Ecosprinter FYEG Sec Gen review

This year we have two candidates for the position of FYEG Secretary General: Tomáš Křemen from Czech Republic and Artur Wieczorek from Poland. The Ecosprinter would like to provide you with more information about them than you can read in their official CVs and motivation letters. By doing so we hope to make the decision who to vote for during upcoming GA easier and give the candidates more space for introduction.

We asked the candidates the same set of questions, so that you can compare them better. Here are the answers:

What was your first experience related to the Green movement and why have you decided to get involved?

Tomáš: I’ve known the traditional green values from media and after the rise of far-right populism in the Czech republic, I’ve decided to join the green movement actively through Czech Young Greens who have confirmed my decision by their participative decision-making and good internal atmosphere during the first actions I’ve took part in.

Artur: Actually, my first leadership experience was in high school when I started a Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and invited my friends to join. It was the first NGO I got engaged in. We would read novels, play Role Playing Games and organize LARPs together. Later, during my studies, I got engaged in student movement and I became project coordinator at an NGO that was organizing international youth projects. Then I went to a training about development education and Fairtrade movement and it totally changed my life. It really did. I came back from this training as a huge fan of Fairtrade – which was a very new concept in Poland at that time. I said to myself: I need to do something to promote it – and half a year later I organized my first big project – Fairtrade Festival in Krakow in 2008. Since then I was involved in development education as volunteer, project coordinator and trainer. I also became a climate activist, attended two UNFCCC COPs and I was one of the creators of Polish Youth Climate Network. This activism naturally brought me to Green Party. I know it is the only party that shares these values of global solidarity and equity and that – especially in Poland – it is the only party that treats the issue of climate change and its global implications seriously.

Why did you decide to apply for the Secretary General position and not others like Co-spokesperson or Executive Committee member?

Tomáš: Because it’s position in FYEG. I think that strictly political positions in youth organisation should belong to really young people cause of their enthusiasm and progressivism and not to the persons who are young for 30 or more years. I think FYEG could profit more from my experiences on SecGen position combining executive and administration work.

Artur: My experiences, my motivation and my current life situation make me best suitable for the position of Secretary General. I have already graduated from university and I have several years of professional experience, as well as few years of experience in activism. As an activist I was (chronologically) Jagiellonian University Student Union’s International Relations Representative, Treasurer of Polish Forum of Young Diplomats, International Relations Representative of Polish Young Greens (Ostra Zieleń) and Secretary General of Polish Green Party. In 2014 my term as SecGen of PGP came to an end and since then I was working as freelance trainer, campaigner and recently – as junior academic teacher. I consider the role of Secretary General of FYEG as full-time position and another step in professional development. The fact that I have the necessary experience and I don’t hold any other permanent positions right now ensures that I can concentrate entirely on running FYEG’s office. I believe my role as Secretary General would be daily management of the organization to create a stable and effective working environment for the EC and not so much deciding on political direction of the organization or speaking on behalf of it – which is the role of EC. And for this I have the necessary skills and experience gained during my work for UNDP, international HR company and Polish Green Party.

Could you choose one feature of your character that makes you a perfect candidate for a Secretary General? Why this one?

Tomáš: Teamworking! From my experiences from FYEG and Czech Young Greens it is necessary basis of every project or activity. I’ve coordinated several diverse activities and it was always team work which ensure success. I’ve never worked as individual but always together with other activists.

Artur: Nobody is perfect and neither am I! But I have several features that, I believe, would make me a good candidate 🙂 Among my features that could be useful are: experience in intercultural environment, analytical thinking and good communication skills, as well as being organized and systematic. But if I have to choose one thing that I am really good at and that is unique for me I would probably say: training skills.

I like teaching, I like explaining things to others and helping them understand what I already know. It brings me happiness and It’s not tiring for me.  And I also like learning from others. When I realized it during my studies I started learning how to be a trainer. I got engaged in human rights education, multicultural education and development education. And for the last few years I’ve been doing mainly this: training others on climate change, development and sustainability. Recently I have also written a chapter in teacher’s manual on education for sustainable development and for the last two semesters I’ve been teaching international relations at a private university in Malang, Indonesia. Because of my experience as a trainer I am also comfortable with public speaking and presentations.

This is not something that will be of immediate use for Secretary General. But I hope this additional skill will make my work more interesting – I would be always happy to make a presentation or training for MOs, or to present our work to other organizations. I would be willing to share my knowledge with others – and learn form them, because teaching should be always a two-way process. This is the one feature that I could bring as added value to this position.

What was your biggest challenge as an activist and how did you manage to overcome it (if you ever did)?

Tomáš: It’s hard to pick just one challenge. So I pick the most recent one, for me it’s to let younger activists arise in equal partnership. I hope I’m overcoming this right now and it could be thanks to the patience and trust in them. Sometimes it’s easier and quicker to do some tasks by yourself but for new activists it’s more beneficial to try it by themselves (only by your occasional advice).

Artur: The most difficult experience in my activist career were the European Parliament elections of 2014. I was a Secretary General of the party and a coordinator of on-line campaign. We decided to run from our own lists, not in a coalition – and it required tremendous amount of work and commitment. We had to come up with 200 strong candidates – and as a secretary I had to communicate with all of them. And by polish law we were required to collect at least 70,000 valid signatures to be allowed to run. Also, polish law doesn’t allow for the volunteers collecting the signatures to be paid, so we had to coordinate hundreds of unpaid volunteers collecting signatures on the streets day and night for few weeks! And all of that was coordinated by a very small, underfunded team of people. On top of that, as party’s board we were also running as candidates, so I had to prepare my personal campaign in my spare time.

That was a period of constant stress, frustration, and work under extreme pressure for me. This pressure under which we were working led to many fierce conflicts within the party’s management and I remember it as one of the most difficult moments in my activist career. Sometimes I wanted to run away from it all, but I couldn’t. And already few weeks before the elections I was sure we’re gonna lose.

And eventually we lost. This experience taught me a lot but I would never like to repeat it again. I have experienced the worst side of politics – the hard work you put in, the frustration, competition, quarrels and – the essence of politics – losing the elections. I have also discovered that you work better under pressure only to some threshold, over which you snap. And I have seen many disillusioned people resigning from politics. But I did not. I was burnt-out and I needed a break, I promised myself – never again work so hard – but I also decided not to resign from politics. Because I know that now I have the most important experience a politician can have – I know how to lose.

What was your biggest success as an activist and what was the reason why you managed to achieve it?

Tomáš: It’s establishing strong and active antifascist coalition in Czech republic where Czech Young Greens are inseparable part. When the so called migration crisis arose Czech society and media started to listen to the extreme right populists, they had big demonstrations, etc. Me and few other activists started small blockades of their marches, we continued by creating a coalition of our organisations a started to attract new people for these activities. Nowadays we are able to organise bigger demonstrations than the populists. We’ve partly change the media coverage and therefore also public opinion. We are succeeding cause of the continuity of our work, inclusiveness for new activists and groups and our personal commitment.

Artur: I think my biggest success was organizing the March for Climate and Social Justice during climate summit COP19 in Warsaw. I was a member of the core team responsible for communications and media outreach. I prepared the march communication strategy and public message, contacted the media, advertised march among NGOs and activists from all over Europe. And just one day before the march we had a huge crisis – big international NGOs (Greenpeace, Oxfam, WWF) present at COP19 decided not to attend because of the security concerns (rumour was spread that there can be contra-manifestations and they were afraid of clashes with nationalists). We were horrified when we found out about it – if NGOs present at COP would not attend, it would be a disaster for the march. I contacted several of them and invited them to our office, where we sat together (me, person responsible for march security and representatives of 10 biggest NGOs) and for a few hours in the night before the march and we talked through every single aspect of the march and its security – our procedures, police protection, legal issues. After this discussions the international NGOs were assured we have provided all the security and they all eventually decided to attend the march. I remember that moment as a big success in crisis management. The next day March for Climate and Social Justice was also a success – it gathered over 3000 people, which is a lot for polish standards, and had a very positive coverage in all national media. And the message conveyed was just as planned.

How do you like the idea of living and working away from home? How do you imagine relations with your MO if you become Secretary General?

Tomáš: I don’t perceive Brussels so far away from Prague and thanks to new technologies I can be still in touch with my family and friends. I hope the relations with my MO stay the same, it means I’ll be helping them with their activities after my working hours 🙂

Artur: I’m accustomed to living abroad and travelling frequently, as my studies and work often required it. Between 2005 and 2010 I studied in Krakow, Poland and I also spend a year studying in Singapore. In 2012 I moved to Warsaw to work for UNDP and I lived there for over 2 years. Between 2013 and 2014 I was Secretary General of Polish Green Party, which required a lot of travelling between cities in Poland and the last year (2015-2016) I spent in Indonesia, where I was working as a teaching assistant at university in Malang, East Jawa. So far I have lived in six different cities on two continents and I know that my home is where wi-fi access is 🙂

I was active in my MO for several years, but I no longer have any substantial positions within it. Ostra Zieleń now has new board and new international relations representative. Recently I have been only conducting trainings for younger members of Ostra Zieleń and advising the board on international relations. I think becoming Secretary General will not change these relations significantly and I will still be able to conduct trainings and perhaps advise or consult my MO.

For more info about the candidates visit http://fyeg.org/GA16

Aleksandra Kołeczek

Ecosprinter Editorial Board