Today we are talking with Oenone Thomas – AYCH project coordinator in Devon County Council
What is your role in AYCH project?
Life isn´t always a straight journey for lot of people, sometimes it´s bad luck or good luck. Sometimes unexpected happens and you can just take opportunities and you have to make opportunities to happen. My role is about allowing people to do things they are good at. Not to be giving orders, not to be a dictator but just to facilitate how people can do their best. It is more an awareness and sometimes having to make decisions but the whole collaborative work is about using people strengths well. So I am not trying to do their job, my role is to ensure that everything is working together; it is more like being a conductor in an orchestra.
Is it hard to coordinate so many partners of the project?
It´s impossible in same basis for me to solve the problem, because it is not my problem, it is someone´s else. All I can do is to keep on top of the problem and to try to find a solution. However, you can only do that when people you work with understand the limit of your influence. I try to do influencing then, but there are some things beyond my control, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn´t. You have to be there to listen.
For me in this role there is a European dimension. In Spain you have big unemployment and in UK we don´t have so much. On the other hand, Spain is more productive than UK. So the challenge for youth is slightly different in those countries, but for us all as a planet the challenge is the same. So we need to confront climate change, biodiversity, our society getting older with young people trying to find their place in that society. The challenge is the same, but an immediate experience for youth is slightly different.
What is your favourite part of your job?
My favourite part is working in the transnational events with partners and young people. That´s what AYCH is all about. Working on spread sheets, writing to the Join Secretariat, thinking about risks, that´s all things I do but my favourite is to go to Creative Jam to feel energy among young people and to see results of our work. But a result is just a beginning. Young people change because of it. So for me is the result but for a young person it is very often a start.
What is the essence of the project?
Personally I think this European dimension of the project is essential. It is not always easy. Working collaboratively always sounds great, but sometimes is difficult. If you ask people opinions and you ask your colleagues and young people what they thing about something, then you have to listen to them, to what they thing about it and then somehow you have to agree about what are you going to do and sometimes it is quite a tricky process. People often say that they are collaborative but in reality they are not. People say that, but then collaboration is ok only if it is working as how they see it. So collaboration is always an art, it´s a compromise, but it is also a synergy which makes it very, very powerful. I think with AYCH what we have is all the partners, all the young people have learnt a new way of working. It takes time to actually discover what the essence of the programme is. And the essence is to think about problems before and discovering solutions rather than having technologies and thinking what you can do with them. So it is how you can apply mix of tools and imagination. In the project you feel that you can make a positive difference and it is important to have this feeling, because if you feel powerless, you feel you cannot make a contribution and to make a change you end up depressed and frustrated. It is only when you think I can help, I can do this, I can make a positive difference it makes you begin to use intellect, your skills in a very different way. We all have a contribution that we can make. That realisation makes us think and gives us power to actually make a change. The minute you say to someone don´t worry about that, you can´t do anything, that person would just give up. So I think it´s really nice when young people along with partners, strangers really, come together, make friends, exchange ideas. It´s the same with me and my colleagues. Two years ago I didn´t know Xosé, I didn´t know Eli, any of them. Now I know them very well and it is not just because I have spent time with them, it´s because we are working on a common cause and working on a common cause is very powerful motivator.