In AIESEC, each country operates completely independently from the others. There is nothing that forces one country to work with another, unless both countries gain something from the relationship. Mostly in order to develop our exchange program and products, but also for other reasons, many countries make agreements with other AIESEC countries – country partnerships – to move away from the sometimes random nature of single exchange matching, which works something like a marketplace.
Why are these partnerships established? Further, many of these country partnerships do not work effectively. In fact, many fail completely. Why do some country partnerships succeed while other’s fail? Why do countries choose other countries to partner with? What does it take to develop a high quality country partnership?
One successful partnership – the China India Partnership.
“The Chindia partnership was established in 2007 because there appeared to be market potential in both countries, simply because India is the biggest TN providor and China is the biggest EP providor, both countries could raise more than it they could previously match.There was a golden opportunity to do exchange in a big scale and a more efficient way.
While in the beginning it was very MC driven,it is now much more LC driven, as LCs invest in HR and financial resources to improve matching efficiency.
As an MCP, the partnership represents the most important partner in terms of strategic development and exchange growth, together, we created a lot of new products and new approaches to developing exchange. While there were some challenges, especially in terms of cultural differences, we found the strengths of each country matched. Both countries are emerging markets, and have managed to grow together with the same ambition and attitude towards success.”
-Roxie Ren, former MCP of China
A different sort of partnership – The Big 5.
Not all partnerships are based purely on exchange. The Big 5 partnership is an LC level partnership organized by five LCs who exist in similar circumstances- LC Prague in Czech Republic, LC Bratislava in Slovakia, LC Vienna in Austria, LC Bucharest in Romania and LC Budapest in Hungary. All these LCs are the biggest in their country – in almost all cases by far the biggest. For instance, LC Prague does twice the exchange of the second biggest LC. Budapest University does about four times more than the closest.
“The Big 5 cooperation was developed to learn from each other in areas we are strong at, to create some synergy effect in managing the committee -exchange was not a principal goal.
I perceive the biggest benefit the challenge from other LCs, creating a sense of competition. Also we learned a lot, saw what is working in AIESEC Prague very well and what we can learn from others. Also it was great to cooperate with foreign LCs to learn things.
Challenges included communication – everybody was very busy, ensuring people kept the promises they made and In trying to realize a common X project – it ended up without any results, hope it will be done again and next EBs will learn from the mistakes.”
-Martin Gasko, former LCP of AIESEC Prague.
The Problems with International Virtual Communication
The internet makes the world a smaller place – virtual communication tools have revolutionized the speed with which we can communicate across borders. The growth of social communication is proof of this – communities of people from all over the world interacting in things they are interested in.
There is one major problem with this though – anyone who has tried to set up a country partnership simply using virtual methods will tell you one things – it doesn’t work!
What is the break down here? In most cases, it is the need for the personal that is lacking. It is difficult to feel a sense of commitment to words on a page, or a disembodied voice over skype. Face to face interactions, and better still social ones that build a sense of camaraderie are often necessary to build country partnerships. More recently, another break down in the process has begun to be dealt with. Often, it is MC level people creating these partnerships, where as it is EBs that deliver on them. There are many points in which an MC level partnership can break down. A track at the recent CEEMOS conference aimed at solving this, by putting EB level exchangers together, so that the people doing the work were making the agreements. It has been reported that many of the agreements to come out of this conference have been extremely successful so far.
There has to be a connection. You cannot simply make an agreement across borders and cultures virtually. This strips the process of true human interaction. You have to Move people to Move people. For better partnerships, and increased levels of exchange, it is important to leave your borders and go meet the people you’re partnering with. Mobility, among AIESECers is key, to increase the amount of people we send on exchange.