AEGEE’s Y Yote project has a simple directive: to promote voting in the European Parliament election in May 2019. After dozens of activities in 15 countries, there are still a few Conventions and other events on the agenda before it’s time to wrap up for the project team around project manager Philipp Blum from AEGEE-Aachen.

Y Vote 2019 Team

Golden Times: Only 11 weeks left to the European elections. With what feelings are you looking to that date? Hope? Fear? Excitement?
Philipp: From a project side: excitement. One-and-a-half years of hard work will have its peak. It doesn’t mean our project has completely ended, but it certainly means more rest. From a personal side, I’m afraid that the turnout of young people still will not be too big, despite it being our future.

GT: For the readers who are not familiar with the Y Vote project: Can you explain the aim and purpose of the project in a couple of sentences? Why is there Y Vote?
Y Vote Team: The reason is easy to explain: Only 28% of young people went voting in the European Parliament elections in 2014. The general percentage of voters participating has been steadily declining. At the same time, support for the EU is at an all-time high. This can only be explained through a lack of access to informed voting choices for the voters. This is what Y Vote tries to tackle within the AEGEE network and beyond. The purpose of Y Vote is to enable young people to make informed choices at the elections. The project provides a space to acquire knowledge on how to vote and where you can find more information regarding the EU. Y Vote should enable people to become more active on the issues they care about, even beyond the elections.

Philipp Blum during one of the Y Vote events

GT: What kind of and how many activities have been taking place so far in the framework of the project?
Y Vote Team: We had a long preparatory phase in spring and summer 2018 – altogether 46 activities consisting of one or two workshops about the functioning of the European Union institutions took place. We managed to cover 15 countries – quite some of these trainings were held during Summer Universities. The second part are the Conventions: These events are similar to a Network Meeting in length and size. However – the events are themed along the EU Youth Strategy and each convention has very concrete outcomes. Also some locals are starting to plan their own events – but we encourage all locals who haven’t planned anything yet to check out our material and ideas.

GT: How many participants did you have in the Y Vote project activities so far?
Y Vote Team: Around 250 people participated in local actions and around 100 people joined the Conventions that have happened until now – more people have been reached if you count external events we attended as guests and trainers.

Teamwork at Y Vote 2019

GT: What’s the percentage of non-AEGEE participants?
Y Vote Team: The amount of AEGEEans varies – at the Conventions we have anywhere between 26% and 100% AEGEE members. Having Erasmus+ funding makes a big difference – meaning it’s more attractive for externals and AEGEEans alike.

GT: How much did the events improve the knowledge of the participants on EU politics?
Y Vote Team: The increase of knowledge on average is almost 50%! This was one of the key findings of the “Why European Parliament” project, which worked very closely with us during the first half of 2018.

GT: Who were the most prominent guest speakers?
Y Vote Team: One of the aims of our Conventions is to bring young people in contact with policy makers. We had various Members of the European Parliament as guests – and even more experts: professors, members of youth councils and municipalities. Our most prominent guest was – without doubt – EU Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, who attended the Convention in Düsseldorf, who strongly encouraged our participants to go and vote in May as it’s up to them to decide the future of Europe.

GT: Can you give an interesting quote by a speaker?
Y Vote Team: “Be bold, be curious, think for yourself, participate, and of course: vote” – said MEP Iuliu Winkler during the Convention in Cluj-Napoca.

GT: In some of the events the participants created recommendations: can you give a couple of examples for the most often named recommendations?
Y Vote Team: Education, education, education! In pretty much every discussion we had, there was a slight amendment or explanation, that that we have to have better civic education for it to be feasible. An example: most people didn’t oppose voting at 16 – but they said that their current education would leave them in the dark at the age of 16.

GT: You also created an app – can you tell us more about it?
Y Vote Team: While checking how one can vote during the European Parliament elections, we noticed that not only does every country have their own rules for voting, but that it’s also very hard to find out about these rules. And then, there’s the problem of living abroad – can you vote? And if yes, how? We thought of a simple way how to solve these issues – so we ask two questions and then tell you how you can vote and where you can find more information: What is your nationality? And: Where do you live? We spent quite a lot of time to find rules for you – either ourselves or by contacting the European Parliament Liaison Offices in various countries.

GT: Who programmed the app?
Y Vote Team: Our app was developed in collaboration with multiple people, and we especially want to thank Cornelis Boon and Jan Häusler – our  developers. We are also happy that we will be able to pay our developers. We might be volunteers, but we can’t ask everyone to work for free. If you agree, you can help us out and contribute to our Crowdfunding!

Y Vote 2019 broadened the horizon of the participants

GT: How many and what kind of Y Vote activities on local and European level will take place in the next three months?
Y Vote Team: We still have two Conventions in Utrecht and in Sofia coming up, as well as our Final Conference in Torino. Furthermore, we will attend some other events, such as the Democracy Alive festival on Texel, YO!Fest in Brussels and the Agora in Bucharest. Of course, Y Vote is nothing without the local actions. We can’t tell yet how many cities will participate, but we are in touch with multiple locals that are planning something along the “Week of Europe”.

GT: What can you tell us about the final conference?
Y Vote Team: The Final Conference will happen in Torino, Italy. The programme is set in two pieces: 45 participants will finalize the recommendations as “Our agenda for Europe”, get to know what’s happening in campaigning, as well as get their ideas flowing on street actions. And: representatives from our partners will come. Of course, both groups together will then meet and share their ideas for a better future. We will present the results during the spring Agora!

GT: How can locals do some activity about the European Parliament elections in the next months, even if they are not part of the project?
Y Vote Team: Our material is free for all to use. We have more than 15 workshops, ideas and real-life stories to get you involved to do something in your city around the European Parliament Elections. Our personal tip: invite some MEP candidates from your constituency for a discussion and advertise it among students. This can be very interesting for people who are not sure for whom to vote yet! We are also always eager to help – might it be with material, designs, advice or other things. An email to is enough!

GT: How big is the project team and how is the cooperation in the team?
Y Vote Team: The team currently consists of eight people, plus one CD appointed person. The cooperation, especially after more than a year of working together, is great. Most project teams in AEGEE only get to work together for a year. It’s much easier to make a commitment for one year, but it has a lot of downsides as well. With our team, we have had three live team meetings, which allowed us not only to work, but to do real team-building as well. Furthermore, we have had the chance to meet during Agoras, Conventions and other events, and this strengthened the bond between us.

The Y Vote team

GT: Your team also cooperated with other NGOs and institutions – can you tell us about that?
Y Vote Team: We indeed started very early, in January 2018, to contact other NGOs and institutions. There are so many campaigns happening, and so much work is done twice. We wanted to do our part to change this. The collaboration is very different, depending on our partners. Some examples of collaborations include organising events together, spreading each other’s information or sending participants and trainers to one another’s events. For our Final Conference, we invited all of our partners to discuss how the cooperation went – and how we can improve collaborations for the future.

GT: Philipp, what was your personal motivation to become project manager?
Philipp: Hui, good question. The first thing I did in AEGEE was to become a board member, and president soon after. Of all the things I have done, this has certainly made me grow most. The first events I attended were a Y Vote Convention and an Agora. Those projects fascinated me – and I wanted to be part of such a team some day! After several local and European Projects I did, I felt like taking up a real challenge, and I applied as Project Manager of Y Vote. The duration and the scale of the project, the money and so many people involved are a challenge.

GT: Did you have a lot of knowledge about European politics before joining the project?
Philipp: 01101110 01101111 – in short: no. I became interested in 2014, when I realized that being interested and willingness to learn is more important than pure knowledge from a book.

Y Vote has become a brand

GT: This is the third Y Vote project for AEGEE after 2009 and 2014 – has it become a recognised brand?
Y Vote Team: In AEGEE, Y Vote indeed is a recognised name. Outside of AEGEE, it’s a mixed thing. People who see it for the first time often don’t know how to pronounce it or are confused not to see it around for four out of five years; it’s not a NGO in itself. With this edition we tried to make sure our name will be remembered.

GT: What’s the difference to the first two Y Vote projects?
Y Vote Team: It’s very hard to compare. One difference might be the way we work and how digital technologies have contributed to it. We also use social media quite a lot.

GT: Lots of AEGEE oldies work in the European institutions or for the European parliament. How did they contribute to the project?
Y Vote Team: Of course, we contacted the members of previous Y Vote editions – and quite some had a talk with us and shared their experience. Generally speaking, we didn’t have much contact with alumni.

GT: Does the project make a real impact in your opinion – and if yes, where can you see that?
Y Vote Team: It makes a difference – which we can see in every single face of our participants. In every convention we have seen, people have become more active and passionate towards the European Union. Of course probably not all of them will go out and actively promote it, but it is likely that when discussions pop up they will be able to show off the information they have learned. We have seen their reactions to things that don’t make sense and issues that they believed were ignored but are being taken care of by the institutions. Through the recommendations we believe we have ensured a long lasting impact, seeing that these are not only Y Vote achievements, these are the achievements of the participants and if they are followed up on they will most likely want more young people to raise their voices. Two participants of our Convention in Düsseldorf wrote down their views of the event, check it out!