Did you know the next European Planning Meeting is happening from the 24th to the 27th of February 2022? No? Then you really should read the following article to learn what it is all about, and why these kinds of meetings are so important for all us Aegeeans! Teddy van Amelsvoort, the President of AEGEE Europe and Teodora Panus, the Vice-President are answering all of the important questions for us in the following.
Hey Teddy, and first of all thank you for answering some questions for us. Can you introduce yourself, and tell us what an ‘European Planning Meeting’ is?
Teddy: Of course! So, for those of you who do not know me, I am currently the President of AEGEE-Europe and a member of the Comité Directeur responsible for Strategic Planning and Action Agenda drafting. Together with the rest of the Comité Directeur and the Strategy Committee, we are working on this year’s European Planning Meeting (EPM). In the second part about the topic of the EPM, you will hear Teodora, the current Vice-President and External Relations Director as that is part of her portfolio.
So now, let’s get back to the topic at hand: the EPM. The European Planning Meeting is the largest thematic conference AEGEE has, and it takes place each year. Essentially, it has two parts: a thematic and a planning one. During the thematic part, there are numerous sessions, workshops and discussions about a topic. This year the topic is Innovation in Democracy. The planning part is to draft the Action Agenda for the following year.
What kind of AEGEEans usually participate in ‘European Planning Meetings’, and what are the goals they are working towards during these meetings?
Teddy: There is a mix of AEGEEans that take part in EPMs. In general, there are either members who want to share their ideas and experience about the Focus Areas we have and the direction AEGEE should take, or those that are not yet experienced but wish to learn more about the different topics.
Can you explain to our readers what the ‘Action Agenda’ is and how it is created? Why is it important?
Teddy: The Action Agenda is the yearly implementation plan for the Focus Areas we have. It consists essentially of short-term realistic and measurable goals for AEGEE as a whole to achieve (by both Locals and European Bodies) that are needed to realize the long-term aims of AEGEE as mentioned in our Strategic Plan.
Creating the Action Agenda is quite a long process, with the European Planning Meeting being at the heart of it. Before the EPM, we gather input from the Network and our members about what they would like AEGEE to work on the following year and what they find important. Like this, we make sure that it is as representative of our entire Network as possible.
During the EPM we start drafting the Action Agenda based on the input of the participants and the Network gathered before the EPM. After the EPM, the draft Action Agenda is finalised by the Comité Directeur and the Strategy Committee before it gets feedbacked once again by the Network. And finally, we come to the Spring Agora where we discuss the proposed Action Agenda and ratify it.
How important do you think ‘European Planning Meetings’ are in general for AEGEE?
Teddy: The ‘European Planning Meetings’ are very important, as it is the way to plan short-term goals that move us from our current state to our desired future one. The opinions of our members are essential, as they are the ones who are working on helping us to reach that state.
The ‘European Planning Meeting 2022’ is another event that will be held online because of the pandemic. By now, are you and AEGEE-Europe already used to these kinds of events, or do you believe that an actual in-person event somewhere would be more productive and fun?
Teddy: Online and offline events are of course very different, but it always depends on the participants on how productive and fun the event will be. Eitherway, we try to do our best to make sure the AEGEE spirit is there in whatever format we have our events. The disadvantage with ‘online’ is that it is not as easy to keep the discussion going as you normally would have with offline events. But we work with what we have, while trying to keep our members safe —that is the important thing in our eyes. Likely as you, we keep our fingers crossed that the next EPM will be offline. If you want that, do not hesitate to apply during the next Open Call!
Teodora, thank you for taking over the part of answering now! The specific topic of the meeting this year is ‘Innovation in Democracy’. What exactly is meant by this? What can the participants expect to learn, and what are the specific areas to be discussed?
Teodora: ‘Innovation in democracy’ is a very broad topic to discuss. This is why we are trying to divide it into three categories to guide people through it:
1. General – What is democracy? How do participatory structures work, and how can young people be involved?
2. Current situation – How is the current situation worldwide affecting the democratic developments? What can be considered as an innovation in terms of democratic processes? How does social media and forced digitalisation impact the process? (Little spoiler, we have a fun session prepared that a lot of you might enjoy!)
3. Future of democracy – How can we impact the current situation, and what innovations today can be considered the normality of tomorrow?
Why is ‘Innovation in Democracy’ important and necessary nowadays? Which are the aspects of democracy that can be improved especially in Europe?
Teodora: This is a very interesting question, but I’m afraid if I answer it here there will be nothing to be discussed during EPM. :D
AEGEE is a network full of young people with innovative minds. What would be the best outcome from the ‘European Planning Meeting 2022’? What can we all do to improve Europe’s democracy?
Teodora: Stand up against the inequalities and shortcomings that you see. If the thematic side of the EPM can help our AEGEEans to broaden their views on how we can innovate and leave a mark —at least in our small communities—, then we can consider it a success.
The change starts with us and our actions, so the moment you have an idea, share it, work on it and see how far you can go with it. This might sound very cliche, but it is true.