December 4, 2020

“The EYP spirit lives on in my job by knowing that what I do makes a difference”: Alumni in Advocacy and Non-Governmental Organisations

At an EYP event you learn to advocate for what you think is the best solution for an important issue. Along the way, you might organise an event yourself, lead a team, or even lead the national EYP organisation! Many of our members keep doing so long after they attend their last EYP event. We talked to EYP alumni who advocate and organise for a living!

We had the pleasure of speaking with:

  • Anastasiia Ianovytska (UA), who works for the National Democratic Institute in Ukraine as a Women Lead Program Manager and was active in EYP between 2007 and 2016;
  • Danny Vannucchi (IT), who works as the Deputy Director of Strategy & Impact at Amnesty International and was active in EYP between 2001 and 2007;
  • Matas Pajarskas (LT), who works as the CEO of the organisation “WoodWe” that he co-founded, and was active in EYP between 2012 and 2015.

How have you carried on the EYP spirit in your current job?

Anastasiia: I often joke with my EYP friends that I kept on doing EYP and now have to do EYP stuff for a job. Just the other week I was contributing to drafting the Resolution of the 4th Ukrainian Women’s Congress, which sets the national agenda for gender equality. Drafting a resolution, just like in EYP! I work on promoting women’s political participation in Ukraine, promoting gender equality and combating sexism. Many of these issues are addressed at EYP events but also at its core as an organisation, engaging statistically many more girls than boys. If I remember correctly, I think our ratio of girls to boys in EYP Ukraine 10 years ago was about 70% to 30%. I wonder whether that has changed since. Something that has also caught my interest since I’ve started working in gender equality was how many girls we had in EYP, debating passionately and clearly demonstrating their interest in politics, and how few women end up actually building a career in politics and diplomacy. This is one of those obvious examples of additional barriers women face compared to men, despite being equally skilled and motivated at the start. Coincidentally, at my last EYP session, the Euro-Ibero-American Youth Forum in 2016 I chaired the Committee on Gender Equality. A lot of the academic research I did for that session helped me prepare for a successful job interview the same year for my current job. I also have quite a few former EYPers as my colleagues now. I think the EYP spirit lives on in my job through my openness to others and their diversity, my positive attitude, my commitment to social change, and in knowing that what I do makes a difference. Of course, one must also remember the main EYP rule that when you work hard you also have to play hard. I am happy I have great colleagues with whom I can have so much fun too! Above all, I am able to be myself in all my diversity, and I know that my sincerity is appreciated.

Danny: For me EYP has always been about believing in a world where people can come together from different countries and walks of life to create solutions for a better world by respecting their differences and thinking creatively about the future. As I work every day to create stronger and more effective strategies to protect human rights around the world, I try to keep that vision alive and remind myself that change in the world is possible.

Matas: Organisational management and development is the main spirit I use from EYP! I had the opportunity to re-establish an organisation from zero and this experience was super helpful which gave me understanding what I want to do further in my career. Practical knowledge at such a young age is very helpful for evaluating what you want in life.

What are the most valuable lessons and skills you learned from EYP? 

Anastasiia: I cannot stress enough how much EYP has given me in terms of soft skills that are essential in my career, relationships, in my life in general. I wouldn’t know where to start: if you wanted to, you could learn to do anything in EYP. Literally anything. Leadership, organising events, inter-cultural communication, fundraising, donor communication, PR, media relations, languages, video editing, photography, writing skills, facilitating discussions, debating, providing arguments, negotiating, academic research, public speaking, trainer’s skills, feedback, debriefing, teambuilding, music, dance, cooking – ANYTHING! My EYP experience has also provided me space to reflect on the practices we’ve had as an organisation and appreciate the progress we’ve made. Just the other day I discussed the lack of transparency that used to be in EYP with a friend, how people were selected for leadership positions, the elitism and exclusivity of it. Today, I am so happy and proud to see how much EYP has advanced in terms of transparent and standardised procedures of selection, establishing policies to eliminate sexual abuse. In many ways, the politics inside EYP reflect the politics of the world – and we should be the ones setting a positive trend here. Above all, EYP has broadened my understanding of the many issues in this world, from pension reform to genetic engineering. It helped me appreciate even more the diversity of cultures, opinions and the value of dialogue. I have become more confident in myself and prepared to take on many different challenges that come my way. EYP has taught me that human connections matter. Thanks to EYP I have life-long friendships and a home in every corner of the world where I feel welcome.

Danny: The skills I learnt through EYP have been invaluable for my career. For example, how to facilitate decision-making and understanding group dynamics, negotiation techniques, and team-building – especially in a multicultural environment. Through my years of work with EYP, I was often put in positions of responsibility at a very young age, so at the time it really gave me the confidence to know that through hard work, dedication, and focusing on your own strengths I could achieve great things.

Matas: I was always the kind of organiser-type person. I always was thinking about how to develop the organisation, create events—we even had an office! Because of that I understood that vision with dedication does not require skills in order to achieve goals. Furthermore, another lesson is that leaders with a vision and proof of success build a bigger and stronger community. However, leaders who are not thinking about the future cannot help the organisation grow.

For many EYP Alumni, their involvement in the organisation sparked an interest in the professional path they would eventually follow. For more insights from former EYPers on how to use the EYP experience in the workplace, you can check out the many Alumni Talks that have been held by them!