“We need to find a new narrative in AEGEE”~ Roberto Meneghetti

AEGEE members across all of Europe will reunite again at another Agora that will take place in Salerno this autumn. However, this one will be special for only one reason. Thirty years ago, the Berlin Wall was torn down by common people who wanted to put an end to the division of the continent in the final moments of the Cold War between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, reaching Germany with the unification of the country on October 1990 as a prelude of European ideals on which AEGEE bases on its existence. As a tribute to that historic event, new bricks on the wall still divide many different people for various reasons will be retired to reach a borderless Europe by statutory event like this every year. 

Of course, this kind of job requires new hands year by year and the Network Commission members have an important role in this task. One of these candidates that want to make his contribution is a young, enthusiastic member from AEGEE-Torino, Roberto Meneghetti, who is presenting his candidature to be a Network Commissioner. We talked with Roberto about his programme and objectives for this year.

Hi Roberto, and thank you so much for your time to speak with us. Could you tell us a little more about yourself? How did you start in this little world of AEGEE? 

Well, it all started quite randomly. At that time I used to volunteer for music festivals and a couple of people invited me to the presentation of this association in Turin. It wasn’t quite clear to me what that was, but it was a chance I didn’t want to waste. Shortly after I have found out a great group of friends, I have become more and more interested in AEGEE and I have decided that going around Europe was the thing, becoming more and more active… and it doesn’t seem to have stopped ever since!

Since you joined in 2016 you have really achieved a lot! The list of what you have contributed to AEGEE seems endless. But what is your most memorable AEGEE experience so far?

Yeah, I have actually realized the amount of stuff that happened when I had to list them out for this candidature! Since this is one of those questions that I love, but also one I would reply to differently each time I am asked, let’s list three of them for convenience!

1) Being organizer in WINE SU in 2017, an event that still has a special place in my heart and which won the best SU award for that year. And it’s not about the prize, it’s about the real magic that surrounded it.

2) Being a trainer for the SU organized by AEGEE-Tarthoven as a representative of POLIG allowed me to really express myself, by giving me the chance to prepare the structure, the content, the topics of most of the workshops there. It was my first time doing so (I had some experience before, but not this extensive!) and I was really glad to receive a lot of positive feedback.

3)Being taken for (and going to) Transsib Vol. 11, which included preparing a booklet with phrases from past friends and AEGEE stories. It was really moving to remember all these moments and feel the support of the people I have met in this adventure! The event itself, well, you must be there to know what it’s about.

What were the most important things you have learnt while you have been a subcommissioner in your network area? 

Having been subcommissioner for Francesca and Gabriele made me aware of how a working format is set and done, and in case of election, I will try my best to set a plan up before the start of the mandate to have a benchmark for my work. In addition I have had the possibility to learn how to communicate with the locals and with a group that cannot meet live (sadly!). Besides, being close to the European level of AEGEE enabled me to understand better how it works, way more than being active just in my local.

There are lots of ideas you defend in your program. One of the most important ones is to improve the recruitment system in AEGEE. What exactly do you think AEGEE and the locals are lacking to attract new members?

Let’s face the elephant in the room; many people have the feeling that numbers in AEGEE are not what they used to be during its “Golden Age”. Is it a disaster? I wouldn’t really say so: in lifecycles it is natural to witness a recoil after a steady growth. The solution? Adapting to the new conditions and avoiding “extinction”. Even though we are witnessing a renovated growth in the Network, this growth risks to be only a temporary trend if we do not take further steps in this direction and systematically change our vision of our impact on young Europeans. AEGEE built its fame as a pro-European association, aiming at destroying those borders which separate us. This claim stays as very true when looking at East. However, this topic doesn’t have as much appeal as before in a borderless Schengen area where travelling without constraints is felt as a given right. Therefore this narrative hasn’t got anymore the appeal it used to have for quite self-explanatory reasons. We need to find a new narrative in our association if we want break our own bubble. Which are our new core values? The SPM has addressed this very answer. It’s now up to us as a Network to reshape the image we want to give AEGEE as a whole. I believe the thematic side of AEGEE has improved a lot in recent times, but I think more can be done at the local level and that is where the Network Commission can provide a contribution, fostering activities and initiatives which can give visibility to the values we stand for.

In order to make the general public more aware of AEGEE, what kind of events would you most desire to organize? Are there any particular external partners you would like AEGEE to cooperate with?

The main idea is that to make AEGEE more relevant to the general public we have to increase our impact. To do so, the most straightforward way is to coordinate between antennae and organise a common effort. I want this to be a bottom-up campaign, so I will directly ask the locals what value is the one they would like to do something for. But let’s give you one practical example which is the one that makes me feel this kind of policy can work: I believe sustainability and environmental issues are a crucial topic, also for the wider audience. A very simple act that can be performed is a clean-up, cleaning waste from a neglected urban area can both be a great way to take care of polluting waste and improving the life of locals. Now imagine doing it not in just one city, but in ten cities, all under a common AEGEE campaign. That becomes relevant. Also, many local associations take care of this kind of actions and cooperating with them can improve the impact of AEGEE also in its networking ambitions. Also, we could cooperate on a wider scale, for example, take F4F, and organise such a campaign together also on the regional level. This is an example, but such a framework can be implemented for any relevant thematic which has enough locals ready to do something for it!

Would you be ready to be a Commissioner for another Network Area as well?

Obviously I would love to be Network Commissioner in the Rainbow area where I have already been Subcommissioner and get on with the work of my predecessors, but I wouldn’t renounce to my position just because I am assigned to another area, it would be quite a pity! In addition, I believe my programme has core values that can be adapted to different needs and situations. 

In case you are not elected for the Network Commission, what are you plans for the future in AEGEE and in general?

(fingers crossed) If I am not elected, I think I would follow another path I have really enjoyed and join AEGEE-Academy. Being a trainer has really been a fulfilling experience and I would recommend to everybody. Making the thematic part of AEGEE cool and accessible to everyone is indeed a great task!