Elena Efremova for the Network Commission:”It is a huge responsibility, but right now, I feel that this is the right position for me”

Nowadays, Elena Efremova from AEGEE-Grodno is the girl who takes on responsibilities in many fields and manages to multitask and keep control over her duties. This is the way she has already worked in AEGEE by getting involved in various European Bodies, learning from them and collaborating with them. Ahead of her presentation at the Agora in two weeks, she was interviewed by The AEGEEan and she shared her vision as a potential NetCommie.

The AEGEEan: For those who do not know you, who is Elena Efremova?

NWM Zielona Gora 2016Elena: I am Elena, 24 years old, I have a Bachelor’s degree in History. Yes, I adore history and cannot understand why we still do not have digital archives and official books of AEGEE history in AEGEE! I live in the Russian Federation, in Rostov-na-Donu. I love chocolate, coffee and travelling, so my happiest moments in life are when I sit down with a cup of hot coffee, eat milk chocolate and search for cheap travelling tickets.

Last year I left university and devoted my life to AEGEE. In the year 2016, I visited around 16 countries and more than 52 cities. I have been an AEGEE member for two and a half years now. Firstly, I have been a member of AEGEE-Rostov-na-Donu where I held the positions of Incoming Responsible and Twin Coordinator for a year. Currently I am a member of AEGEE-Grodno and AEGEE-Chişinău. Moreover, I am a member of the Action Agenda Coordination Committee and the Youth Mobility Working Group.

How did you decide to candidate for the Network Commission?

LTC GrodnoI thought about the NetCom position even before Agora Bergamo, but at that time I did not have that much experience in AEGEE, as I had been active for only one year. Many things were totally unclear for me and I was not ready to take on the responsibility for more than ten locals as a NetCommie. That is why I decided to have a year to learn what I did not know yet. I came from a small local with many troubles. One year ago, I was more needed on the local level, to help with the Summer University and Antenna Criteria fulfilment. Moreover, I travelled a lot last year, visited AEGEE events and locals, collected information and now I hope to see a full picture of what AEGEE is and how locals live. Locals are the cornerstone of the whole organisation, without them there would be nothing. They are an indicator; if they are weak, AEGEE is weak. For me, it will be challenge to be a NetCom. It is a huge responsibility, but right now, I feel that this is the right position for me and the right time to run for it.

Regarding your involvement in many European Bodies within AEGEE, how do you plan to combine them with your duties as a NetCommie? Are you considering to leave some?

My terms in the Action Agenda Coordination Committee (ACT) and Youth Mobility Working Group end on the 31st of July. It means that I would combine three positions at the same time for only two months. As I already worked with the Network Commission, being their General Assistant, I mostly know how to work with Podio and I understand what exactly a NetCom should do. During the past year, I combined three to four positions every time. It taught me how to be good at time-management and how to prioritise. During my NetCom term I will fully devote myself to locals and their needs.

Can you already share some of your policy ideas with us?

ACT teamLocals are sensitive organisms, nobody from the outside can treat or solve problems. As a NetCommie, I would not be the one to teach people what to do and how. I would be the one to see the full picture and be a link for locals between each other and between locals and European Bodies. I would like to outline several main goals of my term. First of all, I see the power of a network in unity; when people all over the network know each other, visit events around the network (not only official ones, but any), have common Visual Identity. The power of AEGEE is people, and most of us are here because of friends. So, why not start a big AEGEE family from the small ones based on the network? Then, if events like European Schools, Fundraising European Schools, Training New Trainers and others are far away – why not create or host them in our network? If we need and want to get this knowledge but cannot reach the final destination, we need to have our own. If it is expensive to reimburse travel and participation costs for trainers, why not have a deal with local ones? Why not create a pool of trainers in our network and use them for any events when we need trainers with specific knowledge – not even only from AEGEE, but also from other NGOs? If we feel that we cannot manage events alone, why not cooperate with other NGOs in our cities?

How do you want to implement these policies?

How to implement it? I would like to motivate people and locals to travel, to be open, to be involved in AEGEE, to apply for European Bodies and to have cooperation with other NGOs. I cannot tell them what to do and how, but I can share my own experience with them, offer some ideas to be discussed and be available to help at any time. Nothing is impossible when we are together. Of course, I will also work inside the NetCom team, helping with internal projects.

In your programme you are referring to having a “special event – kind of Share Best Practices”. Aren’t Network Meetings (NWMs) supposed to be a space for that already?

NWM Warszawa 2015That is a really good question. According to the CIA, “This meeting (NWM) has an administrative impact and it is focused on sharing best practices, keeping the Locals closer to each other, connecting them with the European level, updating them about last progresses and launching initiatives”. And it should really be like that. But a NWM is an event from two to five days. You need to combine sessions from the CD and European Bodies, take needs of locals you are responsible for into account, and make it interesting for everyone – both newbies and oldies, participants from your area and outside. Not easy, right? If you have participated in several NWMs, you will notice that some of them are about sharing best practices, some mostly held by European Bodies, and others look like a Soft Skill training. Every region has different problems, and a different political situation which influences the work of AEGEE on the local level. Sometimes, we need to talk about urgent issues face to face, inside one group of people.

My idea is to have events for specific regions, where the programme is made by participants according to their needs. It will be a place where people from my region get to know each other personally, as personal relationship is one of the cornerstones of cooperation. Here, they will also think about common events or future cooperation. Here, they will share problems and possible solutions. Here, people from other NGOs can be asked to join and share their ideas about certain topics. My idea is not unique, we already have events like that – Renove, Czechoslovak Weekends. What is the difference between NWMs and this Share your practices event? This event could be unofficial, does not need to have much time for preparation and could probably be almost for free. It would be an event for specific regions, where actual problems are discussed. During that event, locals would discuss current problems and if they do not know how to solve them, they come to NWMs where they ask people from other parts of the network about them. This would mean that, thanks to our Share Best Practices meeting, we would raise the quality of Open Space sessions during upcoming NWMs and Statutory events.

How would you like to pursue the cooperation between BEST and other NGOs and the antennae on a local level?

LTC MoscowWe, student NGOs, are very different with different target groups and our power is in unity. Together, we can achieve more than by ourselves. It looks like it is time we start to realise this and move to meet each other. A couple of days ago, I came back from an NGO Weekend in Moscow, where representatives of four NGOs – AEGEE, AIESEC, BEST and ESTIEM – came together to learn how to be a good leader. It was an event with no budget but with invaluable outcomes. Right now, we are considering to create the NGO Weekend vol. two, and to have ambassadors towards each other, not only on the European level, but also on the local one. It is only the first step towards our possible future. Together, we can continue to organise leadership trainings (or any other: PR, HR, etc.), to be infopartners on the social media, and to do NGO presentations together. Being in touch and helping each other with big events means that together, we can get more sponsors, human resources and promotion. If locals all over the AEGEE network work together, they can create one event for all of AEGEE. If locals from one region work together – there is one event for a specific area. But if different NGOs  work together – there are many events in many cities. In that case we can involve more people with limited resources. It is all up to us. I cannot foresee how it will go. But I truly believe that there is a big field of possible cooperation, from theoretical knowledge to practical things. And what we need right now is just to start.

Question from the Network: What is the area of the network you would like to work with?

First of all, this Agora will change the locals’ distribution, since we plan to have 11 NetCommies instead of ten now. It means that right now, it is very hard to say what the network areas will look like. Moreover, we should not forget that the final decision to choose the NetCommie with whom to work is under locals’ power. And I would be happy to work with any local from all over the Networκ.

In general, I would prefer to work with locals which are not so far from the city and country I live in – Rostov-na-Donu, Russia. Why? Firstly, there are locals with whom I am already in contact, at least with part of them, and it will be easier to start working. Secondly, because of geographical reasons, it would be easy for them to ask me to come any moment when they need me, and for me to visit locals, participate in their events and help them. Moreover, during my NetCom trips and NWMs I will need much less money than if I travel far away (thinking about AEGEE-Europe and Network Commission budgets).

You can read her full candidature here

Written by Vasiliki Andrioti, AEGEE-Ioannina