The Mondragón experience as an IVY Volunteer

It’s the 28th of April and as I take a glance at the window, I can contemplate the emerald green landscape that surrounds the Basque town of Arrasate (Mondragón in Spanish); we are listening to one of the most interesting presentations I ever heard about “The Mondragón experience” and how workers there created one of the largest and most significant experiences of co-operative organizations and workers’ self-management anywhere in the world.

I’m really focusing to understand the speaker’s Spanish in order to take notes, as I proudly refused the interpretation headphones kindly offered to me by Carmen, one of the city hall’s representatives. I am surrounded by European professionals from 9 countries and they are all eager to ask our speaker about the renewable energies cooperatives and citizens engagement in becoming shareholders of the cooperative they work in. The ghost-grey mist from the last days seems to slowly dissipate as we are absorbed by the triumphant entrance of Udalaitz Mountain, proudly rising above the clouds and dominating the town.

You may wonder, how does this relate in any form to IVY?

Let’s start by rewinding the tape to a couple of months ago.

I am Roxana, at the moment based in Lille and finishing my European Affairs Master’s Degree; it’s the last weeks of University and, while anxious about exams and already nostalgic about this being our last student experience, we feel ready to dive into the labour market as young professionals. Today I’m standing at the rear of the classroom; I catch a glimpse of my classmates as I start to reflect at what the future holds for us: X is doing the Schuman traineeship, Y has applied for an Interreg North-West internship, Z will have a position at the European Investment Bank… And me? I know that I want to have a professional experience within the European projects field and I recently applied for an IVY near Lyon for a project whose rather quirky name drew my attention: SHREC; it is funded by Interreg Europe and it revolves around good practices related to renewable energy. It is a topic that I’ve come to get more and more interested in since the Green Deal and the push to rethink our future in a more sustainable manner.

Fast forward two weeks: I get a call from the organisation manager who tells me I am accepted and that I should be starting two weeks later. What follows is days packed with phone calls, e-mails, documents, internet researches, house visits, and finally, two weeks later I am in Lyon, ready for my first day in the host organisation.

It is called AURA-EE and it is a regional energy and environment agency located near Lyon. It aims to promote, co-ordinate and develop programmes and actions in favour of sustainable energies in the building and transport sectors, climate change mitigation and adaptation, environmental protection and sustainable development.

As an IVY project partner my missions are mainly related to the SHREC project.

Since my arrival I have been able to participate in the drafting of the Action Plan, the document that summarizes the impact that the project had so far and the real actions to be undertaken by the organisation in the next phase of the project.

Then, I participated to the Spanish partner’s regional meeting that took place in the marvellous city of Arrasate/Mondragon. Apart from the beautiful landscape I might have let some hints about earlier, we were presented with the partner’s good practices in the field of energy transition and many initiatives and projects were showcased during the three-days meeting.

I also had the chance to assist to the Steering Committee which took place in the beautiful city hall of Arrasate. It allowed me to understand how partners of a project organise and discuss together their own progress, the mutual problems and possible solutions, as well as the upcoming strategies for the next phase of the project.

Thus, one month of my volunteer experience has passed, and as I look from the bus window on our way to the airport, I can’t stop thinking about the inspiring projects and people we met in Mondragon, be it partners, stakeholders, or ordinary Arrasate citizens. As a team, we also feel a bit of pressure on our shoulders: AURA-EE is holding the last partner’s meeting next month and I’m motivated to put the necessary work in order to make it a successful and inspiring event.

Needless to say, I am enjoying this experience and I am excited for the next steps and missions that I hope will allow me to delve deeper into the knowledge of European programmes and projects!

Roxana, IVY Project Partner for the SHifting towards Renewable Energy for Transition to Low Carbon Energy – SHREC at Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Énergie Environnement Agency (AURA EE)

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