María Ballesteros Melero for Member of Comité Directeur: “Connecting AEGEE With the External World Through Thematics”

By | May 18, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Candidatures, People | Tags: , ,

If you have not heard her name yet, you must have been living under a rock. María is (among other things) member of the Civic Education Working Group, content manager of Europe on Track 2016/2017, moderator of the Gender Equality Interest Group and an AEGEE-Academy trainer. Her next step: running for Member of the Comité Directeur. Let’s get to know her personality and programme even better!

The AEGEEan: Hi María! Only a few weeks until Spring Agora Enschede! Are you ready?

IMG_9238María: Nobody is never fully ready for an Agora! I am really looking forward to it.

What makes you a perfect candidate for the Comité Directeur?

Whether I am the perfect candidate or not, is up to the Agora to decide. Being a CD assistant last year for 2,5 months definitely gave me a good insight into what it is like to be a CD member, so I am fully aware of what I am committing to and I am willing to do it. Among my tasks was the responsibility for the archives of AEGEE-Europe, a challenge that provided me with good knowledge about our association since it was founded, a deep understanding of what has been done and what is being done currently and many ideas and inspiration. Apart from that, I consider all my AEGEE experience really valuable for my learning process and therefore to my potential contribution to this position. I also consider my ability to multitask a big asset if I get elected. For several years now I have been used to simultaneously performing many tasks and carrying them out successfully, leading to more efficiency in my work. Last but not least, thanks to my studies (Translation and Interpreting, and Political Science) I come with good theoretical and practical knowledge that would be useful in representing AEGEE.

You want to give Interest Groups a bigger role in AEGEE. How do you want to implement this idea?

Firstly, I found a lack of knowledge of their potential, and a lack of guidance when it comes to internal structure. Of course, being flexible can be an asset for Interest Groups, so I would like to offer them guidance and regular meetings among the Interest Groups’ coordinators and active members to share best practices. In the end, it is a matter for each Interest Group to find their own identity within our organisation, but all possibilities should be on the table from the beginning.

Secondly, one of the biggest disadvantages that I find in Interest Groups is the lack of real-life meetings, which serve multiple purposes, among which team-building and developing projects, ideas and activity plans. In my opinion, progress meetings at Agorae for them should be given a priority, as they could be crucial for their development. Besides, resources should be allocated in order to allow them having real-life meetings in the CD house, just like the other thematic bodies.

Connecting the two points mentioned before, in real-life meetings (or even online), training in project management, moderation and other needs of the Interest Groups should be carried out. The Academy has plenty of materials to provide in this sense, so that these groups feel empowered to unlock their potential.

Finally, I want to foster cooperation among the thematic bodies of AEGEE. Working Groups and Interest Groups can easily work together and collaborate to organise thematic activities and to support each other, as well as with the NetCom and ACT. Furthermore, in the end we are all members of locals, so the more a member with an interest and knowledge on a topic feels supported, the more thematic local activities will happen, and I believe a domino effect could start in this sense.

What are your thoughts on the new Focus Areas for AEGEE chosen at Autumn Agora Chisinau? Is there a specific one close to your own interests?

12891537_10153619976624220_5780653828368815916_oThe current CD did an amazing job representing the Network in the best way possible in the development of the new Strategic Plan, a real democratic process. I was at the Ideas Factory in León and it was amazing to see so many people engaged and motivated in the discussions. So I think the new Focus Areas are ready to be a success, and also I am very happy to see that there are candidates for the four future Working Groups and many more people interested in joining them.

To be honest, I feel connected to all four of the new Focus Areas, as I have worked in a related area in one way or another. I am a member of the CEWG, moderator of the GEIG and a member of the Academy. I study Political Science specialising in the European Union and last year Europe on Track had as its main topic “Borderless Europe”. However, I must point out that I was most involved in the development of Equal Rights, as it is the most revolutionary Focus Area and it had a lot of work behind it. That process taught me a lot about advocating and defending your ideals, compromising and being true to your values, as well as leadership. I wish all the members to have such an intense and exciting experience in AEGEE.

There are multiple people running for External Director. Do you see yourself fit for any other CD position?

Yes, in Projects Director, due to my personal experience. However, I would like to point out that the tasks of CD are flexible and in the end all members of the team do external representation. Furthermore, all members of the team are appointed to a number of European Bodies. My preference is to take both a part of the External Relations portfolio and part of that of Projects Director, as I also think that, for the latter, handling all bodies is an impossible task that should be divided.

If you had to choose one aspect of your programme, what would be the most important one?

Connecting AEGEE with the external world and other stakeholders through thematics is the basis of my programme. More specifically, I would like to highlight enhancing our External Relations in all dimensions and contexts of AEGEE, which is more detailed in the answer to your last question.   

What are your personal strengths? And your weaknesses?


     Being a solution-oriented person with creativity to find solutions, taking into account different perspectives.

–      I am a seeker of consensus. I believe dialogue and common understanding are always possible and beneficial, leaving space for everyone to contribute and express themselves.

–      I consider myself a responsible and committed person.


     Due to the fact that I have lived in different cities since I joined AEGEE, my local experience is limited, not having been a board member of any antenna. This experience has allowed me to know the reality of different locals and the diversity of the Network at some extent, though I have a lot to learn and I hope to be given the opportunity to do so from the European Board.

     As I am a very active person and there are many topics that motivate me, I tend to take (too) many tasks, and this is a concern I have if I am elected to be part of the CD, as having too many tasks does not mean that you are performing well in all of them.

      I have to admit that my memory is not my best skill. I always carry a notebook with me to write everything down and set reminders often not to forget anything.

Are there any aspects where, in your opinion, external representation of AEGEE is lacking right now? Do you have a strategy to improve this during your term as CD member? 

In my opinion, the main problem of AEGEE’s external representation is the limited human resources that we have. Of course, this would be solved by developing a Secretariat that would allow the CD to take less bureaucratic tasks and therefore to be able to improve our external representation.

An idea I have discussed with Maarten and that will be probably on the table already before his term is the possibility to create a Committee grouping all the Liaison Officers and Pool of Representatives. Some of the objectives of this initiative will be to coordinate our actions on external representation and more easily share practices, contacts and information, while at the same time individual support to each one of them from the CD is provided.

As stated in my programme, I think many European Bodies (Working Groups and not only), with the support of AEGEE-Europe, could develop partnerships and collaborations with relevant partners in their fields of expertise. I would like to develop, together with them, a strategy to cover this field in an appropriate way for them, providing them also with contacts and opportunities to approach other stakeholders in their topics.

Another thing AEGEE is lacking currently is positions in current issues. Not having a clear position on certain topics of relevance makes us unable to send a clear message or to represent a clear perspective or idea, which ultimately is detrimental for our external relations. Encouraging our members to make research and consultation and take initiative in such positions, with the support of the CD, will empower our members to take ownership of current issues and take also further action, involve a bigger number of people, create awareness on different topics and connect them with AEGEE-Europe, among others.

Questions from the Network

With the juridical statement about late candidatures, explain why we should consider yours valid when you only started to write motivation and programme just on the 28th. Don’t you think that almost one week after the deadline to insert, not to improve, is too much?
17991553_790803074400665_52914864199977808_o (1)According to the current system, candidates are allowed to edit their candidatures a certain number of days after the deadline has passed, a fact that I personally consulted with the Juridical Commission. Due to the fact that the days prior the deadline I was at the
Education for the Present, Democracy for the Future Conference in Budapest, for which I was Content Manager, and a number of unforeseen issues, I was not able to finalise and insert my full candidature in the system by the deadline. This said, I do not think it is my competence to decide whether my candidature should be accepted or not, as it was submitted on time and according to the rules. If the Network thinks this system is not appropriate, a new one should be proposed and voted at Agora to be changed for the future.

In CD you share house and office with Financial Director, Secretary General and President. The work of the CD is really very dependent on the President and her vision for AEGEE. Which candidate do you prefer to work with, Réka or Loes?

First of all, I would like to state that the answer to this question is strictly professional, referring to ideas and working aspects. After having read both candidatures and talked to both of them, I can affirm that Loes and me have a very similar vision of AEGEE for the upcoming year. We share many points and believe in small, concrete changes rather than in revolutionary ideas, and would like to see more action and thematics in our association, for which the implementation of the new Strategic Plan and its first Action Agenda in the upcoming year will be crucial. Furthermore, we see the team dynamics and life in the house in the same way, being her leadership style supportive and empowering, which is, in my opinion, one of the main roles of the president. Finally, I can say we are on the same page as we belong to the same AEGEE generation, willing to provide new energy and ideas to our association.

What is your experience in writing grants?

I was the responsible to write the Franck Biancheri Award Grant from EoT and the CEWG, together with AEGEE-Budapest. I have also been part of the team writing the grant for an international activity for the European Youth Foundation for a training course on gender equality, led by Noemi Lowi and Kasia, together with other GEIG members, which will be submitted in October. As content manager of EoT, I have supervised and provided content for several grants we applied for as a project. I am aware this experience is not enough, and I am willing to train myself in this precious skill in different ways, as I did in November 2016 by doing the online course on Erasmus+ opportunities and grant writing.  

We know that the final task distribution will be done only during KT, but what is the position you would like to cover?

My main preference would be External Relations Director.


You can read her full candidature here

Written by Mireille Voorendt, AEGEE-Utrecht

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