Let’s hear about how the EBM was from our Members of the Month

The AEGEEan proudly presents members of the month:

Katja Behrendt, Patrick Kabasci from AEGEE-Aachen and Thomas Leszke from AEGEE-Köln. They were nominated because of their great contribution to the EBM reform.

First of all, congratulations :) I would like to start by asking when exactly did you start talking about a reform of the EBM and how did you guys come together?

Patrick: Maybe the first thing we need to say is that there is a bigger group involved in this. There have already been discussions when I was a Netcommie, which was in 2008, but the first real meeting about this was in December 2009, at the chair meeting.

Katja: The EBM was basically about presenting an almost finished Action Agenda, then inviting 300 people for partying for a weekend. What we wanted to do was to involve all people from AEGEE. Now they can be involved in the preparation of the Action Agenda from the beginning. We wanted to have a theme event where we could see in which direction we should go so we created a pilot event in 2010 in Gliwice (European Ideas Factory)

Thomas: Because until now the Action Agenda was prepared completely by the CD and the Working Groups.

Katja: We wanted active people to contribute to the Action Agenda from the beginning instead of letting them just vote on the proposals. We realised the follow up of this event was not so successful, so we worked on the follow-up more and then last summer we had the planning meeting in Poznan. Afterwards the proposal was created for the Action Agenda and then it was presented at the Agora Skopje.

Thomas: In general, AEGEE Europe members are the locals and all these members should contribute to whatever AEGEE-Europe is doing.

Katja: Also, we need more thematic discussions in AEGEE. At Agoras it is basically about voting on proposals, having workshops and elections. The EBM was about creating proposals to be voted on at the Agoras. So the idea is, besides talking about the general problems of AEGEE, considering what is going on in Europe then we came to the second pillar. Now the EBM is consisting of a theme part and an action agenda part.

And now we have nice panel discussions with external speakers involved. How do you think this will work with arranging externals to come to our events?

Katja: AEGEE is not so experienced with this. Having external speakers is the new challenge for us, because now it is hard to be flexible with the agenda of the event. I still think that having external speakers is accepted positively and soon in Enschede there will be external speakers again. I think we will get used to this.

Patrick: This also means the EBM will have more outcomes as there are now panel discussions and action meetings.

Thomas: With the panel discussions we have people who know very well what they are talking about. I am not saying that members who do workshops do not know what they are talking about, but naturally, they are not professionals in their field.

Katja: We think AEGEE should not only look what there is, but look for what is out there. External speakers who have a better overview about what is going on out there will be a good experience for us.

At the EBM we had external speakers mostly from Turkey. The arrangement will go on like this? For instance, if the next EBM is in Germany, we will have more external German speakers or do you think there can be a variety of speakers?

Thomas: It was logistically the most convenient solution. Basically, they come from nearby, so you don’t have to pay them a lot for reimbursement or accommodation.

Katja: There was also a survey about what would be interesting to discuss during panel discussions, so we basically followed that survey.

Patrick: This was the first time we had such a conference at the EBM, so for the next time we will be able to get sponsors for travel reimbursements for external speakers.

How will you handle the fundraising?

Thomas: For this event AEGEE-Izmir did a great job in fundraising. Gizem also has a lot of connections in Turkey. This made the job easier. However, as the EBM is an AEGEE-Europe event, AEGEE-Europe is responsible for the program and also fundraising.

What can you say about the new name for the EBM?  The current title is really not reflecting what it is.                                                           

Katja: Well, it actually hasn’t been a boards meeting since a long time. The problem was that we spent a lot of time in finalising our proposal so we couldn’t come up with a proposal for the name of the event. We will start a discussion for the name after the EBM and then create a proposal for the Agora in Enschede.

Thomas: We are aware that our work is not finished here. We will discuss what went well during this event and which things must be improved, as well as the name. What we need is a bigger team, because we will not be involved in AEGEE forever.

Patrick: Yes, we could not have prepared the participants well before the event, so we need a bigger team.

Patrick, for making the whole thing clear to the participants, your presentation was really good. I checked the booklet, but the moment I saw your presentation the concept was illuminated for me. Did you create it yourself?

Patrick: (smiling) Yes, but it needs improvement.

Katja:We are still open to comments on what should be changed, what we should keep on doing because now we experienced the EBM. We need more contribution from people who attended in order to improve the concept more. It is actually a big pleasure for us that this EBM was not an event that we have experienced before but we knew that we could rely on our organisation.

What was your motivation to be together all the time?

Thomas: We are neighbours, we are in the same generation and we have the same vision of AEGEE. This idea, what AEGEE should be like connected us from the beginning. That is why we have been together since then. Of course, there have been some disagreements but I don’t remember any moment we said we hated each other. (laughs) However, Patrick for instance, arrived late for the EBM, half an hour before the opening ceremony, so me and Katja were stressed and could not really give briefing to him so he was annoyed (laughs). This is really the most negative thing that happened during this progress.

When you get together, what do you usually do? Is there an activity you enjoy doing together besides AEGEE work?

Thomas: I can’t say we have a common activity. I mean, we all like drinking beer (laughs), but we can just sit and talk together about anything that comes to our mind. About something that is going on in Europe, the world or several hundred friends we have in common (smiling).

And finally, I already feel guilty for taking your time more that I should, do you have any messages for our readers or anything you would like to say as conclusion?

Patrick: I can say that if you want to change something in AEGEE, you can do it, just go for it! We had an idea 2,5 years ago and now we have reformed the EBM and all of this happened by talking to people, convincing them, getting them on board and working together.

Katja:When we go back to the beginning of AEGEE, the idea was one Europe. I think we should start considering this again and share more, learn more from each other as members of this organisation.

Thomas: I think that if we want to be network pro-activists, we should talk to each other. You have to find out what pushes your buttons, motivates you and what you want to change, then you can go deep into that by talking to people who have a very good knowledge about the subject or people who have great experiences concerning the matter. This is what I want to see in AEGEE. This EBM is a good start.

Thank you so much for sparing your time for the interview and for making this concept work. And of course, thanks to all the people who have contributed to this process. You did an amazing job!

Written by Deniz Özhan, AEGEE-Izmir