The 2018 meeting for Programme staff of EFIL Member Organisations was hosted in Sofia, Bulgaria, by our Affiliate Member Organisation, AFS Intercultural Exchanges Bulgaria. It was already the 11th edition of the annual EFIL Programme Directors meeting. An enthusiastic group of more than 30 participants and facilitators spent three intense days of workshops, information sessions and discussions aiming at better understanding each other’s realities, sharing best practices and learning from each other, looking for common solutions and improving the overall programme quality. Like every year, ample time was set aside for the popular Partner-to-Partner meetings to allow for concrete bilateral discussions. The meeting agenda also included some interactive sessions with focus on several topics of relevance as identified by the participants themselves prior to our meeting, incl. trimester programmes ECTP & PEACE, alumni initiatives, school relations, diversification of destinations, inclusiveness of our programmes,  support for developing and struggling partners.

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We were happy to have with us in Sofia Efrem Fisher and Hristo Banov from AFS International, while Annika Wolfgram from Germany represented the Global Prep working group. Efrem provided an overview of the new AFS Network Strategy, leaving room for questions and discussion. Hristo focused on an overview of the products and tools available to the AFS Network through the recently formalised partnership with Salesforce. Both Efrem and Hristo facilitated sessions with an update on the PALM project (Participant Application & Lead Management), including a presentation of the developments around the general content of the AFSP programme applications that have been promoted and conceptualised as a result of the PALM project. In a session facilitated by Annika, the Global Prep format was presented, from its inception, to co-creation, to becoming a critical part of the next AFS Network strategic growth plan. The presentation was supported by best practice examples from Turkey (Cemre Akin) and Hungary (Diana Deszti-Rosta). Also participating in our meeting in Sofia was Susana Chamorro of AFS Paraguay. Her presence was highly appreciated by all participants and she was given the opportunity to briefly introduce the programmes of AFS Paraguay. Participants enjoyed meeting the Board members and some of the volunteers of AFS Bulgaria. A special thank you goes to AFS Bulgaria for arranging on the last afternoon a visit to the National Trade and Banking School, followed by a guided walk through the city center and a much loved Bulgarian dinner in a cosy restaurant. Thanks a lot to all the participants for actively taking part in our meeting and for creating a most pleasant working atmosphere. Looking forward to next year’s Programme Directors meeting!

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