group every two or three days is not that effec­tive and it doesn’t bring some­thing new to the table. But how can we face this? I will men­tion anoth­er exam­ple. When we were prepar­ing the open­ing con­fer­ence of Europe On Track this year, we knew that Smart Cities was a very spe­cif­ic and focused top­ic which could seem very tech­ni­cal and not the most attrac­tive one for the reg­u­lar AEGEE mem­bers. How­ev­er, we tried to bring some­thing new to the table; we includ­ed a one-day cli­math­on in the pro­gram, a prob­lem-solv­ing con­cept where the par­tic­i­pants could imple­ment what they learned in the first days of the con­fer­ence and work on a more prac­ti­cal approach of the top­ic of the con­fer­ence. Addi­tion­al­ly, we made sure it had vis­i­bil­i­ty equal­ly inside and out­side of AEGEE, made a short video and pro­mot­ed it with the help of oth­er rel­e­vant NGOs and stake­hold­ers. And yes, we need­ed an extend­ed open call as well, but in the end man­aged to gath­er 100 peo­ple, both local and inter­na­tion­al par­tic­i­pants, who could use the knowl­edge they acquired dur­ing the con­fer­ence back in their local com­mu­ni­ties. Some­times we just need to think out­side the box and offer some­thing new to par­tic­i­pants. Even if you can­not find the 30 or 50 or 70 par­tic­i­pants for your con­fer­ence among the already exist­ing mem­bers of AEGEE, just go beyond that — and at the same time make new AEGEE mem­bers!

In case you are elect­ed, your CD will start from where CD55 will fin­ish. Name one thing you would like to keep work­ing on from their work and one thing that you would imple­ment dif­fer­ent­ly. And why?
I think CD55 — togeth­er with the rel­e­vant offi­cers — has been doing a great job work­ing on updat­ing and cre­at­ing new part­ner­ships for AEGEE, which was quite impres­sive. I would pri­or­i­tize that CD56 con­tin­ues their work, com­bined of course with work­ing on the sec­re­tari­at strat­e­gy. We saw many new peo­ple in the head­of­fice this year as offi­cers, which was incred­i­ble. What I would try to improve would be the vis­i­bil­i­ty and trans­paren­cy of the CD work, as for exam­ple we haven’t seen CD deci­sions shared with the Net­work for quite some long time now. Also, I think it’s impor­tant to put more efforts in restart­ing The AEGEEan; we for sure miss our dear mag­a­zine in the last months, as it is impor­tant to have an active jour­nal­ism body in our asso­ci­a­tion.

The mem­bers are men­tioned sev­er­al time in your can­di­da­ture and you want to cre­ate a prop­er HR strat­e­gy in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the HRC. Do you have already in mind a pos­si­ble draft of this strat­e­gy? If yes, which one?
Maybe it was not quite vis­i­ble in the Net­work, but for the last months, the Inter­nal Edu­ca­tion task­force — com­posed by the Acad­e­my, Human Resources Com­mit­tee, Youth Devel­op­ment WG, Net­work Com­mis­sion and Comite Directeur — has been work­ing on updat­ing the Strat­e­gy for Learn­ing and Train­ing of AEGEE. As part of this strat­e­gy, the HR cycle and mem­bers path have been updat­ed based on the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of the Net­work. I think these parts can be a good basis for the HR strat­e­gy I men­tioned — plus HRC draft­ed an HR needs of the Net­work report just before Ago­ra Enschede. There­fore, I think we have the data and the com­pe­tent peo­ple to work on this project, we just need to push it and sup­port the process.

Since the lack of imple­men­ta­tion is one of the biggest prob­lems in our asso­ci­a­tion, think for a moment that you are in the Comité Directeur and all your ideas are fea­tured in the CD56 activ­i­ty plan. Pick a project you would like to imple­ment among those list­ed in your pro­gram and cre­ate a fea­si­ble time­line for it explain­ing how you would like to do it.
Since I have been part of the Inter­nal Edu­ca­tion task­force for almost two years now, I would pri­or­i­tize the pos­si­ble imple­men­ta­tion of the updat­ed Strat­e­gy for Learn­ing and Train­ing of AEGEE, if Ago­ra Krakow rat­i­fies it. More specif­i­cal­ly:
— Work­ing on the prepa­ra­tion phase: draft­ing the tools, mate­ri­als and the new for­mat of Inter­nal Edu­ca­tion events — such as LTCs and RTCs — in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the rel­e­vant bod­ies by Sep­tem­ber 2018.
— Pre­sent­ing the prac­ti­cal imple­men­ta­tion and new for­mat of those events at Autumn Ago­ra Istan­bul 2018.
— Have a tri­al peri­od in autumn 2018 to test out how the new Inter­nal Edu­ca­tion events work out for the var­i­ous locals; give the chance to the Net­work to feed­back how it’s work­ing out, what can be improved by end of 2018.
— Imple­ment the feed­back of the locals, improve what didn’t work out dur­ing this tri­al peri­od and make sure that every­thing func­tions well for spring 2019 and all the things pend­ing are tak­en care of, so the strat­e­gy can be ful­ly imple­ment­ed by Spring Ago­ra 2019.

Questions from the network

Ques­tion one: Many of the Greek speak­ing locals are not hap­py with your work as Net­com­mie con­sid­er­ing your oth­er oblig­a­tions. How you can assure us that you will be able to han­dle the much big­ger Pres­i­den­tial port­fo­lio?
Dear fel­low anony­mous mem­ber, I can pub­licly state that dur­ing the two years that I have been a Net­Com­mie I have nev­er received an unof­fi­cial or offi­cial com­plaint due to inac­tiv­i­ty by any of my locals. On the con­trary, I have always heard real­ly good feed­back, even asked to run for a sec­ond and third term. Feel free to con­tact me so I can redi­rect you to pres­i­dents or board mem­bers of my locals. In any case, if you are indeed not hap­py with my work, you are wel­come to con­tact me per­son­al­ly and give me your feed­back and sug­ges­tions — you can’t improve if you don’t know what you’re not doing good enough.

Ques­tion two: Do you think you might have the chance to fail as a Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Europe with­out pre­vi­ous CD expe­ri­ence?
Of course, CD can be as any job in the world; there is a chance that one doesn’t like it or can’t han­dle the pres­sure and the work­load or what­ev­er might come up. Espe­cial­ly when you are can­di­dat­ing for pres­i­dent, the grav­i­ty is even more, as you have to not only remain moti­vat­ed your­self, but keep your team moti­vat­ed as well. After work­ing in sev­er­al fields in the local and Euro­pean lev­el of AEGEE, such as projects, net­work devel­op­ment and exter­nal rela­tions, and work­ing close­ly with dif­fer­ent CDs for the last three years, I feel more ready than ever to serve as pres­i­dent and work with pas­sion and dis­ci­pline for the whole term.

Ques­tion three: What do you as a can­di­date for Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Europe think about the anten­na cri­te­ria pro­pos­al pro­posed by the CD?
It is always good to ques­tion how we do things and try to improve. How­ev­er, con­sid­er­ing that an annte­nae cri­te­ria reform was rat­i­fied last year at Ago­ra Enschede, I think it’s too soon to go for anoth­er dras­tic change, as you need to give some time to the Net­work to see how the lat­est reform worked out and to make sure it’s ful­ly imple­ment­ed before intro­duc­ing a new one. So con­sid­er­ing that there are still some unclear spots in the last reform and work to still be done regard­ing its imple­men­ta­tions, I think the new dras­tic pro­pos­al feels a lit­tle bit quick and needs fur­ther con­sul­ta­tions. How­ev­er, the deci­sion rests in the hands of the Ago­ra and any out­come will be treat­ed accord­ing­ly with respect.

Ques­tion four: Based what hap­pened with­in CD55, how would you pre­vent res­ig­na­tions with­in the team?
First of all, it is still unclear what hap­pened with CD55. The only peo­ple that know what hap­pened are the ones who expe­ri­enced it, thus it is tricky for us to ful­ly under­stand it as we know only two dif­fer­ent ver­sions of it. Yet, as it has been said before, CD is for sure a chal­lenge and can push peo­ple to their lim­its and every case is com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. The best way to deal with it is being proac­tive, ensur­ing a healthy work­ing envi­ron­ment and pos­i­tive cli­mate in the team and sup­port­ing each and every team mem­ber.

Writ­ten by Eri­ka Bet­tin, AEGEE-Verona

You can read Spyros’s full can­di­da­ture here

Check also the interviews with the other CD candidates:

2 COMMENTS

  1. Eri­ka and Spy­ros, thank you for this infor­ma­tive inter­view!
    @Erika; can you please rephrase next time your sen­tence “The task of a Pres­i­dent is to lead the pack and to dic­tate the direc­tion of the board of direc­tors.“ The Pres­i­dent of AEGEE-Europe doesn’t dic­tate. The CD drafts togeth­er the direc­tion, based on the expressed vision dur­ing their can­di­da­ture and the knowl­edge trans­ferred from the pre­vi­ous CD.

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