“I have a vision of what society should be and I will work with every tool accessible to me to realize it” ~ Leonardo Manganelli, PAWG Candidate

Hey Leonardo, thank you so much for your time. How did you end up becoming involved in AEGEE?

Actually it’s kind of a weird series of events, I had met an AEGEEan (without knowing that she was) at a Model United Nations. The week after I met her, I saw her helping at a Pulse of Europe Demonstration and I offered to help with the little things. Through that I was introduced to the existence of AEGEE and the rest is history.

You have been quite active in AEGEE, being on the board of AEGEE-Frankfurt am Main and being a part of a lot of European bodies, what are some of the most important things you’ve learned? 

I have indeed been active in quite a lot of bodies, one might in fact say too many. If my memory serves me right overall it has been AEGEE-Frankfurt a.M., Y Vote, EoT 7, POLIG, PRC and Netcom(subcommie). I don’t think you’d even have enough space to write down everything I’ve learned throughout these past years, especially considering how I essentially went from 0 to 100 really fast. However, if I were to take the top 3 learning points then it would be the following:

i) I learned what my limitations are. When I first joined AEGEE I was so extremely motivated to join every body I could, but I soon realised how unproductive that is. One cannot be a one-man army in AEGEE. It’s not good for the network and it’s not good for one’s mental health either. 

ii) No team is similar to the other, you cannot expect group dynamics to be the same by doing similar things you’ve done in other teams. In the same way in which everyone brings a new set of skills, they bring a new set of reactions to various things.

iii) Everyone in AEGEE has the potential to become active, you just need to push the right button.

You want to be the coordinator of the newly established Political Activism Working Group of AEGEE, why do you think AEGEE has a need for this Working Group? 

When I first joined, it was in a local whose main aim was to be thematic, putting a focus on self-development and content. That’s what I liked about AEGEE, this potential of becoming active and essentially promoting anything as long as you have a concrete plan. However, when I got to the European level, I first felt that AEGEEans being actively engaged in society was rather the exception than the norm and in my opinion this needed to change. It’s one of the reasons why I applied to join Y Vote before anything else (which was also lucky timing I could say).

During the project I realised that my assumption on activism was correct but that I had misjudged the reason for it. I initially thought that people didn’t engage because they didn’t care or that they didn’t have time, but I now see that I was wrong. I observed several reasons why people don’t engage, examples being:

i) People don’t know how to be active in society

ii) People are not inspired by the current topics that AEGEE promotes

iii) Some people are scared that increasing activism will lead to increased fraction in AEGEE.

So these are all very different problems but all things that need to change, AEGEEans need to know how they can represent themselves. They need to know that if they are not inspired by something that already exists that they can be the ones who start it. They need to know that being an activist and standing up for what you believe doesn’t mean that it is going to create division. Personally I have a lot of friends I disagree with politically but that’s not stopping us from going for drinks on Fridays, so I know it’s possible. So this very simplified explanation is why AEGEE needs this working group.

What is the biggest thing you want to achieve with this Working Group and how are you planning to reach this? 

Impact, take the motto which we established for Y Vote “Develop, Empower, Involve” I think this could in fact be the leading thought for anything activism based in AEGEE and it could be considered as the best target.

What use is a position paper written by one expert inside of AEGEE if there aren’t people ready to stand behind it, are able to civilly discuss it and promote it ? I can tell you, it’s useless because as I stated before one person can only do so much on their own.  

Do you see yourself as a political activist? Why? 

(Laughs) Would I be applying if I didn’t? Yes! Of course. I’m no super activist though, I don’t go actively campaigning for every single issue. As to why, I have a vision of what society should be and I will work with every tool accessible to me to realize it. Seeing as I am not a decision maker, I’m no bureaucrat, state actor or CEO of a company, if I want to enforce change I must be an activist.

It seems as if young people are less and less able and willing to advocate for their rights. How would you like to change this? 

I don’t think I can fully agree with that statement. Young people are surely less willing to advocate things that don’t seemingly impact them as much as other things but once they realise that it is important for them, it’s a whole different story. In a sense that’s also something we’ll need to tackle.

I generally think that convincing people to be active is not harder than inviting them out for a drink. However, if Y Vote and Europe on Track have taught me anything it is that the hardest part is finding the niche interest, from there in fact it goes rather smoothly and quickly. So essentially we will need to show people how politics is connected to everything we do, one cannot be above politics because inevitably in one way or the other politics is going to affect them. 

How do you want to get members of AEGEE to get politically active and informed? 

We’ll need to play around a bit with archetypes of AEGEEans, as I previously mentioned, people get motivated by different things, this means that you can’t just have one strict plan to approach this issue. It is of course extremely important to know one’s history when it comes to politics so we will also try to incorporate important events that occurred in civil society to kind of motivate people, showing how change is in fact possible in every society. 

Of course there’s nothing better than in person training, ideally we’ll have at least one “Academy” if corona permits, where we will get to train people in this. All the materials we create should then of course be publicly accessible after they are tested and refined allowing the people who participated to become multipliers to increase the effect of the Working Group on the local level

With regards to social media, providing information will most likely be the focus. I have a few ideas but they’ll need to be tested for efficacy before I can truly say that they are plausible. One idea is to create a short video every month with all the most important events that have happened in Europe, this will of course require a lot of help from the network but I think that it should be possible, otherwise a comprehensive post should do it too.

What are your next objectives in case you will not be chosen for the Political Activism Working Group? 

I am going to apply for Europe on Track 8, I will definitely also apply to become a team member of the working group anyway. If those don’t work out I will take a little break from AEGEE and focus on personal projects for a while, unless I come up with a fantastic idea which I can implement.