From 5th to 9th of February Barcelona was the centre of the AEGEE world. Around 160 AEGEE members gathered for the European Planning Meeting 2020 (EPM). It consisted of a conference part on social inclusion and the drafting of the new Action Agenda is respect to the new focus areas Climate Emergency, Mental Health, Political Activism and Social Equity. After the successful event the trip home got stormy for many participants, because the strong winds over Europe caused the cancellations of some flights. The GT asked five participants for their impressions, in order to get a wide and balanced view of the event.

Evita Ločmele: “Mental Health is really dear to my heart”

Evita Ločmele

Golden Times: How was the overall local and content organization of the EPM?
Evita Ločmele: Organizing a statutory event is no easy feat, no matter if we talk about logistics or the content part. AEGEE-Barcelona, the Content Managers and we – the Strategy Committee – invested our time and effort to make sure things run smoothly. Overall, I am pleased with how the event went and hope the participants are on the same page.

GT: What was your role at the EPM? How did you contribute to it?
Evita: As a member of the Strategy Committee, I was responsible for facilitating the drafting of Action Agenda, more precisely Political Activism. It was our first official event as a Committee, since being created at Agora Salerno, so we were all eagerly looking forward to the EPM.

GT: How was the quality of the conference? Which conclusions or aspects did you find most memorable?
Evita: Without a shadow of a doubt, the most memorable session was the social inclusion of sex workers. It is not your ordinary AEGEE topic, but the perspective was refreshing and questions asked by participants left me reflecting for a while afterward.

GT: How was the atmosphere of the planning process?
Evita: From my perspective, it was intense. Drafting concrete actions that the whole organization will follow for a year in 1.5 days is a challenge. But the participants were actively involved and I believe, we all did a great job. I have high hopes in the Strategic Plan 2020-2023 and a strong Action Agenda for 2020-2021 is the first step on the way.

The Strategy Committee

GT: What were the main outcomes of the planning process? Which major topics can we look forward to?
Evita: The Action Agenda format has changed from the last years. Now for every Thematic Focus Area, we have a list of Actions. Each Action has a list of Indicators, which are measurable, like locals involved or statements written. And then each Indicator has a minimum and a maximum number to achieve. Many of the Actions drafted are innovative and capture topics AEGEE has not explored since I joined in 2016. All four Focus Areas look promising and I cannot wait for the 1st of August when the new Strategic Plan will commence.

GT: Personally, which aim or objective did you like most?
Evita: Mental Health is really dear to my heart, so I am looking forward to the positive change in AEGEE. Political Activism is another strong topic with huge potential. During the Strategic Planning Meeting in Cologne I helped to draft this Focus Area and was over the moon to see a few of my initial ideas I had back in Cologne being put in the Action Agenda by the participants.

GT: How were the parties?
Evita: I strongly believe that in the statutory events of AEGEE parties are a lovely extra, the main focus is the content. That being said, I enjoyed the social programme and had a magnificent time on the dance floor.

GT: Anything you want to add?
Evita: The Action Agenda has been drafted, but there are still a lot of things that need to be done between now and Agora Yerevan, where we will vote on the Action Agenda 2020-2021. There will be opportunities for the whole network to be involved, so stay tuned. If you have any questions to the Strategy Committee or just want to say “Hi”, drop us an email at strategy@aegee.eu.

 

Aynur Hasanzadeh: “The time limitation was frustrating”

Aynur Hasanzadeh

GT: How was the overall local and content organisation of the EPM?
Aynur Hasanzadeh: In general, it was really satisfying. Especially having all the places we had to be close to each other, was amazing.

GT: What was your personal role at the EPM? How did you contribute to it?
Aynur: I did not have any special role, I was just one of the participants. However, I had the experience of EPM Izmir where we as Civic Education Working Group helped out with the objectives of this year. Thus, I made use of this experience and knowledge where needed. For example, when I saw the booklet I was already in stress that there was not enough time for the planning. I even asked Batuhan for the EPM Izmir booklet in order to compare both time slots. In the end, the programme changed and the content part was not in the mornings anymore but was all put on the first day. I hoped this would give more time for the planning. Unfortunately, it did not. The time limitation on the first day of planning on Friday was already frustrating. We had to present our actions as one of the three groups working on Political Activism, while we only had worked during one session in our own group without knowing anything from the other two groups’ actions. When we presented all together, we saw that we had the exact same actions or similar ones.

GT: How did you resolve this?
Aynur: So, after our presentation during the dinner, I asked some members of our group Political Activism to gather and discuss what actions we really want to choose. Because the four actions we presented were chosen randomly without any fruitful discussion due to the time pressure. To my surprise, I could gather almost everyone from Political Activism after the dinner for further planning of the actions. There was more than enough free time – I still wonder why – so we have worked for two hours for Saturday’s session.

GT: How was the quality of the conference? Which conclusions or aspects did you find most memorable?
Aynur: I always like to learn new things. During the conference on mental health, we got different perspectives on the topic which I much appreciated.

The Political Activism Drafting Group

GT: How was the atmosphere of the planning process?
Aynur: Confusing… As I said, the first part was too short. In the end, we were supposed to reduce the number of created actions from 15-20 to 4-7, which was really tough. Also, the definitions of successes were spread out for three years while the actions we created had to be applicable for one year. Our group skipped the last part before the evening plenary and even the group picture moment since we still had many things to decide. We could finalize it roughly because we took over the process and started to discuss as a group and vote upon the actions we wanted to keep.

GT: What were the main outcomes of the planning process? Which major topics can we look forward to?
Aynur: For Political Activism, we have planned again many educative actions. Raising awareness and education is the essential part we can lean on while activating our members for political activism.

GT: Personally, which aim or objective did you like most?
Aynur: We had the idea of a Political School, Academia Politica! It is basically an event of three or four days where you can learn about politics. We could not put it so specific as an objective, but if it could get managed in the future it would be really cool.

GT: How were the parties?
Aynur (laughing): I enjoyed the second night a lot because that is the night I remembered the least from, which is a sign of joy. The first and third day were held in the same club and their music was not really my taste.

GT: Anything you want to add?
Aynur: I already heard that there is going to be a possibility to give feedback to the planning process. So I will keep my further comments for them.

 

Franjo Lovro Popovic: “Social inclusion is much wider than we usually think”

Franjo Lovro Popovic

Golden Times: How was the overall local and content organisation of the EPM?
Franjo Lovro Popovic: The local organisers did a really good job in the event organisation! The few small details that could have been better are practically not worth mentioning because of the great food, lodging and willingness to help. The content was well done, wide, interesting and inclusive. Everyone could find something for them and their interests!

GT: What was your personal role at the EPM? How did you contribute to it?
Franjo: This was my first time as a participant at an EPM and first event since joining the Equal Rights WG in December. My role was delivering a workshop on social inclusion of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in AEGEE, which is a workshop Marija Valentina Žuvić and I created. In the drafting my role was the creation of objectives for the Social Equity focus area. And also being the token minority non-Dutch speaking AEGEEan to present those final objectives.

GT: How was the quality of the conference? Which conclusions or aspects did you find most memorable?
Franjo: The conference was extremely interesting, and many high quality speakers were present. For me personally the conclusion is that social inclusion is much wider than we usually think. A memorable moment was the human library on mental health and social inclusion and the rights of sex workers.

GT: How was the atmosphere of the planning process?
Franjo: I bet you won’t expect this answer: Rushed! That being said, a massive congratulations to the Strategy Committee on innovative techniques and ambitious goals.

GT: What were the main outcomes of the planning process? Which major topics can we look forward to?
Franjo: In Social Equity it is going to be a shift of focus to learning more about the inclusion of people with disability and people with a different place of origin. But the one I am super excited about learning more and see develop is the Political Activism focus area.

GT: Personally, which aim or objective did you like most?
Franjo: Personally, I am a big fan of the objectives for the second definition of success for Social Equity. Advocacy of AEGEE is the key to making our work heard and recognised and I cannot wait to see all of the ideas implemented.

GT: How were the parties?
Franjo: The European Night was very memorable and super fun! Unfortunately I had to miss the opening ceremony and used the evening to see at least some of Barcelona’s city centre.

GT: Anything you want to add?
Franjo: I mentioned it before: the Strategy Committee did a phenomenal job of facilitating and bringing fresh new ideas and ways of thinking to this EPM! Zurita, Evita, Michalina, Ruben and Tania: thank you for everything!

 

Marco Melatti: “The conference was really well-thought”

Marco Melatti

Golden Tmes: How was the overall local and content organisation of the EPM?
Marco Melatti: AEGEE-Barcelona did an amazing job at setting up the EPM with such a small team and logistical issues like the showers, issues which in the end didn’t really impact that much on the quality of the event. The venue was outstanding, with its alternative vibe and everything we needed within walking distance. Props up to the content team for the thematic conference, it’s clear they put a lot of effort into finding the various speakers.

GT: What was your personal role at the EPM? How did you contribute to it?
Marco: As an older member with an interest in social inclusion, I was mostly interested in the thematic conference and in seeing the results of the drafting with the new process that was tried out this year. Looks promising!

GT: How was the quality of the conference? Which conclusions or aspects did you find most memorable?
Marco: As mentioned before, the conference was really well-thought, offering something for everybody. The only weak point to me was the panel discussion because I didn’t find the speakers that interesting and I am not a fan of the format in general, but the rest really shone. The opportunity of meeting face to face with a sex worker, telling us about her personal experience and her ideas for changing the legal framework and the concept of sex work, was the most memorable moment for me.

GT: What were the main outcomes of the planning process? Which major topics can we look forward to?
Marco: The change in the planning process, which now includes clearer definitions of success and indicators, is a very welcome one in AEGEE which will give more room for fulfilling our objectives in the next year, judging on the drafting results. Seeing the atmosphere in the room, I would say the two biggest topics for AEGEEans next year will be Mental Health and Climate Emergency, but I hope the others won’t be neglected!

GT: Personally, which aim or objective did you like most?
Marco: Training new trainers on the topic of Mental Health. It is a format that has proven successful in the last few years, for example with the topic of Equal Rights, and can lead to a much smoother internal education process. There were some doubts during the final plenary that it might be too much: in my mind, these trainers would obviously not replace the professional help that can be given by mental health specialists but would be useful as a first point of reference for AEGEEans. Especially in situations of mental tiredness and sleep deprivation like AEGEE events…

GT: How were the parties?
Marco: The parties were all very close to the gym, which is always nice, and the venues had a cool vibe. Special thanks to the organisers for arranging the European Night in the university: the atmosphere was cosy and pleasant with the opportunity for everybody to attend, also those who had to leave early in the morning.

GT: Anything you want to add?
Marco: I just want to thank all the organisers once again for their hard work. And I’m really looking forward to the implementation of the new Action Agenda!

 

Zeynep Ozan: “The planning process was busy but fun”

Zeynep Ozan

GT: How was the overall local and content organisation of the EPM?
Zeynep Ozan: The event went smooth and local organisers did their best to keep everything in order. The proximity of the essential venues such as gym, session places and cafeteria was saving time and energy, which I found helpful for organising ourselves better during the event. In terms of content, the main topic of social inclusion was presented including mental health, youth inclusion and gender equality. To my experience, the topic of mental health was attributed most of the attention during the introduction and panel discussion. The parallel sessions gave specific room to discover other topics via workshops and presentations.

GT: What was your personal role at the EPM? How did you contribute to it?
Zeynep: Besides the panel discussion and plenaries, I have participated in sessions of different focus areas before the drafting phase in order to see what are our concerns and how we want to deal with them in general. At the end I have mostly contributed to the drafting of the Political Activism focus area. As a working group member I had no specific task during the EPM but contributed individually.

GT: How was the quality of the conference? Which conclusions or aspects did you find most memorable?
Zeynep: We had a panel discussion with experts in each field of topic. It was a fruitful panel with questions mostly on mental health and gender equality.

GT: How was the atmosphere of the planning process?
Zeynep: The planning process was very busy but was also fun! It was great to collaborate with so many dedicated AEGEEans to discuss tons of ideas and perspectives and trying to find the best ways to bring those ideas into actions.

GT: What were the main outcomes of the planning process? Which major topics can we look forward to?
Zeynep: I have only participated in the drafting for Political Activism, but during the presentations it was visible that a lot of space was given to knowledge building in the other focus areas as well, as this Action Agenda will constitute the basis for the Working Groups of the next three years. Eventually informed and aware AEGEEans will take action by adding to where we started in this EPM.

Zeynep Ozan and AEGEE-Ankara

GT: Personally, which aim or objective did you like most?
Zeynep: I liked that for all focus areas it was clear that AEGEE plans to go beyond mere knowledge building and wants AEGEEans to reach the phase of activism and influencing policy-making.

GT: How were the parties?
Zeynep: Parties were nice, but I mostly enjoyed the European Night. It was the last night and after all these busy days it was nice to party next to the gym casually. Although the party was outside I don’t think we minded the cold weather.

GT: Anything you want to add?
Zeynep: It was inspiring to work with lots of dedicated AEGEEans. The local organisers, the Comité Directeur, the content managers and the Strategy Committee put so much effort in supporting a good planning event. The collaboration of the Strategy Committee and the CD in facilitating the drafting was useful to keep the process organised, though there could have been more time to give feedback and to discuss with the other focus area groups. All in all, together we managed to write the action agenda.

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Featured image by Amanda Martin.

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