Farewell Words from Lukas Fendel, the Outgoing Executive Director

Dear EYPers,

With just a few weeks left before I will depart from my position as EYP’s Executive Director, I would like to use this as an opportunity to share some thoughts, greetings and “thank-yous”.

Over the course of the past years, it has been fascinating and rewarding to assist EYP members and participants in jointly shaping the organisation and its activities, but also the ways in which the EYP interacts with the world around it.

It has been great to see EYPers taking action to foster a welcoming, safe environment for all young people of good will – regardless of their background and status. It has also been wonderful to see increasing collaboration and experience exchange amongst EYP’s volunteers on all matters pertaining to successful non-formal education. Well-organised processes and practices inside the “EYP world” are certainly important for ensuring the success of the EYP’s educational work.

But the aspect that I perhaps appreciate the most is that we’re seeing an increasing ambition among EYPers to interlink the organisation’s work more with the “outside world”. As of now, there are already several initiatives in the making, and their development will be exciting to follow in the next years:

– Discussing topics that truly matter to young people in their everyday lives – going way beyond the technicalities of policy making and EU institutions;

– Continuing to bring in experts, activists and decision-makers to interact with EYP committees;

– Enabling EYPers to express and communicate their opinions on topics – beyond the format of classic “resolutions”;

– Enabling EYPers to not just understand the complexities of today’s challenges – but also making them familiar with ways to act on them; and embedding EYP activities in local communities;

– Opening up the EYP, and making it truly accessible and welcoming to all young people;

– And many more things that we haven’t even begun to envision yet.

When I started working with the EYP, a recurring “hot topic” among members and leadership was the “non-political”, “neutral” or “non-partisan” character of the organisation. It’s probably safe to assume that in a network spanning 40 countries, this will remain a challenging conversation… But I would hope that we have started to jointly understand the ways in which the EYP is a fundamentally, inevitably and legitimately “political” undertaking. According to Paulo Freire, genuine education is (and has to be) inherently political, as its aim is to liberate and enable people to take part in shaping society. The EYP has so much potential to play an empowering role in that regard!

Moreover, we have come to understand that even European society is far from being a level playing field. So in order to fulfil the EYP’s mission, it will not be enough to simply provide “neutral” spaces for young people to interact. Instead, we will have to take a firm political stance on numerous occasions – embracing diversity, and standing our ground loudly and clearly against discrimination, hate speech, and prejudice.

Finally, I would like to thank all who have made the past three years such a memorable and pleasant learning experience for me. On many instances, I felt truly thankful to experience the dedication, the compassion, the motivation to make not just this organisation, but society at large a better place.

It has been an immense pleasure to work with my team members at the EYP’s International Office, who put so much dedication, commitment and skills into their work. I would like to also thank the members of the Governing Body that I have closely worked with in the past years, who have gone

out of their way to ensure this network continues to grow and develop. Finally, it has been a pleasure and an inspiration to work and interact with so many of the volunteers and members in this organisation – who shape and drive the organisation and its activities on all levels. It has been a true privilege to work together with so many of you, across borders, in a spirit of open-mindedness and friendship!

I would like to end by encouraging you to continue the great work, to not shy away from tackling the big questions and tough challenges, and to keep inspiring and enabling young people to be active citizens.

All the very best and “see you somewhere in Europe”,

Lukas