AEGEE lost its direction

Discussion about the opinion poll showed on the www.aegee.org website.

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AEGEE lost its direction

by Michele Turati » 22 Jan 2008 00:52 UTC

Hello to everybody.
44% of the people who answerred the opinion poll think that AEGEE lost it's direction.
I agree. This is an hot-topic and it should be discussed deeply in this forum, I hope many members will comment the following proposals
Michele Turati
 

by Michele Turati » 25 Jan 2008 22:25 UTC

Dear friends interested in AEGEE,
the on-going discussion on AEGEE-L and AGORA-L are a typical example on how easily AEGEE loses its direction. It's very easy to misunderstand, to exagerate and to move the original discussion out of tracks. The results are insults, offenses and fights.

On the 13th december 2007 I've announced a second hot-topic for the end of january. Here it is.

Some time ago, the European Board of Directors published an Opinion Poll on the homepage of our website www.aegee.org
I would like you to check it out and have a look at the results: 45% of the interviewed members think that AEGEE "was a successfull NGO in the past. Nowadays it lost direction".
45%. Fourty-Five percent.

Together with Stefan May, we were trying to understand this problem, because it IS a problem.
The original idea was to integrate europeans, and in AEGEE we are fully integrated! We have members from all over europe and more, our members get together very often through AEGEE events and meetings. Is there any member, no matter where he/she's from, that is not welcome to an AEGEE event? It's a rethoric question, no need to answer. (Btw, the answer is no)

More, the integration of the European Union is done, now with the last Political enlargement, Schengen and Euro-zone enlargements included. We don't have barriers anymore and the few we still have won't change easily or
in the (AEGEEanly speaking) worst scenario it won't change. In both cases, AEGEE cannot do more than what is doing right now.

In this email and the further discussion we won't talk about the future of AEGEE: it's a too wide range and we will get lost, there will be a lot of meaningless topics and nobody will read at all.

So, the question Stefan and I were asking to each other (and now to you) is "how deep should European integration go?", not how wide.

In my opinion, we need to emphasise more on deeper integraton, in many fields. The yearplan topic is already like that: changes in the environmental field can only make sense when it's tried on European level; French, Germand etc. liked this topic a lot, as I do.
Then we have a second big question we need to answer: why do we have so few members in Western and Northern Europe? (and this is not the only problem..)
The answer is the focus areaof AEGEE, that has never been Western Europe and Northern Europe, because we were (and we're still) focused on enlarging the Network and integrating the already fully integrated East, not in strenghtening Western and Northern Europe.
Those areas are, according to me, extremely weak (with few very good exceptions in all Countries) and we don't focus on European integration anymore and the real issue now is to integrate and to create an european consciousness in Western and Northern Europe, and not only there. With enlarging we always focused on another "culture", another "nation" and not about what we are and why do we get togheter in the EU.

The solution is not "more Europe" but more integration!
For this, AEGEE is already doing something and we should all be aware of these steps. Just we need to be stronger and with more visibility.
Multilingualism is necessary, about this issue we only do some "EDL" activities. And even if those are interesting, results-oriented and very creative, it's not enough. We communicate in very bad english... we need to celebrate Europe!!
It's very easy to celebrate Europe's day on 9th of May or to make videos using the European flag and anthem.

Many of our members are sleepy about these issues, those issues are basic for us.
What should focus our projects equally within AEGEE as network, we need different projects and results oriented to create an european identity in Western and Northern Europe. Then, once this huge step is done, it will be easier to enlarge the Network over there, solve problems of Human Resources and quality of events.

Michele Turati
on personal behalf

Special thanks to Stefan May for his huge contribution.
Michele Turati
 

Direction

by Patrick Hanckmann » 26 Jan 2008 02:51 UTC

Interesting result from the poll, must say! Personally I see the point although not directly the reason.

Every year (two year nowadays) we have a very clear point. We call it a flagship project. This should be our focus. So what did we loose?

Well, I think we lost our activism. We really are making up these projects for the sake of having one (at least that is how I have perceived it the last years). Of course, our topics are very good, but somehow we lack the motivation for them. It seems that we have problems making our flagship projects a success... this is where we loose...

I think we loose ourselves too much in procedures, rules, pointless discussions and so on, while we should try to find and touch those who are willing to fight for a certain project. Those who believe in it and who can motivate others to go for it as well. If we find those people and put them on the right place we can manage to get great results again (let us look at the results of the Turkish-Greek dialogue, which was not a project that lost direction).

Anyway, my text is not very much helping to find a solution. it is more a gathering of thoughts :-). I am very curious about yours!

P.
Patrick Hanckmann
 

by Anita Bosneva » 26 Jan 2008 03:47 UTC

I am quite happy that such discussion takes place.

Mickey, I agree with your point on working towards deeper integration withing the Western and Northern Europe

No wonder that people think AEGEE has lost direction. And this will continue as long as more and more people perceive AEGEE as a cheap touristic service! Just take a look at this comment I found under one picture on facebook.com ---> "Next to the beautiful places you get to see...The main thing is the people you get to meet. Therefore I joined a studentstravel association called AEGEE which has given me the opportunity to meet all these lovely strangers, like you can see on this picture of one of our own events."

I got so many "motivation letters" for the CST Iceland which sounded more like "hey, I really want to see this country and meet new interesting people, you should take me because I'm an experienced traveller!" Someone canceled because "for this money one can stay for 4 days in a hotel in the Caribbean". WELL, I AM SORRY, BUT THE MOTIVATION MUST NOT COME FROM THE DESIRE FOR TRAVEL ONLY!

It's a shame especially when we still have things to fight for!

Just to name a few:

I think the NetComm should work harder on strenghtening the locals in France, Great Britain, Scandinavia. Involving more native people from Britain is essential, not only having locals consistent of Erasmus or international students.

Visa Freedom Fighters WG should really work hard on gaining easier and CHEAPER access for Turkish, Serbian, Macedonian (sorry, if I am missing someone) students to the EU.
To me this even sounds like a good idea for a flagship project - "Access to Europe" or something. We have such a strong assets and sometimes we just forget to use them! The headoffice in Brussels and the direct communication with EU Institutions, the wide network, the motivated and professional people etc. All this can lobby for the idea!

EWG - Yes, some of us demonstrate poor English skills. Why not try launching a survey on the topic? I've noticed how people from certain countries show worse English performance than others and that means there might be something wrong with that country's educational system. Ideas for internal trainings are brilliant but why not thinking a bit BIGGER? How about defining the problem, searching for its roots and then looking for possible solutions which may affect a wider target group, not only AEGEE members?

I am sure there are many more fields we still have a lot to work on, these are just ideas which pop-up in my mind on prima vista.
Anita Bosneva
 

by Cihan Demir » 26 Jan 2008 12:19 UTC

Hello dear AEGEEans,

Exactly i am happy to see this topic; because statistics show my opinion too.... I think many reason for this result some of them;

1. AEGEE's vision and aims are completed in 20 years. And the new vision didn't find or didin't share with members.

2. Summer University is completed its mission. But no body find the new project like this so every year; local's application number is decreasing. And every year the participation number is decreasing. FR works are going to be harder; because in 20 year every company's of your local area will get bored.

3. AEGEE's aim i think is very wrong. Especially year plan topics. In my opinion for example Global Warming is very important but AEGEE need to be interested in different topic.Of course we need to examine Global Warming but we have more important topic than it. So the year plan topic (last 3 years) never be the sustaniable and ripercussion. And in year the projects didn't be ripercussion too.

4. For example everyone said that "AEGEE is owner of Erasmus Project". Yes it is ver very important for PR or FR, but what did AEGEE do in 4 years for Erasmus. Nothing.

5.Generaly i see -in my country or another country it doesn't depend-, university student's attention scale down about this NGO's work. And we can't find qualified member generally.

6. After 2004, I see in my opinion CDs are not succesful in their work. I don't accuse them; don't misunderstand. There are many reasons for this problem not only personally... The network, the LTCs, etc. etc.

7. In AEGEE, there are no ability to "thank to someone" or "apprecition to someone". So AEGEE lost many many qualified person..

8. European Union Youth Found, killed some local's activitys. Some locals and people begin to think, YOUTH is very easy found system, and then AEGEE start to turn into YOUTH CLUB. But it killed the volunteneer soul. Nobody try to find FR, nobody try to find cheap places etc etc etc. I think it is very important because this works connect you with AEGEE.

Yes my opinion like this. And they are MY OPINION.... see you..

Cihan DEMÄ°R

AEGEE-Eskisehir

2004-2005 EWG Secretary
2005 AEGEE-Eskisehir SU Travelling and Lodging Coordinator
2005-2006 AEGEE-Eskisehir Board Member as Secretary General
2005 What is Europe Project Travelling and Lodging Coordinator
2007 Autumn AGORA Travelling and Lodging Coordinator
Cihan Demir
 

History repeating ;)

by Radu Racareanu » 26 Jan 2008 18:40 UTC

Hello,

I cannot stop finding this at the same time funny and sad, as this was already a topic discussed quite a lot after AGORA Napoli (Nov 2006). Many people, many discussions, even something concrete developing, but...in the end NO ACTION.

AEGEE does not really work as a learning organisation, buliding up on the past, at the same time it is very resistent to real changes. I am not referring now to the statutory ones, as those are quite easy to get through with some good lobbying.

From time to time some directions are identified, however, as we take so much pride in our diversity and our "flexibility", why should we care that our members actually follow these directions?!

How can actually AEGEE have a real (=one that is actually followed) direction if we don't consider important that all our members even adhere to the values promoted by this organisation?! As long as AEGEE is an organisation for which its vision and values are only some nice words to quote for externals, no direction is possible.

And by the way, also much bigger organisations (in terms of members, financal and material resources, activities, etc) are not ashamed from time to time to revise their statement of vision and mission...

Quite curious what would be the outcome of this,
Radu
Radu Racareanu
 

by Kadri Kalle » 26 Jan 2008 20:58 UTC

Hello to everyone reading this disucssion,

what first made me to write here, was statement by Cihan Demir, which I felt I need to comment:

Especially year plan topics. In my opinion for example Global Warming is very important but AEGEE need to be interested in different topic.Of course we need to examine Global Warming but we have more important topic than it. So the year plan topic (last 3 years) never be the sustaniable and ripercussion.


As I understand it is referred as AEGEE's next flagship project would focus on Global Warming. That is not true. The topic is Sustainable Development, focusing more on sustainable mobility, natural resource management and sustainable living environment. As this is not the thing under discussion, I will not go into more details. More info about upcoming flagship projt will be announced soon.

But to connect it to the discussion topic: we do need more quality than quantity. We don't need more antennae, we need stronger antennae. So I also agree with the idea of deeper integration.
And that's why I think the topic of Sustainable Development is something we should deal with. Our environment (be it natural, social, cultural, economic, etc) is something we all depend on and as this is topic going beyond national borders, I see it as our responsibility as young Europeans to deal with. To realise that sustainability is not something only concerning to nature and environmental organisations.

I don't have any concrete solutions to the feeling that members have about AEGEE's direction. As Radu pointed out, we also value diversity, so it can be hard sometimes to see the focus.

----
If you happen to have any further questions about the flagship project, you can write to: SUSTAINING-COORD-L@lists.aegee.org
Kadri Kalle
 

by Anita Bosneva » 27 Jan 2008 00:34 UTC

I don't quite understand all of Cihan DEMÄ°R's points so may be I won't be able to comment them right.


I do not agree with what was said about the SU project and I don't think it has "completed its mission". I believe that we must try to make the SUs a little bit more professional. I've never attended a SU, because I perceive it as pointless cheaper fun event abroad. My interest in AEGEE was and will always be professional. Then again, even if we try organize something different than "wolves and squirrels are chasing each other in the woods to have sex", the interest might be lower.

FR works are going to be harder; because in 20 year every company's of your local area will get bored.


Again, I believe it all depends on the content. If a local manages to organize something valuable each year, sponsors won't get "bored". Just take a look at what SU some universities and organizations provide! There are professional people within AEGEE who are able and willing to train people and share their experiences and I don't refer to Academy only!
Especially now when we have commissioner's Orban support - we hold a great chance in our very hands, a chance to concentrate on our language courses and make them useful and good, not just another excuse to spend two fun weeks abroad!

I remember discussing this with some friends from Aachen who shared their bitter experience - how they organized a high profile conference just to get 14 applications, 3 cancels and at the end - ONLY 1 PERSON APPEARED!

5.Generaly i see -in my country or another country it doesn't depend-, university student's attention scale down about this NGO's work. And we can't find qualified member generally.


I do not agree AEGEE being the reason itself! The last EUROBAROMETER on youth survey showed that not more than 6% (I can't find the booklet, so the numbers might not be exact) of young people in Europe are involved in volunteer initiatives. On the other hand above 80% stated their strong will to be consulted before any decision affecting the youth is taken.
So all we need to do is find a way of showing young people how participation in NGOs gives opportunities for involvement into the policy and decision making processes.

4. For example everyone said that "AEGEE is owner of Erasmus Project". Yes it is ver very important for PR or FR, but what did AEGEE do in 4 years for Erasmus. Nothing.


C'mon, there are so many locals which take good care of all Erasmus students enrolled in their universities!

8. European Union Youth Found, killed some local's activitys. Some locals and people begin to think, YOUTH is very easy found system, and then AEGEE start to turn into YOUTH CLUB. But it killed the volunteneer soul. Nobody try to find FR, nobody try to find cheap places etc etc etc. I think it is very important because this works connect you with AEGEE.


Youth in Action is a brilliant initiative which not only gives us funding possibilities but teaches people how to write and manage a project - an experience that stays useful to the rest of one's life!
Yet again, we should focus on making really good, more professional-oriented projects stressing not on "heey, I will go to this country for almost no money", but focusing on content - what abilities, skills etc one gains after the participation!!! :roll:

It is us who shape the way our organization develops! Having members who are there for the travel fun part is not wrong, but it starts being a problem once their number prevails greatly.
It is a matter of recruiting new members.
Just spend a minute thinking how does your local promote itself? If the "you got to meet a lot of great people from all around Europe and you travel much cheaper" part is the strongest point in your PR no wonder we will get more and more people who join this "studentstravel association AEGEE"
Anita Bosneva
 

wolves and squirrels chasing each other in the woods...

by Stefan May » 27 Jan 2008 15:46 UTC

(esp. to Anita)
There are very many well organised Summer Universities, all over Europe, giving people the opportunity to learn things about Europe they could not have learned anywhere else. Yes, some are very shallow in their themes, especially those now have problems to find funding for their "tourism". This might be an incentive to organise something more useful (and not necessarelly "serious"). If you want it, do it!

(to all)
The point of the discussion between Michele and me was not to repeat those very broad discussions of "quo vadis aegee" or to talk bad about our organisation and downsize it's achievements. We just emhasized on the fact that AEGEE reached the final boarders of Europe, thus the momentum for further "enlargements" moves inside.

Therefore we now think about CONCRETE actions to be taken to improve AEGEE and to bring its values forward.

My concrete idea was to celebrate Europe Day on the 9th of May (or around that date), all over Europe, every year as we do already with the European Day of Languages (EDL). That this day could have different themes like "how Europe can be more green" or "more tolerant" or "more safe" etc. was obvious to me.

Another good example how to focus on what AEGEE stands for is this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo9sMhWQU88

Any more concrete ideas?

Stefan May, AEGEE-Dresden
Stefan May
 

by Anita Bosneva » 28 Jan 2008 01:50 UTC

Stefan, thank you for your comment but I think I was really concrete, especially in my very first posting in this topic.

Taking the risk to repeat myself and become annoying - to me one of the major issues is people seeing AEGEE as a "fun-provider" only. I've heard so many statements as "Ooo, I will not go to this Agora, I'm sick of sleeping in a gym" or complaints about private lodging and cheaper food during events. This is the cancer which is killing AEGEE.

I just don't understand one thing - are we talking about bringing our values or deepening the integration in Western and Northern Europe or may be both?

Bringing the values forward:

I mentioned something about the way of recruiting new members.
It is essential how locals promote themselves and AEGEE in general - this is the first step of getting people interested in work and the organization's development, not only traveling.

I think it might be useful if the PRWG produces some basic manual, tips, whatever form for attracting new members which will be distributed among the anthenas. Presentation which stresses on all the "serious" possibilities our organization can provide. An open call for suggestions can be launched, so locals will be involved in the process not feeling like "someone" is "giving them orders" and interfere in their internal matters. Of course, this "manual" won't be obligatory!

As for the deepening the integration within the Network

I already mentioned my opinion on NetCom that they should work on strenghten the existing anthenas in the West and North
Anita Bosneva
 

by Edoardo Binda » 28 Jan 2008 14:10 UTC

Dear all,
I've read carefully your discussion and I would like to provide my contribution to it too...

This is a thought I've had in mind for a long time already, and maybe here might be the right place to explain it:
I believe AEGEE did not lose its direction, but I do believe that AEGEE did not keep the pace of changes that have been going on in Europe, or at least not enough.
Let me make myself clearer, 20+ year ago, when AEGEE was funded, nobody had such an innovating power for young students: it provided something (a network) that had no alternatives, or, better said, no easily accessible alternatives.
Nowadays networking is not a comparate advantage anymore, look at all the other associations, or the internet social networks. AEGEE - not for its fault - is gradually blending in and losing the spotlight. Therefore people being attracted by what AEGEE can offer in absence of promotion are very, very few.

The second point I'd like to make relates to comments that were made about AEGEE being seen as a "travel agency". It shouldn't be a surprise that most people are attracted to AEGEE by the Summer University.. what people see is: travel + low costs... everything else is an addition that doesn't really matter if you don't know what AEGEE is.
On the other hand though, people that come back from a well-organized SU are usually enthusiastic about AEGEE and are probably willing to become active once they go back to their local boards. Once again then, why is there this lack of "fresh active members"?
To my mind the answer is much similar to the latter: with the development of low cost airlines, the opportunities that have been opened from 1980 to now for traveling in Europe, this "access key" to the AEGEE world has lost much of its power. Plus, most of the other travel opportunities have economic aims (making money) and people could also tend to group AEGEE within this concept and start approaching it with a negative prejudice.

Now, consider these two examples and try to think of something else that AEGEE could have represented alone for students and that now is something common for most young europeans, I am pretty sure that you won't have a hard time finding it.

If you consider reliabl what I've said so far, then I hope you will convene with me that AEGEE did not lose its direction, but the environment around it changed so much that this same direction does not make AEGEE unique anymore, which is what gives us a sense of loss in what we're doing.

What to do then? I don't have the perfect recipe, but I do believe AEGEE should steer in another direction (without losing its principles, obviously!!), offering once again something that is new for European students and could give it a newlyfound blast of passion and initiative to bring it up again in Europe.

Again, I don't know what this "something" could be, but I am willing to discuss with you what these opportunities might be.

On personal behalf,

Edoardo Binda
Honorary Member of AEGEE-Milano
President 2005 - 2007
Secretary 2005
Edoardo Binda
 

by Anita Bosneva » 29 Jan 2008 02:49 UTC

Travel, low-cost airlines, travel and travel again.

I'm really losing my motivation for working in this organization :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll:
Anita Bosneva
 

by Edoardo Binda » 29 Jan 2008 15:14 UTC

Travel + low cost airlines were just an example I put in to try to make the picture clearer, I chose it for being probably the most evident character for students who never came in contact with aegee before... at least for the experience I've had.

Anyhow, apart from this example, the idea remains... what to do?? ;-)

Hugs from Milano, sorry for the mess up!

Edoardo
Edoardo Binda
 

by Robin Verschuren » 29 Jan 2008 18:14 UTC

OK, first of all, an update to Anita: the netcom DID a lot in the UK, Belgium, and France. I was personally involved in the creation and revival of about 15 locals in these areas of which almost all are doing perfectly fine now. Native members included.
The Scandinavian network is falling apart, yes. Not surprising considering that in the last 2 years, nada has been done to stop it.

New thematics, pillars and aims for our future:

- social security: populations in the west are aging, together with climate change this is going to be THE challenge for Europe's future.
- the definition of the nation state in Europe: there are struggles in Scotland, Belgium, Spain, Italy, as well as in many former Soviet and former Yugoslavic countries.
- Europe vs the world: a topic that interests many people, especially in those countries that are by now less interested in internal issues. Especially since Europe is defined by what makes us different from the rest of the world, and we are connected not only by economic cooperation but also a vision and mission for the world. I'm myself considering an Election Observation Mission to the USA.
- finding a place in Europe and also in AEGEE for "euroscepticism". Our near-hippie ideals are a mayor turn-off for lots of people.
- more multilingualism in AEGEE. We say to strive for it, but there's only place for English right now (and not even British English, but a large majority uses AMERICAN English. Even some of our official publications. ). One of the new netcommies had a fantastic idea there: he's going to organise language workshops at his Network Meeting.

We are very much following the European Commission in their thematics towards youth. Their funding programmes are all focused on vague things as intercultural bla bla bla. The EU has the same problem as AEGEE: quite popular outside the EU and in (some) new EU countries, and only popular because it can be (ab)used in the rest of the continent :wink: But, since we are the dynamic youngsters, we can change and give them the good example!
Robin Verschuren
 

by Anita Bosneva » 31 Jan 2008 04:29 UTC

Robin, thank you for the useful and needed update. I was really really happy to read what you wrote and this is making me a proud AEGEE member, much more confident with our organization.

I can hardly wait to participate in some great event like let's say YiA training (rumor has it that the British National Agency is desperately looking for youth organizations) done by this locals, I am sure the rest of AEGEE Sofia members are enthusiastic as well.

I very much like your ideas on new thematics, especially the part for the external relations and cooperation.
Anita Bosneva
 

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