“Communication is the key” – is the magical sentence that works” ~ Hanna Alajoe

Comité Directeur Member for 57th Agora AEGEE-Europe

With the Agora right around the corner we at The AEGEEan are interviewing the candidates to give you an small insight into who the person is behind the face. Here we have with us Hanna Alajoe, running for the CD member position of AEGEE-Europe.

Can you say something about yourself? What was the moment you realized AEGEE is for you?

I am Estonian, 25 years old, a student, been in AEGEE for 6 years – in the local

board and (main) organiser of many events, in the Europe on Track project as both the Project Team member and ambassador, in the Network Commission as the Speaker. This is my AEGEE introduction but doesn’t really say too much about me personally, for some more information about myself

My favourite ice cream flavours are mango and dark chocolate – the ones that are always vegan (in Italy at least). I have one tattoo with the planet Earth. I currently have two wisdom teeth left. I realised AEGEE is for me the very first time I went to an info event of AEGEE-Tartu.

CD position requires teamwork in AEGEE, how do you see yourself fitting in a team? What are some of your skills that would keep the team motivated?

As I have worked in many different teams before in AEGEE and externally, I know I am a good team player and I really enjoy working in a team. In my previous teams, I have worked both as the leader and a team member and I really don’t mind either. I find it very important within teamwork to find a balance between being task-oriented and relationship-oriented. I am a bit perfectionistic and put a lot of emphasis on getting great results, but I have learned through time that it is not always the best way to work. By now I consider myself to be quite good in keeping track of the progress and pushing for results but at the same time giving

space and support to team members when that is needed instead. Good team building is definitely a very important part of teamwork and I do enjoy that a lot!

Say, there are some policies that you do not like but they go through in consensus. How do you see yourself compromising with the decision?

If there is already a consensus reached then there is no place for me to argue for a compromise. In that case, I would just have to accept the result, as it is obvious that not always the team’s decision can be identical to my ideal one. To avoid disappointment, there needs to be a discussion before the vote is taken, so that everyone can voice their concerns beforehand.

What area of AEGEE would you like to focus on as a member of the CD? What are some of your skills that help fit this role?

I would like to work with projects. I have been linked with this part of AEGEE recently, working on “Europe on Track” for 1,5 years. This helped me to become more knowledgeable about AEGEE projects and as EoT is this year linked to an external project “My Europe, My Say”, I learned a lot about both external and internal side of AEGEE projects. In addition, at times I worked closely with the current Projects Director, Viola Bianchetti, and got to know her tasks better. During my time in AEGEE and at my job in the Ministry of Social Affairs of  Estonia, I have worked with many different projects, events, teams etc and have developed myself in many useful fields: project management, time management, delivering NFE training, administration of an NGO, budgeting, leadership, mediating etc.

A CD member requires meditating skills to work with working groups and local bodies, and there’s bound to be conflict. In these situations, how would you bring two contradicting bodies to a negotiating table?

“Communication is the key” – is the magical sentence that works here and in most situations in life. I would approach both the bodies neutrally and remind them that there is no way to solve a conflict without talking it through. A thorough discussion with an external mediator, be it a CD member or someone else, might even take two contradicting bodies from conflict to cooperation to new ideas and initiatives. In my previous experience within AEGEE, most conflicts have come from miscommunication or misunderstanding and can often be solved with calm discussions, a bit of time and probably a skype call instead of

emails or text messages which leave a lot for interpretation.

Reading about your motivation, and after being a member for six years, you decided to present yourself as CD candidate. Why now and for which position are you candidate?

As I have mentioned in my motivation, I have been thinking about being a candidate for CD since 2016 but I never felt as ready as I do now. I have gained various experience in AEGEE, working both on the administrational and thematic side of the organisation, getting to know the network, the European level and the ins and outs of AEGEE. I have spent also some time working outside of AEGEE which gave me many valuable skills and even more motivation to continue working for AEGEE which I truly love. I am running for the position of

a CD member and I am hoping to take on the portfolio of projects, as this is what I am most passionate about and what I feel prepared for.

Let’s go to the program. One of the things you defend is the organization of open thematic events to attract new members in AEGEE and to give it more visibility. Is there any idea of an open event that can be an example of making real this initiative?

Yes, definitely! There have been many amazing events in past years that were open for non-AEGEEans as well. Y Vote Conventions are one great example of this with having actually most participants from outside AEGEE. They’re also a great example because they mostly had a very low fee and/or reimbursement for travel costs, which makes it more accessible for young people from different backgrounds. On the other hand, there have been great events on a more local level as well, for example, the conference “Citizenship at its Grassroots” Organised in collaboration with AEGEE-Warszawa and European Citizenship

Working Group, also had about half of the participants from outside of AEGEE.

Another point is linked with the support of thematic bodies and the continuity of funding. What were the difficulties in both fields and how can it be done easier in following years?

I see this as two different questions. So firstly, from my external perspective, I believe that the CD has done a great job supporting thematic bodies this year. One of the problems that I do see though, is the burnout of team members of thematic bodies. As I shortly mentioned in the candidature, I believe that including knowledge transfer live meetings and scheduling project management/leadership/teamwork (etc) trainings and team building in the schedule of the first live meetings of teams is very important and could help improve the situation and help us reach our goals. I believe that having training would help people be more prepared for the job, unite the team to be more motivated and thus avoid losing team members and creating a big burden for the remaining ones.

Secondly, I believe that the previous CDs have in my external opinion done a great job also with the funding by getting big institutional grants for AEGEE to help us reach our goals and make the events more accessible. I really believe that this is something that needs to be the focus for continuity and can also be developed further. Something to improve would be the fundraising through public and private foundations and other non-EU sources. Right now,

AEGEE most often works with Erasmus+ grants that are partially funded and need co-funding from other sources to bring the project alive.

Continuity of funding is also an important factor in strengthening the secretariat, to make sure we can hire professionals to support the CD. Currently, AEGEE-Europe has 3 project officers and an assistant to the Financial Director in the head office, which is all thanks to the amazing effort from previous CDs, which should only be developed further in the future.

Another important point is a stronger thematic content due to the fact that many conferences took place about many different topics (mental health, sustainability…). Could all these conferences be opened for non-members who could be future members?

Certainly so. The same examples that I named before about Y Vote and AEGEE

Warszawa + ECWG can also be mentioned as good practices here. These events are very valuable for increasing the reach in the society to get to our goals and gaining more visibility for AEGEE, it’s thematic content and for the organising locals.

If you are not elected, what are your plans for the future with AEGEE? Would you present your candidature again in the Spring Agora?

I believe that this is the perfect moment for me to run for the position of a CD member, I feel confident that I have enough experience and motivation to dedicate this year fully to AEGEE. But I can’t know ahead what the future will bring in case I don’t get elected. Certainly, I will not leave AEGEE abruptly, as it is obviously very dear to me, but I do believe I wouldn’t apply for CD again if this were the case.