Over the past three years the net­work asked for more than 1000 excep­tions to the Anten­na Cri­te­ria. “This infor­ma­tion was pret­ty shock­ing for us, and we see it as a sign that some­thing is wrong with the cur­rent sys­tem”, says Oksana Prokopchenko, Vice-Speak­er of Net­work Com­mis­sion. Togeth­er with her fel­low Net­com mem­bers the founder of AEGEE-Sheffield is work­ing on a sub­stan­tial reform of the Anten­na Cri­te­ria. “We had a very suc­cess­ful Progress Meet­ing at Ago­ra Istan­bul.” In her oth­er time, Oksana, who is in the mid­dle of her term now, made a month-long Net­Com trip to nine locals and one con­tact, prov­ing that being Net­work Com­mis­sion­ers is one of the great­est and tough­est jobs in AEGEE.

Oksana Prokopchenko
Oksana Prokopchenko

Gold­en Times: Hel­lo Oksana, how was the Ago­ra Istan­bul for you as Net­work Com­mis­sion­er?
Oksana Prokopchenko: It was my first Ago­ra as a Net­work Com­mis­sion envoy, and I must say it was real­ly excit­ing! Very busy and very inspir­ing, with all the AEGEEan vibe and long-await­ed meet-ups. It was also quite pro­duc­tive for Net­Com — I am par­tic­u­lar­ly hap­py about the meet­ings with our areas, the knowl­edge trans­fer with the new­ly elect­ed Net­Com­mies and a great Progress Meet­ing on Anten­na Cri­te­ria!

GT: You start­ed off as AEGEE-Kyiv mem­ber, were in the board in 2012/13, before you moved to the UK and found­ed AEGEE-Sheffield. What was your moti­va­tion to cre­ate an anten­na in the UK and which obsta­cles did you have to over­come?
Oksana (smiles): In Sheffield, every­thing start­ed as a small idea — I want­ed to try to cre­ate a local in the city, as I missed AEGEE a lot. How­ev­er, with time more and more peo­ple were telling me that AEGEE in the UK has no chance of sur­vival and that it will be just a waste of my time. So you can say, I took it as a per­son­al chal­lenge!

Oksana signed the Con­ven­tion d’Adhesion for AEGEE-Sheffield at Ago­ra Enschede in 2017.

GT: So now you proved that found­ing a local in the UK can be suc­cess­ful…
Oksana: Yes, it is just a mat­ter of find­ing the right approach to them — as it is with any locals in the net­work. Now with the third Euro­pean event on the British Isles com­ing up in the last year, I feel like we are on the right path.

GT: Talk­ing about the UK, a few days ago half a mil­lion peo­ple ral­lied in the UK, demand­ing a new ref­er­en­dum. Do you still have hope that the Brex­it can be avoid­ed?
Oksana: I believe that some­times peo­ple can do incred­i­ble things with pas­sion and deter­mi­na­tion. At our “Brex­it — What Next?” con­fer­ence in Man­ches­ter-Sheffield last Decem­ber, we met these kinds of peo­ple, pas­sion­ate activists with a clear aim to do every­thing pos­si­ble to avoid this dis­as­trous mis­take. Only time will show whether they will suc­ceed, but every­thing still depends on British peo­ple.

GT: Back to the Net­com: some of your locals and con­tacts have been quite in the lime­light. Con­tact Koben­havn signed the Con­ven­tion d’Adhesion at Ago­ra Istan­bul, in Gothen­burg there is a new con­tact; AEGEE-Stock­holm signed the Con­ven­tion in Kraków and is devel­op­ing — What is your con­tri­bu­tion to it?
Oksana: Indeed, Nordic locals are doing an amaz­ing job and all cred­it goes to the out­stand­ing peo­ple, who actu­al­ly make it hap­pen. From my side, I try to sup­port them in any way I can remote­ly, giv­ing infor­ma­tion and encour­ag­ing their ambi­tious ideas — like the upcom­ing New Year’s event of AEGEE-Helsin­ki and AEGEE-Stock­holm. With such devot­ed and out­stand­ing peo­ple, it is tru­ly a plea­sure.

Oksana’s Net­Com trip

GT: You made a big net­work trip recent­ly. Which places did you vis­it?
Oksana (smiles): I’ve been to quite a few places, it was indeed a crazy month-long trip! I was lucky to make it after my grad­u­a­tion and before going full adult­ing. I vis­it­ed AEGEE-Leu­ven, AEGEE-Brus­sel­s/Brux­elles, AEGEE-Lille, AEGEE-Paris, AEGEE-Angers, AEGEE-Toulouse, AEGEE-Helsin­ki, AEGEE-Stock­holm, AEGEE-Koben­havn and Con­tact in Gothen­burg.

GT: What did you do on your trip exact­ly?
Oksana: It was real­ly impor­tant for me to estab­lish a per­son­al con­nec­tion with the board mem­bers, to talk to them and hear about their strug­gles, but also dreams, pas­sions and ideas; to see their real­i­ty and to offer my full atten­tion to them for a few days of each stop. On a prac­ti­cal note, I tried to par­tic­i­pate in some kind of pro­mo­tion, local event or mem­bers’ meet­ing in every city — to help them out and meet more mem­bers. Besides each local’s indi­vid­ual stop, for me it was also a way to bring togeth­er the Boomerang area — it is a dis­tri­b­u­tion area, which was basi­cal­ly cre­at­ed with the begin­ning of my term. I see a lot of poten­tial in it, as locals in my area face sim­i­lar real­i­ties and can ben­e­fit a lot from coop­er­at­ing and learn­ing from each oth­er.

The Brex­it-con­fer­ence-in-Man­ches­ter-and-Sheffield

GT: What will you focus on in the sec­ond half of your Net­com term?
Oksana (smil­ing): I hope I will not make any spoil­er if I say that there are a few more new Con­tacts com­ing in my area — in dif­fer­ent parts of it! My amaz­ing Sub­Com team and I are work­ing on strength­en­ing con­nec­tions between our locals, one of the things we are plan­ning is an area-wide infor­mal meet­ing some­where in Europe! Most of all, though, I ide­al­is­ti­cal­ly hope to find a way to ensure the sus­tain­abil­i­ty of my locals, both exist­ing and new­ly cre­at­ed ones. This is also one of the focus­es of the Net­Com team and our Work Plan.

GT: At the Ago­ra in Istan­bul there was an Anten­na Cri­te­ria progress meet­ing. Can you sum up what was the pur­pose and the out­come of the meet­ing?
Oksana: As Net­Com­mies, we work with Anten­na Cri­te­ria on a reg­u­lar basis, assist­ing locals with their ful­fil­ment. Yet, one side of this work remains large­ly unseen by the net­work — the excep­tions. The Anten­na Cri­te­ria inter­nal project team col­lect­ed some pret­ty stag­ger­ing sta­tis­tics on the excep­tions that locals are ask­ing before each Ago­ra, to avoid down­grade or dele­tion.

The Net­com

GT: Can you give some exam­ples for these excep­tions?
Oksana: For exam­ple, did you know that out of all locals we have today, only 19 did not ask any Anten­na Cri­te­ria excep­tions in the last six Ago­rae? This means, all the rest could be poten­tial­ly down­grad­ed or delet­ed, and in most cas­es, that did not hap­pen only because Net­work Direc­tors were kind enough to grant them excep­tions. In total, over the last six Ago­rae, the num­ber of excep­tions asked by locals is more than 1000. This infor­ma­tion was pret­ty shock­ing for us, and we see it as a sign that some­thing is wrong with the cur­rent sys­tem. We want to find a solu­tion to that and to ask the net­work, what can we do about it? Such con­sul­ta­tion and dis­cus­sion was the main pur­pose of our progress meet­ing. We also had a chance to intro­duce the new (infor­mal) con­cept of Health Indi­ca­tors.

GT: What are Health Indi­ca­tors?
Oksana: Health Indi­ca­tors are rec­om­men­da­tions or guide­lines for how to devel­op your local. Our net­work is insane­ly diverse, and the strate­gies for devel­op­ment vary a lot. There is sim­ply no uni­ver­sal solu­tion on how to grow a local and make it sus­tain­able. That’s why we are gath­er­ing great yet sim­ple to use prac­tices from all around the net­work, and will start using them as the addi­tion­al help for both Net­Com­mies and as a self-help tool for locals them­selves.

The Net­com, clos­er togeth­er

GT: Sounds very use­ful indeed. Did you get some feed­back?
Oksana: The out­come of the Progress meet­ing was very reas­sur­ing — we col­lect­ed many opin­ions and ideas on the use­ful­ness — or use­less­ness — of each spe­cif­ic Anten­na Cri­te­ri­on, and received good feed­back on the new Health Indi­ca­tors.

GT: What will hap­pen next? Will we see anoth­er Anten­na Cri­te­ria reform pro­pos­al at the next Ago­ra?
Oksana: The con­sul­ta­tions about Anten­na Cri­te­ria are still going on — we will have respec­tive ses­sions at our autumn NWMs and RTCs, which will allow us to cov­er the wide range of opin­ions from all locals and analyse the data. Of course, the future actions of Net­Com will depend large­ly on the ideas we gath­er and the over­all mood of the net­work. We believe it is a cru­cial issue for the whole organ­i­sa­tion, and we want to approach it with all the knowl­edge we can get. So please, if you have a thought on the top­ic — tell us about it, we want to know your opin­ion! You can con­tact us on netcom@aegee.org or by mes­sag­ing our Face­book page: www.facebook.com/Network.Commission.AEGEE.