Being responsible for Citizens of Europe was a pleasure! The role offered many challenges and meant thus an opportunity for personal development. However, it did not only mean to welcome people in our great office, to chair the board meetings, to open international conferences or to have the responsibility for a budget which became huge in the last years. The following three aspects describe the true challenge in my point of view:
- Dealing with frustrations: Any successful project needs motivated people, a convincing concept and funds or other resources. Often one of these is missing – or not available in time. Over ten years up to two thirds of thinking, researching, meeting, talking and planning did not result in what was intended. So the remaining third, which was successful, had to suffice as a source of motivation.
- Trying to keep group dynamics in a balance: If one needs to keep a group together and assure continuity, both a long-term orientation and a certain distance to current happenings is required. When teams are enthusiastic, a leader needs to prepare them for problems occurring sooner or later – otherwise, frustration will hit them harder than necessary. When the general mood is low, one needs to move on, to show perspectives, to give a good example of persistence.
- Taking things personal: Citizens of Europe is based on voluntary work. Making it successful meant to identify people’s intentions, to understand their motivation and to accept changes in their lives. Therefor I tried to be close to the active members, to be sensitive and open towards them. Thus, as a chairman, I felt the need to be available for many people and to support them like a friend, even if sometimes it went beyond my actual capacities.
I always believed in a very personal approach. What really makes a difference in all activities and projects is neither the size of events nor the amount of result papers and documentations produced. The only thing that really matters is what happens to people: what they experience, what they take home as inspiration, what they achieve regarding self-esteem, what widens their horizons and what encourages them to go where they would not have gone otherwise.
I have been responsible for Citizens of Europe during the first 10 years of its existence. This period of beginnings, of trial and error, and of growth had its specific characteristics and demands.
I am aware that my successor Tobias Kunow has his own approach, strategies and personal features. His term also will be characterised by different challenges. Knowing him for six years already, I am confident that he can contribute what Citizens of Europe needs now. I wish him all the best, will do what I can to support him and his board colleagues, and encourage all other members to do so as well.