The Forum, or How We Missed The Magic This Time

One of the points in the 52nd CD’s Activity Plan that brought some expectation was the creation of a platform for discussion for AEGEE. As most of the readers probably know, one of the means of our beloved organisation is ‘a forum for discussion’. That implies that AEGEE has to serve as a space for discussion among young people in Europe, enabling them to discuss about important matters related to our society and of importance for youth.

Even though, that has been unrealistic for quite some time. AEGEEans discuss, but not in a whole, structured way. If you go to an AEGEE party you will probably hear groups of people discussing about such important matters as the lack of employment for youth, the problems with visas and the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Then what is happening to structured discussion?

Agoras do not have the time for it, EPM is not enough, and local events are not totally inclusive. Discussions got lost in the world of 293,000 posts per minute on Facebook and the maximum of 140 characters on Twitter. People do not discuss on the internet anymore, they comment, like and retweet.

What should the place for discussion be, then? One of the most powerful tools of the 21st century has been the web 2.0, which enables the average user to easily share and spread information and content among the world wide web. The revolution in Syria and Egypt and raise of awareness like the famous ice bucket challenge are just two examples of the great power that this tool provides.

So, ideally, the web and internet seem like the perfect channel for AEGEEans to discuss?

Historically, the mailing list AEGEE-L had served as a meeting point for discussion for AEGEEans, with the amazing feature that there is no filter for it (the messages one sends are sent to all the subscribers right away, without having to be approved by anyone). Even though, with the intoxication of information anybody with internet access suffers nowadays, people were ignoring the happening discussions. Nobody was interested in what was said in there, and they were complaining that too many mails were sent.

That’s when the 52nd Comité Directeur came with the brilliant idea of improving AEGEE’s Forum, created in 2009 by the 49th Comité Directeur. So, after the Activity Plan was ratified by the Agora in Cagliari in November 2014, they came back to the headoffice and started working on improving the forum. Just before Christmas it was relaunched.

It’s quite funny that one of the first discussions that happened in the forum was a meta discussion, pushed from AEGEE-L by members of the Comité Directeur, about the use of the forum as a means of discussion. Some experienced members were defending the use of AEGEE-L and the members of the Comité Directeur told people they had no right to complain about the use of the forum since nobody made any comment when the Activity Plan was presented in Cagliari.

The truth is that, with a 42 page Activity Plan, a 134 page Activity Report,  a 23 page Agora booklet, a 57 page Candidates booklet, a 42 page Proposals booklet, and a 13 page Thematic booklet it is no surprise that everybody missed something as the ‘Forum for discussion’ topic.

So, the forum became the official channel for discussion for AEGEE. But, is there life after the forum?

Since the forum was officially launched on 12th December 2014, 23 topics, of which 16 are related to internal work, were opened. In total, these topics have 120 answers, making it a bit more than 5 answers per topic. No single topic was closed, or a conclusion was reached, after it was opened. Among the 7 topics that are non related to internal work, 6 of them were opened by Policy Officers and one by a member of the Comité Directeur. (Data on 27th February 2015) With a network of 13000 members, these numbers are far from high enough or ideal to call AEGEE a means for ‘forum for discussion’.

Whose fault is this?

Maybe the Comité Directeur didn’t choose the best option for a platform for discussion, maybe Facebook is not structured enough to carry on a discussion or maybe AEGEE-L is not practical enough for discussions. What is certain is one thing, when AEGEEans get together, amazing things happen, but this time, we missed the magic.

Written by Ruben Navarro, AEGEE-Tarragona