Réka Salamon, Presidential Candidate: Questions from the Network

You might have recognised Réka Salamon from AEGEE’s website, where she is already on the team page as Vice-President and Project director. She decided to take one step further, using all her previously acquired knowledge in several teams and projects, and run as a President of AEGEE-Europe. Her journey  has started in 2011 in AEGEE-Debrecen, where she was a Vice-President & Public Relations responsible. She then became CD assistant in three occasions and Speaker of the Public Relation Committee. In the meantime, she moved to Germany, becoming member of AEGEE-Aachen. She was a project manager of the award-winning project Europe on Track and last year she eventually managed to fulfill her dream to work in the Comité Directeur. We asked you to think about some questions for Réka and here are the answers we have got.

1908247_806008459413392_1156945065_nWhy is the external representation not one of the main topics you would like to focus on in your candidature?

This year I have been working closely with the external organisations my portfolio is most linked to, developing closer relations with the Lifelong Learning Platform (umbrella for 36 education organisations). I am in the Management Team of the Informal Forum of International Student Organisations (IFISO) and I have been a speaker and attendee at different events in the European Parliament. Also, I am responsible for external projects with partnerships ranging from the World Organisation of the Scouts Movement to the Education Network of the European Youth Forum. While I was happy to experience AEGEE’s prestigious brand recognized and valued in Brussels, I do think we need a stronger internal focus next year, in order to continue branding AEGEE in Brussels with great achievements and activities carried out by a stronger network.


How quickly do you answer to the e-mails?
I am an admin of 28 mailing lists, included in various conversations from WhatsApp to social media, and responding within thwo-three days to emails has been the challenge of all projects directors since the very beginning. I always encourage everyone to write me on Facebook or even call me any time if they are in need of a quick response. I am really happy if someone calls, please continue doing that!


In your program last year you wrote “Corporate fundraising and institutional support for AEGEE projects” – what has happened in this field? Can you give us examples of what you have done (may be failures or successful attempts)?
Corporate fundraising is carried out by three people in our team at the moment, they are more experienced fundraisers than myself, so I support their actions by giving them background information on what the thematic bodies would need. I have invested more time in getting to know the world of institutional support, writing two workplan applications towards the Council of Europe, writing applications to two private foundations (getting 2500 EUR for our projects) and in other cases, supporing the project teams in their application writing. I wrote a successful application to get an AEGEE delegation to attend the University on Youth and Development in Mollina this autumn. Also, I wrote the majority of the applications that have given AEGEE another national Charlemagne Youth Prize winner “Night of the Seven Antennae” in Bulgaria. My current challenge is the grant application for improving the quality of trainings and exchanging best practices between volunteering and higher education in order to supply the internal education system of AEGEE with funded trainings.10256613_307396466074664_6029907517670363627_o


In your program you wrote “Take your Summer University, your Network Meetings, your trainings: AEGEE-Europe should not only be encouraging you to organise them, it should be supporting you in making them happen!” – how do you imagine this? What kind of support do you have in mind?
The idea is closely connected to experience I gained with European institutional grants and the Network Development Project. It is something I am discussing with a part of the Network Commission at the moment. Many of our locals are facing the everyday challenge of not having enough funding for these events. You want your event to be amazing and attract new members, but in today’s reality AEGEE cannot organise the same quality events as it used to, simply because life and all costs of the events have become more expensive.

The contacts and the knowledge AEGEE-Europe has makes it possible to obtain institutional support for a series of activities, offering travel reimbursement and covering at least half of the expenses of local organisers. The grant application could cover a series of activities in the same network area, multiplying the impact. With bigger numbers we can have bigger support at both the local and the European level. Taking it to a concrete example: I was in touch with a few members and the NetCom of the Italian-speaking locals to develop and application that would focus on European history & culture education and in the activities section of the grant we could include five Summer Universities, two network meetings, two training events and one conference or cultural celebration. The activities would all have a joined theme, but it would leave space for the usual AEGEE activities as well.

We would also be part of the European dialogue and develop something European society needs, as well as help ourselves at the same time. Grant application writing is not a rocket science (but it is a useful skill to have!) and the great ideas always get their reward; the European institutions want to support young people, they just need to know more about our expectations and our ideas.

741320_862177857173048_7247078553869922099_oIf you could make only one big change in AEGEE’s current state, what would you want it to be and how would you contribute to it in the position you are running for?

With all its internal structural bodies, with all its bureaucratic measures, with all the discussions about the serious and fun part of AEGEE, our organization has always been essentially a place for learning. From Summer Universities to political activism, our members have always found something interesting on the AEGEE playground.
I would bring back the approach when our members’ interest and talents dictate more what AEGEE is working on as an association. More of the IDEAS + ACTION. Because you will only be active in this organization if you can easily understand how it works and where you can develop in it. It becomes a part of you.

As president I have a few closely interlinked ideas on how to move towards this direction:
A. Reworking the concept of the planning meeting / idea factory this autumn with 80% representation of our locals to get a clear picture on our network’s needs and resources for the period of 2017-2020 and draft a Strategic Plan owned by the network.
B. Bringing back the working groups: the thematic backbone of AEGEE. Surprised? AEGEE used to have dozens of working groups, everything from environmental issues, through international politics to visa freedom working group. Working groups offered the learning space for members in the easiest way possible: subscribe to the mailing list and you join another world where people shared their interest in discussion and also in action.

AEGEEans are striving for a better Europe and we often say we build our society together and we shape active citizens of Europe. We can only shape our members if we make learning easier to access for them.

10575433_10205720727352408_2238656156720282542_oWhat part of your task did you manage to accomplish and fully fulfill during this year?

My term is not over yet! Nevertheless, I am confident with the fulfillment of one of the priorities of my portfolio, that is establishing long-term and sustainable projects. With the framework and project team for Europe on Track – the project is ready to run every year and become our next brand similarly to Summer Universities. With the AEGEEan, our online magazine – obtaining a project/long-term status. These are only two specific examples on the way I see AEGEE should go for activities we can keep as our brand.
I could not have accomplished anything alone, though. I am lucky to be working with dedicated and enthusiastic people in each and every one of the thematic bodies of AEGEE. Thank you guys, you know who you are! 

How do you plan to improve transparency from the CD?
For greater transparency, from the organisational perspective, I would develop the NetCom-CD couple idea so NetCommies have a close relationship with the CD members, understanding more of the tasks and bringing ideas and input from the locals to the everyday work of some CD members. I would insist on the Membership Growth project to be implemented in the work of CD, meaning the board members would have monthly Skype meetings with the local of their choice and guide them through the development process with contacts and ideas, one step at a time.

From the everyday-reality perspective: a simple idea would be livestreaming some of our meetings and everyday situations from the house. We can write articles and reports but essentially the pictures and videos would enable members to get a more clear idea of the house in Brussels, where those seven people are working. Talking about that, I still want to record the video of the epic highs and lows in the Days of Our Life: one segment of the video presenting at a press conference in the European Parliament and the next segment showing us in the middle of cleaning the huge house. Both can be equally fun!

In your opinion, how can the Network check and control the democratic processes and decisions of the CD? (to ensure that they are not based on your personal opinion and that you try to be as objective as possible and take the best decision for the network and not for yourselves)
I personally see a bigger role of the Advisory Board of AEGEE-Europe in monitoring if our decisions are true to the values of the organisation and serve the best interest of the network. The CD members, that are elected to take certain decisions, have the full-scale of understanding of certain matters from top to bottom. However, sometimes we want to and need to consult the network before we act. It is always case-specific and it is very difficult to find an universal rule.

12716099_10206552299458879_3632996680008437756_oWhen it comes to the democratic selections that affect the network the most, we could evaluate if CD should proceed making the decision in certain cases. For example, I would personally involve the network and Agora in the selection of statutory event hosting locals.

Where do you see AEGEE in 5 years?
An organisation aware of its inner indigenous identity and proudly offering the learning opportunities and the time of their lives to all members who join AEGEE. An organisation, that keeps growing, but puts just as much effort into strengthening the locals as into establishing new ones. An organisation that understands its history and its power in the diversity of background and opinions: An AEGEE that keeps up the spirit of its legendary roots and becomes a major actor in European affairs, using the part of the network outside the EU also to support the idea behind European integration.

AEGEE can construct the model of European society by being attentive to the cultural differences and shared values that bound us together. We only need to be more aware of why we are in AEGEE and what is our learning path from AEGEE and our contribution to AEGEE in return.

What are your three biggest strengths and three biggest weaknesses?
Let’s start with weaknesses, I am familiar with their strange nature:
1. I am a very efficient robot when I work. But switching to a more likeable humanoid tends to be a challenge when I am fully concentrated and I can imagine this could be a reason I sometimes appear cold to people.
2. I want to work on everything and all the time. Being a workaholic in the house is the biggest asset, yet I tend to work myself to physical and mental exhaustion. Work-life balance in the team would be a priority as president.
3. I am really bad at showing off. In the world of competition and appearances I still live by my values that my work should speak for itself and I do not care much about the appearance. But in a world where you need info about anything or anyone and you need this info fast, appearances do matter. I have not subscribed to this new trend yet.

I consider the following features to be my strengths:
1. I question the status quo. I need to understand why and how things work and possibly come up with a solution for improvement. AEGEE offers a wide range of fixing to be made from small to large-scale reforms, it only depends on your view of ‘accepting how it is’ or ‘looking into ways of making it better’12232729_988570851205422_1094067517027239782_o
2. Connected to the first point, I usually try to understand everything in this organisation with the brief historical insight. I have already discovered a lot of activities and systems from the past, that should make a come back – and I promise you, it would bring amazing results!
3. I stand my ground for the things I believe in. I was raised to be honest and kind and I do not play games with people. Some people might not be as open to my honesty as others when it comes to feedback, but I see the learning process as a series of challenges you need to overcome, you need to be shaken out of your comfort zone. And once we get comfortable with each other based on trust and respect, I am the kind of a friend you can call in the middle of the night and I will come without thinking.


You can find the first part of the interview here, her portfolio article here and read her full candidature here


Edited by Erika Bettin, AEGEE-Verona