Are you happy with AEGEE’s current focus areas? Or do you think that topics such as migration or Europhobia should play a bigger role on the agenda of the network? Then join the AEGEE-Europe’s Ideas Factory – also known as Planning Meeting, which will be hosted by the new power antenna AEGEE-León from 7 to 11 September 2016. Be one of the up to 150 members that will draft a plan for AEGEE’s Strategic Plan for the next three years and shape the future of the association! The Golden Times spoke with two of the main organisers, former Vice President Marcos Magon and the new President of AEGEE-León, Laura Pérez Álvarez.

Laura ANder
Laura with CD member Ander

GT: How many people applied so far for the event?
Laura Pérez Álvarez: Last time the CD updated us that we had over 50 applications only for participants, which is good. However, since we could actually host a lot more people and we think that the opinion of the whole network is needed in this event, we decided to extend the open call till the 4th of July, such a meaningful date in the US although not in Europe …until now.

GT: How may people could you host in total?
Laura Pérez Álvarez: In total we could host 150 people comfortably. This event doesn’t have a fixed number of participants, so once the open call is over we will decide on the final number, based on the quality of the applications.

Marcos Magon
Marcos in action

GT: “Ideas factory” is a great title for this event that lays the groundwork for AEGEE’s programmatic future. Just to illustrate it, what would be your personal ideas as topics for AEGEE’s new Strategic Plan? What should AEGEE focus on?
Laura Pérez Álvarez: These are actually amongst the application questions. For both Marcos and me, changing our Focus Areas and drafting a new Strategic Plan are the most important steps to keep our organisation updated to the reality of Europe and also to the reality of our members, who may not feel identified with our main fields of action anymore. As for me, a new important topic to work more on should be non-formal education. Our organisation is one of its many providers for young Europeans. We should encourage our members to discover and get more involved with it. I also still see some of our current Focus Areas extremely relevant… we will see what happens this September.
Marcos Magon: I would love to work with something related to feminism and migration. Since we have two new interest groups working on it, it will be really easy. And also I think we should continue – or start – working on spreading europtimism… The news we have been receiving in recent years, not only regarding England, but in the whole of Europe, are that europhobia has been increasing, and AEGEE was made to build a better Europe.

Leon host PM
Announcement that AEGEE-León will host the Ideas Factory

GT: The invitation by the CD says also: “The event finds solutions to the current challenges AEGEE and Europe are facing”. In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges for AEGEE and Europe?
Laura Pérez Álvarez: Besides migration issues, which are still major, another challenge Europe is facing is unity, we have seen this in the last few days with the UK after the results of the Brexit referendum. After this, many of our members are motivated to keep working on “Spreading Europtimism”, which was also apparent in the applications written after the 23rd of June. AEGEE strives for a borderless Europe, so it will be in this event where we will stick to our vision and try to improve this situation. The identity of our members is also a challenge. Do we know and identify the organisation we belong to?
Marcos Magon: The biggest challenge in my opinion is the migration. Not only the Syrian one, we are forgetting that every year many other people are risking their lives to come to Europe. And their number will continue to increase since they have nothing where they live. This fact will provoke new politics, including racism. So probably we will experience a new wave of fascism that we will have to fight – hopefully only in the voting ballot.

Leon Cathedral
Leon Cathedral. Picture by Joergsam

GT: Your event is five days long. Will there be only serious sessions? Or will the participants also get the chance to experience León and Spanish culture?
Laura Pérez Álvarez: It will be mainly serious. But that doesn’t mean we will skip the fun! We will take the participants to our favourite district in León, the Barrio Humedo, so they can enjoy the 200 bars in the area and try our most famous tapas – free food! On the arrival day we will of course have a city tour and an opening ceremony to show more of our culture.

GT: What does the fee of 45-50 Euros include?
Laura Pérez Álvarez: It includes the lodging in a gym, all the meals and social programme for the days of the event, similar to the fee of an Agora or EPM. We are working on a special extra material that the fee won’t cover, but we are sure will be a best-seller… Pay attention to our Facebook page to find out!

GT: AEGEE-León is one of the most active locals in AEGEE, a rising star! What can you tell us about your local?
Laura Pérez Álvarez: First, thanks! Our local has evolved a lot in the last months. We have been encouraging our members to participate in lots of events around the network and also improved their knowledge about AEGEE. Many of them have also become active at a European level!

Leon flag
AEGEE-León also hosts the flag of AEGEE-Kyiv

GT: How many members do you have and what are the main activities you do in 2016?
Laura Pérez Álvarez: Currently we have 136 members and we have just elected a new board that will start to work right before the Ideas Factory. Our main activities this year have been organising “Renove”, which is an event in collaboration with our former Netcommie and with more than 100 participants, two standard LTCs and one LTC2 with more advanced content, some sessions and debates in the university about relevant topics such as terrorism and ISIS, youth employment or feminism, activities for more than 300 Erasmus students… and now we still have our Summer University and the Planning Meeting.

Laura at NWM
Meet the great members of León!

GT: Very impressive! What’s the secret of your antenna that suddenly AEGEE-León has become such a strong and active antenna?
Laura Pérez Álvarez: We have been very lucky to have two of our former presidents joining the Action Agenda Committee ACT and being elected Youth Mobility WG coordinator respectively. They have supported and inspired many of us to become not only active but very involved members. It’s also been a busy year, I can’t remember a single day in which we haven’t been either travelling or working on a new project. We have been taking AEGEE seriously, not only enjoying the fun parts, but also focusing on the self-development and contribution benefits it can bring. Having quite some members attending European events has had a lot to do with the change in our vision about our organisation and about Europe, which is another reason why we are asking every antenna to send at least one of their members to the Ideas Factory.
Marcos Magon: Indeed, we realised what AEGEE really means. We discovered that we can’t just do a Summer University and Erasmus events and feel like we were AEGEEans. AEGEE is more than that and we worked a lot during the last year to change the mind of our members. It is now a shame to admit that even when I was vice president I didn’t know what ACT was, or most of the European bodies. And nowadays the average member of AEGEE-León knows of them and how they can contribute to them. I had the dream that all our members get involved in a European body, at least to cooperate by giving ideas.

GT: What are you plans for the future? Are you considering for applying to organise an Agora or EPM?
Marcos Magon: This will be my very last event of AEGEE. But if Leon wants to do it, it’s in their hands.
Laura Pérez Álvarez: We are currently working on next year’s Activity Plan​. Many of our members are interested in thematics and in projects… I don’t want to reveal anything just yet, but so far I feel very proud of my antenna and its members, who knows what they may come up with!

More info:

Application page:
Facebook event:
Facebook page:ón-2016-Planning-Meeting-1748401455439034/
Info on the AEGEE portal: