From 14 to 18 June, EFIL’s Member Organisations – the European AFS Partner Organisations – met in Lisbon, Portugal, for their annual Heads of Office meeting (HOO).  This year’s meeting was a retreat, with a larger focus on the social component than the usual HOO meetings. The quality time spent together was enjoyed by all. Our hotel was ideally located in the heart of the lively city of Lisbon. And of course, throughout our stay in Lisbon, we kept one eye on the developments in the European Football Championships as many of our teams were playing each other, which gave way to some interesting and long “corridor talks” about offside goals, yellow cards, bad referees, and Iceland scoring their first goal ever in an international tournament.

As a new colleague, we welcomed Sonja Kezeric, recently appointed National Director of AFS Croatia. In Lisbon, we also had the pleasure of the company of Kevin Hickey, Director of EIL, the Partner Organisation of AFS in Ireland. From AFS International, Sheryl Tucker attended the meeting.

While getting to know each other better was topping the list of meeting objectives, the group also had an appealing working agenda. Caroline Steyaert, National Director of AFS Belgium Flanders, facilitated a much appreciated day-long interactive workshop on the topic of “motivation”. The training showed how a motivating working environment significantly affects the performance level of our employees, and it also provided tools to consciously work on improving the motivating climate in our offices.

A session focusing on growth, was introduced by Simone Caporali, National Director of Intercultura Italy, whose presentation started with the Historical Program Statistics Visualisation, as shared with the network by the MIU recently. Attention was also given to some initiatives that stimulate growth, including EFIL’s intra-European trimester programme (ECTP) and the promotion of both hosting and sending on the SH cycle.

In her workshops, Sheryl Tucker, Director Marketing and Communications of AFS International, elaborated on building a successful AFS marketing programme, marketing challenges, the AFS Marketing Communications Plan, branding and visibility, generation-Z, AFS website update, etc.

To close the HOO retreat, a group excursion to the neighbouring city of Cascais, the 2018 European Youth Capital, was enjoyed by all. On Saturday evening, the group was kindly invited by AFS Portugal to attend the gala dinner on a boat on the Tagus river, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of AFS Portugal.

A big thank you goes to Ana Fachada and her team of AFS Portugal who was the perfect host of the event and did an excellent job in taking care of the logistics, including selecting superb restaurants for our lunches and dinners. It was hard for all of us to leave behind the Portuguese sun, the great food and the relaxed Portuguese lifestyle, and return to our desks, the e-mails, the host family search and the daily routine of our offices…