Philipp Blum for SUCT: “It’s a Really Good Feeling to Help People to Have the Summer of Their Lives”

By | October 4, 2016 at 6:00 am | Candidatures, People | Tags: , , , , , , ,

You might have seen him on stage during the Agora in Bergamo, or most probably if you organised or attended a Summer University. Philipp Blum, 25 years old and living in Aachen, is doing it again. After a term in the Summer University Coordination Team as Publication and IT responsible, he is running for a second one aiming to cover the tasks of Information Technology and Materials. “Sometimes serious, but mostly a child” as he described himself, he is in love with with coffee, travelling, photography, design, coffee, music and much more.


unnamedThe AEGEEan: Why did you decide to run again for a position in the Summer University Coordination Team?

Philipp: Because the work was more fun than I thought, and it’s a really good feeling to help people to have the Summer of Their Lives. Also, due to the knowledge I gained this year, I could start to actually improve the functioning of the website right away instead of figuring out where the files are.


You said that there is always room for improvements. What would you change (or improve) for next term, provided you will be elected?

  • Simplified (digital) guidelines to make it easier for organisers to see what should be done when.
  • Easier overview pages that show if you forgot to fill something instead of yet another reminder email.
  • A streamlined/shorter application process for participants.


philipp-blum_mom-agora-editionYour team put a lot of effort in giving content to SUs. Do you think you managed to change the direction? Would you consider it fulfilled?

I wouldn’t consider it as fulfilled at all. Many people I spoke to still consider two (!) hours of content a day as too much. But if you want travelling completely without content, I wonder why you would need AEGEE for this. With simplifying the booklets and website for organisers, as well as providing more help, I hope we can show that two hours of content a day is not much at all and that it actually improves the experience of the participants.

I think that organisers felt that we made some “unfunny” changes, but I also believe they recognise our good intentions behind it.


You said that you “use the impact of the project to get more information about our members (impact measurement)”. Do you think it is SUCT’s responsibility to work on the general IM or should this be done in cooperation with/by other bodies?

I don’t think it’s SUCT’s responsibility to work on Impact Measurement per se, but the possibility to ask 3.000 people about their opinions shouldn’t be wasted. So if the CD, ACT, the Working Groups or someone else can actually use this data for improving AEGEE and/or Europe, I’d love to help with gathering the data. The answers might be more representative than our 2013 Impact Study [he winks, ed.].


philipLast year you and your team improved the website, making it mobile friendly. Have you already thought about how to upgrade it more?

Yes, there are things we definitely want to improve. This year most work lay in the re-design, which didn’t allow for much time to actually change the logic in the system. I would like to have visual landing pages for organisers, participants as well as the admins. That means that you have exactly one page you can always go to, and it will show you the status of your SU / application, and what is expected until when. So, for example, for organisers it would show until when it’s expected to submit the program, with a direct link to do so. No more combining mails with ten different links.

Another, more unclear aspect is the development of the OMS. If it’s actually coming, it requires a redesign of a huge part of the SU System – including all applications. It’s something that shouldn’t be done in the middle of the process, and will require quite some preparation. On the other hand, it will allow for new possibilities, such as developing native apps for the project.


We are witnessing a constant drop of applications and organising locals. Do you think it is something related with the Summer Universities’ appeal? If yes, do you have concrete actions in mind to reverse this trend?

unnamed-2I think it’s related to the fact that cheap travelling becomes more and more normal. People buy a 10€ flight with Ryanair, sleep at couchsurfers.. Travelling with AEGEE becomes less distinctive to normal travelling. But maybe that is just my imagination? Here lies another connection with the Impact Measurement we could do.

My ideas include a better, consistent level of content on all SUs, as well as a better fostering of expectations by Outgoing Responsibles. If SUs are advertised with “Cheap, drinking and girls on a beach”, of course participants don’t want to see the city and learn the local language. If SUs are only advertised with “All day classes”, you might want a bit more relaxing in your summer vacation. Of course, a big part of SUs is about young people relaxing and partying, but there’s way more to the AEGEE spirit than just this.

Besides, since I joined AEGEE all I heard was “shrinking” of the network and how to avoid it. First of all, those numbers are not the only thing that measures the success of our organisation, and secondly, the numbers aren’t shrinking that much (source). We still have 50% more applications than spaces for Summer University, and I would rather concentrate on strengthening the weaker SUs (which don’t have enough applications) than on the overall numbers.


img_1889How would you improve the cooperation with Working Groups and Projects?

Well, for some Working Groups there’s the need to start a cooperation before we can improve it. Seriously, it’s a shame if a WG can’t even provide a compulsory session. Luckily, not all is bad. For example, I am really impressed by the cooperation of the Civic Education WG in Warszawa, which provided the entire content of the SU, and I think it could be a great example for other cooperations. I am sad that the ES SU didn’t work out this year due to lack of applicants, but I believe there’s lots of potential here.

To improve, I would start even earlier with sending emails to Projects (etc.) and Locals with suggestions of cooperation, directly showing benefits of cooperation, so the local doesn’t decide to do it on their own before a request for cooperation arrives.


How would you reduce the waiting time during the online processes?

We could implement some kind of games on the website to speed up the waiting time. Tetris, anyone? No, to be honest, there’s not so much that can be sped up by the SUCT. All in all, I could imagine to shorten the application period a bit, but I think the overall process is already pretty quick.

img_3775A real speed-up would be if tasks by organisers would be done in a day, which is highly unrealistic. Because there are so many organisers from so many countries, and the fact that we’re all volunteers, we can’t just give one day to approve participants. Some locals meet during the week, others on weekends, some might have exam periods…

Another way to speed up the process would be to remove the role of the Outgoing Responsible, which would speed up the process by around a week. It’s an idea we talked about already, but we still believe in the important role of the Outgoing Responsible. As I said, I think a right expectation of SUs is important, so I would rather work on improving the work of the ORs than to remove it yet.

In the application process we often see that certain locals are very popular, while others struggle even to find participants and (in extreme cases) are forced to delete the Summer University. What are your thoughts on that? Do you have any idea to try to level this phenomenon?

It’s certainly true that the location is a major factor for a Summer University to be more popular. Not only because a well-known location attracts more people, also because of the costs of travelling there. Opposite examples are “extreme” destinations, like Transiberian Railway, or something new, like Ireland this year.

I think there are three aspect to easily distinguish yourself from the other SUs: img_4396

  • Do your SU in a time where there are not many other SUs. I heard enough people that wanted to attend a SU in September (because of their possible vacation), but there simply was no offer.
  • Offer unique content. A city tour, beach party and small language course is nothing differentiating. Offer extreme sports, offer long travels, offer specific topics like photography or a larger language course – anything to separate yourself from the rest!
  • Do something new, something more extreme. Why not have a SU solely on a boat? Why not go hiking for two weeks? What about including a flight in your Summer University or make Hitchhiking not a part, but the topic of your SU? (PS: If this has been here before, I’m sorry. I’m not as wise as Gunnar yet [he winks, ed.] )


You can read Philipp’s full application here


Written by Erika Bettin, AEGEE-Verona

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