Since the end of 2016 Spyros Papadatos is the new Speaker of the Network Commission of AEGEE-Europe. Last week his team met in Brussels to get to know each other better, to make plans and decisions. The Golden Times asked Spyros about his work in the NetCom and the development of the network.

Spyros (centre) at the LTC of AEGEE-Eskisehir

GT: Spyros, how was the NetCom meeting in Brussels?
Spyros Papadatos: The NetCom meeting was a really great experience I can say. For the first time nine of the ten NetCommies came together to plan our term. It was a chance for us to combine our individual visions into a common one, come closer as a team and work on topics that not only inspire us all, but more importantly can make our locals’ life easier.

GT: Will you share the conclusions and decisions with the network?
Spyros: Yes. They will not only be uploaded to the Members Portal, but we will send them to the mailing list as well, for more AEGEEans to learn what we are actually working on.

Spyros with his previous NetCom team at Agora Chisinau.

GT: What are the main tasks of the NetCom speaker?
Spyros: The NetCom speaker is the person that keeps an overview of the team, deals with the general bureaucratic responsibilities of the body, coordinates the workload and keeps the team members motivated. Of course these responsibilities are shared with the vice-speakers, who sometimes don’t get that much recognition. In my case all those would be impossible without the current vice-speaker Alejandra Piot Pérez-Abadín, so this is also a good chance to thank her publicly for working so hard and tirelessly. The whole team contributes with their work and spirit, that is why this commission has been for me an amazing experience.

GT: When did you actually join AEGEE and what did you do before joining the NetCom?
Spyros: I joined AEGEE in late 2014. My local is AEGEE-Ioannina, an antenna that was established in Greece in 2012, so we were also rather new. After attending some events and of course a Summer University, I became a member of the board, organized some local and European events, before joining NetCom.

Spyros with his locals at the Agora Chisinau.

GT: What made you actually candidate for NetCom in first place?
Spyros: NetCom’s role is to take care and support the locals and that’s what attracted my attention first. I believe the network is the most important part in AEGEE’s structure, that is why I wanted to try this year to work full-time for it. The Network Commission felt like a natural choice. Also, it is a great chance to develop personally and explore yourself better.

GT: Not many people knew you when you ran for NetCom at Agora Bergamo last year. However, everyone who got to work with you was impressed with you. How did you grow in terms of knowledge and skills during your first half year in NetCom?
Spyros: I believe it really depends on your motivation and discipline. For example, I wasn’t experienced on the European level of AEGEE, but I was super-motivated. That is why I spend a lot of time reading and researching about AEGEE’s structure and history, past projects and generally things that would help me be more informed and ready. But that is just a small part of the story. When I got elected and started actually working, that’s when the biggest change happened. I was very lucky to work with excellent NetCommies and AEGEEans, who gave me the space and motivation to develop and really grow as a person. Also, the locals I am responsible for played a huge role, since they accepted me and supported me in their own way. I would like to thank them for that! These things are why this commission feels like the best choice I have made in AEGEE.

Spyros with Réka in Eskisehir

GT: You are in charge of how many locals?
Spyros: Currently I am responsible for 19 locals located in Albania, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey.

GT: You made a trip with Réka in autumn where you also visited several locals. Which ones exactly?
Spyros: The autumn Network Meeting I organized was hosted by the amazing AEGEE-Ankara in the first days of December. And since I was in Turkey together with the CD responsible person for my locals, Réka Salamon, it was a great chance for us to visit other locals of the area as well, like AEGEE-Eskişehir and AEGEE-Izmir.

GT: What did you learn during the trip?
Spyros: The biggest realization I made was how completely different it is to meet your locals and some of their members – usually the most active ones – in Agoras and European events from actually visiting them in their cities, in their everyday lives and meeting all the members.

The group of the LTC Eskisehir

GT: Which locals or what in general impressed you a lot during that trip to Turkey?
Spyros: After the Network meeting in Ankara we visited AEGEE-Eskişehir, which was finishing their LTC that day. We knew that AEGEE-Eskişehir is an active local, but what we saw there was beyond expectations.

GT: In what way?
Spyros: Their LTC was very advanced, very well organized, supported fully by the University and open not only to AEGEE members, but also to people who are just interested to join. The local members were excellent organizers, full of passion and energy and the non-AEGEE participants were introduced to our organization and at the same time gained skills that could be useful for their personal development and future in general. We met a lot of members again the next day, when we organized a workshop about active participation and a small introduction to our new Focus Areas.

Meeting the very hospitable AEGEE-Izmir.

GT: Where did you go afterwards?
Spyros: Then we went to AEGEE-Izmir, another hard-working local that has a unique character. We met the board and we gave a workshop about Youth Employment to 50-60 members. The AEGEEans there are like a big family and they immediately made us feel like belonging there. We also made some promotional materials and videos with them that they will probably use in the future. They were working already from December on their Summer University, because they decided to give their 100% passion and devotion to it and crush their limits in order to bring something new to the network, which really impressed us.

The board of AEGEE-Izmir & guests.

GT: Why should AEGEE members visit them and learn from them?
Spyros: Apart from the hospitality and the amazing food, these locals know what they are doing. AEGEE-Izmir promised to deliver their best SU this year – it will take place from 1st to -15th of August – and they definitely can make it happen. They know how to spread their energy and the AEGEE spirit and I honestly believe that the participants will have the time of their lives there! About AEGEE-Eskişehir, their hard work and their values can impress even the most experienced member. Also, they are excellent in Fundraising, that is why they are organizing a European School about FR from 3rd till 10th of April. I would recommend this event to every AEGEEan that would like to learn more about FR, these guys are the best people for the job! And these events are just a sample of what the Turkish-speaking locals are preparing, so AEGEEans get ready!

Spiros in Izmir.

GT: The shrinking network has become an often heard term in the past years. How can the trend be reversed? Will the NetCom found new locals in 2017?
Spyros: After new Contacts in Málaga and Lisboa I can say that more surprises are about to come! But in my opinion, the most important thing is not just to found new locals. More importantly, we have to sustain and help improve the already existing ones in order to have a sustainable network. One of my main values and what I have been trying to achieve with my locals, is to build a cooperative spirit and bring the locals closer to each other, for them to start working together and be there for each other. I am glad that I see it happening, either by organizing together events or just hanging out as friends. It fills me with joy and motivates me even more!

GT: The NetCom made a survey about the antenna criteria last autumn. What are the main results?
Spyros: The survey was part of a project called Antenna Criteria Reform. We were working with the previous team on identifying which criteria are giving the locals a hard time and how we can improve that. For this phase of the project, the locals itself and the AEGEEans were the best people to ask, that is why we made this survey. But what comes after that? More info will follow soon!

Spyros and his current team! Stay tuned for more news!