On the 25th and 26th of October, 20 participants from 13 countries came together in Paris to share experience from their respective countries with each other, and also to look together at the future of EBU. The Leadership Exchange Forum (LEF) is a new group within EBU that brings together Directors (or equivalent position) from across the membership. The aim is to facilitate the exchange of good practices from different countries in key areas of life for blind and partially sighted people, and also in terms of organisational development. All this in a view to stimulate learning from each other. The second goal of the Forum is to think strategically about the future of the blindness movement at European level, based on the work undertaken nationally.
Against that backdrop, the meeting in Paris took place in a very hopeful atmosphere. This despite a considerable number of challenges EBU is currently facing. With only one year to go until the next EBU General Assembly, the meeting was considered very timely. When looking at current priorities for blind and partially sighted people in various countries and for EBU, it became evident that there are actually more similarities than differences. While size of the organisations and means of action, advocacy approaches etc. can vary from one country to another, topics such as accessibility, and particularly digital accessibility, employment, new forms of mobility, access to healthcare services, education and leisure activities pose real challenges in almost all countries. This underlines the importance of working closer together, in order to have greater impact for the people we are representing. No doubt, the LEF meeting will help to strengthen cross-country collaboration in many areas of work. But also, at European level, it will help to foster stronger cooperation based on jointly agreed priorities. In that respect, the outcomes of the LEF meeting will inform the content of our future strategic plan to be prepared for, and to be adopted by the General Assembly. And besides the thematic priorities to be agreed upon, the direction of travel of EBU is also up for revision. For example, the question of how to become even more political and vocal vis-à-vis key decision-makers is on the table.
Also, how to practically combine a focus on working at the European Union level with the needs of our members based in non-EU countries has to be worked on. In conclusion: there was consensus amongst participants in the LEF meeting that the coming two years present excellent opportunities for EBU to gain new momentum and build new dynamics aiming at even better representation of blind and partially sighted people in wider Europe.