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#youthenergy in Brussels: what we learned from our first big EYEN gathering

“After many months of online working, our biggest wish for 2022 is to organise an EYEN Gathering and to finally meet all our volunteer staff!” Do you still remember the special New Year newsletter of the European Youth Energy Network, in which we looked back at our highlights from 2021 and planned for offline team-power and more in 2022? Well, we did it! We set up a small organising team and then finally…between 31 March and 3 April, close to 20 young energy changemakers from the Secretariat and a part of our Member Organisations came together in Brussels for a weekend of co-working and strategising for the year, visits to European institutions and team building fun to strengthen the network!

⚡But wait, why Brussels? Brussels is at the heart of Europe and European policymaking. Yet till now, there was no official association in Brussels representing the views and providing the perspective of young people in the energy field. This is where the European Youth Energy Network comes in, with our team of young energy changemakers based all across Europe! We are the first and only federation of energy-focused youth organisations. We unite and empower them, we advocate together and reshape formal youth engagement towards a just, empowered and collaborative European energy transition. Since spring 2022, the youth-led network is officially established as an international non-profit organisation (“Association internationale sans but lucratif”, AISBL) under Belgian law, headquartered in Brussels🥳🥳🥳 Now, we’ve started gathering offline and despite dark times for Europe, which isn’t leaving some of our volunteers unaffected, we keep working hard on developing the federation into an agile and professional organisation for impact.

European institutions: between transforming the energy system and counting interpreting booths in the European Parliament

After a first informal evening and electrified co-working in the hostel, we spent the first full day between sessions at the European Commission (EC), a visit to the European Parliament, a museum (House of European History) and lots of moments to get to know each other better. Through workshops with representatives of the European Commission we engaged all the team to understand the EU bubble better, and got them excited about European energy policy and youth engagement. 

Did you know that the European Commission (DG ENER, Unit B.5 – Research, Innovation, Competitiveness and Digitalisation) is working on the “Digitalisation of Energy Action Plan” to be presented in October 2022? The action plan will lead the way towards an accelerated digital transformation of the sector and integration of energy systems, which is needed to ensure the shift towards renewables, connected mobility, smart buildings, and a more integrated energy system with consumers at its core. It spans everything from literacy & digital tools to empower citizens to the climate neutrality of the ICT sector; well, the changemakers of EYEN are invited to give inputs on the role of youth and the communication of the action plan (find out more in one of our next articles)! As part of our sessions at the European Commission, we also learned a bit in between the European Green Deal, Energy Union and National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) and we’re looking forward to having more dynamic sessions with clear, practical insights into the work of the EC and some common solution-building at the next opportunity ;) 

Then we made our way through the fffreezing Brussels centre to our next stop – the famous hemicycle (to be precise, one of the two hemicycles who are at the heart of European democracy). At the European Parliament, we received an introduction into legislative processes and got to visit the place. So, let’s test your knowledge: did you know that committee meetings are held primarily in the smaller European Parliament (EP) in Brussels, while the plenaries happen in Strasbourg? Did you know that you need to follow the legislation from the start to influence it via the European Parliament? Or that you can even participate in public hearings of the committees of the EP, including the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, way before a topic gets dealt with in the plenary, and that it’s just so important to know who is who in a committee to successfully approach the influential people and get the voice of youth into the process? After all of this, a late lunch in conversation and audio guide-walks through European history, our brains were fuming with new knowledge and ideas. Determined to make the most out of our time together, we ended the day with some socialising, and a speed friending session in the hostel. 

5 strategic objectives, stories from back in 2019 and sharing spaces

Our second day in Brussels was an ambitious marathon of sessions on the structure & strategy of the federation, membership, communication and advocacy. Our goal was to finally work together in real life, share key knowledge and get everyone engaged on the topics that carry our work forward. Participants had a space to pool and prioritise any existing needs of members, which then would guide the strategic development of the membership & partnership teams in the coming months. The collection of successful stories from the history of EYEN made for some exciting storytime between Canada and Europe (read about the beginning of EYEN in our story!), and inputs on future communication and advocacy strategies completed the day of hard work. We talked about advocacy at the intersection between youth and energy transition, as the rest of our five strategic objectives: coordination, connection, empowerment and education of youth organisations and changemakers. In the end, pizza and more socialising were of course part of the deal. A city walk, coffee and conversations on the next day marked the end of this extraordinary experience before it was time to say “till next time”.

Hot advice for changemaker-team-gatherings 

Are you organising a team weekend for your team? Take a look at what we found important to make sure that our gatherings are a full success: 

  1. Understand your arena better in which you’re planning some big systems change. In our case it was the EU bubble with its policymaking, institutional processes and simply the atmosphere of Brussels :) 
  2. Meet and small talk with others, to find out about their ideas, actions and objectives (in their organisations). Get to know them personally. Do intro rounds and speed friendings with some deep questions. 
  3. Show what is already there, map out the territory and then build on that. Present structure and strategy of the organisation, share definitions and key know-how on the topic to get everyone on the same page. 
  4. Brainstorm and strategize in dedicated sessions. Get inputs through interactive exercises (in pairs & small groups, and with some paper involved) to act as a guide for the next months and activities/meetings to follow. Discuss what was so good that it can’t be forgotten, what is missing and what needs to change. 
  5. Plan for enough free time, for reflection, for debates and teambuilding. For dreaming about future projects and for discussions on how to implement the things just heard.

Greetings from just a part of EYEN! ☝️

And the good news: you can get involved!

We can’t wait to meet for the next EYEN gathering with even more volunteers and members of the federation, and network with civil society organisations and young energy changemakers in Brussels! Follow us on social media to not miss our next articles + intros into our work, and join the team of EYEN-volunteers to contribute to placing youth at the heart of the European energy transition. PS: We will open more positions soon, in the meantime shoot us a mail at info@youthenergy.eu if you have a superpower to contribute. We have big plans and we can only achieve them with a strong team of courageous creatives & communicators, clever engineers & lawyers, visionary policy freaks and cheerful team leaders  :)