JA Members in Europe have a long tradition of organising events that bring students together from across the continent. These events created a mutual focus for participating members and gave them a fantastic opportunity to bring staff, supporters, volunteers, and especially young people all together at the same time and place.
All around the continent
The unique aspect of these events is that they are rotating from member to member. These are events which are understood to be a meeting place for the network and a theatre for its achievements. That is why JA members have always insisted that the event should be under the name “JA Europe” and it has always been JA members as a group that have made the collective decision about who will have the privilege to host the event on behalf of the others.
Hosting the events has become a matter of pride and opportunity as much as solidarity. Host members can show others what they have achieved; they can bring important recognition to their supporters as well as create interesting new fundraising opportunities; finally they take their turn to “give back” and welcome the rest of the European family to their “country” as their peers did before them. Thus the events were never seen as just a member affair, though of course they always brought with them a local flavour; instead they were seen as special moments during the year when individual members could demonstrate that they are part of a larger network.
The events have had another benefit, which has been to maintain the strength and quality of the programs on the ground.
Without these events, programs like the START UP Programmme would likely have been hugely divergent from one member to the next. Growth in these programs would also not have been as strong. By maintaining a European dimension to our programs, through such events which everyone joined and shared experiences, the network was able to keep a certain degree of consistency and unity.
These events are a crucial part of what sustains our network, maintains program quality and assures growth. They are also a powerful way to motivate teachers, staff, sponsors, board members and volunteers as well as keep all of us in closer personal touch with each other. They are the platform that we use to communicate our message to policy-makers, business leaders and government. Furthermore these events give students what may be one of their first opportunities to interact with their peers from many other places. So, these events have significant direct and indirect benefits to everyone in the network.
Quality and sophistication
Over time, these events have become bigger and more sophisticated. Any special event raises issues regarding funding and staff capacities. It will be the on-going challenge of JA Europe and its members to ensure that these unique events continue in the special collective “European” spirit that they began.