Every year, on the 11th of November, the Network Commission celebrates its birthday, and this year, they turn twenty. To celebrate this special occasion, we interviewed a number of former Network Commissioners: Lia Touska, Mario Galea, Hanna Alajõe and Andrea Schmelz, to tell us about their time in the office, and to see how much the commission has changed.
The AEGEEan: Could you introduce yourself?
Lia: I am Lia Touska from AEGEE-Kastoria and AEGEE-Sofia. I was a NetCommie in the period starting from Agora Patra until AgorAsturias.
Mario: My name is Mario Galea, I am from AEGEE-Valleta.
Hanna: I am Hanna from AEGEE-Tartu and I have been a NetCommie until very recently, as my term has finished just after Agora Bergamo.
Andrea: I am Andrea Schmelz and still a happy member of AEGEE-Passau. I was a NetCommie from October 2014 until November 2015.
How was it being a NetCommie during your term?
Mario: At the beginning, we were eleven people who had to start working with their own locals immediately after the elections, in a mostly individualistic approach to our network. During our mandate, we changed the term periods to allow more team building and knowledge transfer, before actually starting our work. We have built a more unified approach towards the whole network with one functioning platform, a single massive working plan and one activity report, acting like a real body and not as individuals.
Andrea: It was a lot of work, almost like a part-time job, and luckily very rewarding. Most of the work happened online, but the best moments were when you actually went out in the field and met the members. AEGEE’s strength is the impact we make on the individuals and this is something you constantly experience as a NetCommie. To a large extent, the NetCom is responsible for a lot of administrative work, but it is also a hub of different political views and values. One should never underestimate the diversity of the network that influences our work – it is a huge challenge and learning experience for any NetCom team.
Lia: Being a NetCommie was, and still is, the best experience someone can come across. I took care of locals from two different areas (Dutch-speaking and Greek-speaking), I was always there when they had questions and I visited them during my NetCom trip. Lastly, the team spirit that we had within our NetCom team was the trigger of friendships that have been lasting until now.
How was this different from now?
Hanna: I think being a NetCommie during my term was quite similar to what it is now, and this is because my term is still very recent. The strange thing about being part of the NetCom is that, during your term, you can have two totally different experiences, as every half a year half of the team changes. That makes working in the NetCom so hard to explain. The group dynamics can be so different depending on who is part of your team, which locals you are working with, which apps are malfunctioning on Podio… et cetera.
Lia: Back in my time, the term of NetCommies was not equal, LTCs and RTCs were not antenna criteria yet and it was hard to find a hosting local for a NWM.
Andrea: Since my term was not so long ago, there have not been too many drastic changes. We have moved the entire work during our term to Podio, professionalised quite a lot and coordinated the work more as a team, rather than 11 individuals. I am glad to see that the NetCom kept this up, as it aims for a much better understanding of the network from a broad perspective. In this way, the ideas which have been developed before and during our term are kept alive and in progress by the current NetCom, and this really secures continuity. The present NetCom is very strong in supporting the network, it is inspiring! I am curious to see what comes out of the Antenna Criteria reform.
Why, if impactful, do you think these changes were necessary?
Andrea: I believe that if we want to have an impact as an entire association using the strengths of our network, then we also need to handle the network as a whole. I think the changes in the administration and coordination of our work helped us in monitoring this common impact, and understanding the needs across our entire network. In my opinion, society demands of us to keep up in handling such a large amount of members across so many countries, while still embracing diversity.
Lia: I believe that those changes have been impactful, because NetCommies have enough time for knowledge transfer to the new generation now, and more and more locals are organising LTCs and RTCs implementing the Strategy of Learning and Training. Also, the NetCommies do not struggle to find a local to host their NWMs anymore. Overall, the quality of the Network has been improved.
Mario: The changes we made were necessary, because only with a unified Network Commission, one can ultimately aim at a more unified network. Without a solid common vision, in line with the vision of AEGEE-Europe, the NetCom cannot effectively be that bridge that ties locals together.
What did you like the most about being a NetCommie?
Andrea: Lots of hugging happening during the NetCom trips and events.
Written by Willem Laurentzen, AEGEE-Nijmegen