Paolo Barilari, FELCA President
The following interview is an unabridged version of the agency association Q&A that appears in the November/December 2021 issue of StudyTravel Magazine.
Talk us through the last 18 months.
Felca ‘s President and Council were elected in September 2019. The term of office is four years, with the next elections scheduled for September 2023. In these two years of my presidency there has been no change in the membership of the Board.
What has FELCA achieved or implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic?
During these long months of the pandemic the role of FELCA, as well as the role of all national agent associations and school associations, has grown and become more evident. A global crisis like the one caused by Covid-19 has stimulated a global response from all actors in our sector. If we want to see a positive side to the pandemic, it is that it has certainly confirmed and made evident the role of national associations. A growth in awareness and in the importance of associations, that I believe will continue even after covid will finally disappear.
Aided by technology, meetings between associations have intensified and this has consolidated a common ground for discussion that has also opened up issues that had been floating around unresolved for some time. I am thinking for example of the payment system, contracts, reimbursement policy, insurances.
Tell us about your recent collaboration with ALTO.
The collaboration with ALTO Where Leaders Meet (ALTO) is based on mutual help in launching surveys on the economic reality of agencies at this time of crisis, and also on the future development prospects of our work. But, in addition to the collaboration with ALTO I am pleased to announce that the FELCA will soon open two discussion panels with the IALC – International Association of Language Centres (IALC) schools. One will discuss on the escrow accounts system and the other the hypothesis of a global contract. The choice of IALC is significant. IALC is an international association of high-quality schools and this will allow us to talk about these two very important topics to schools of different countries with different problems.
Have you been able to promote/grow the FELCA brand at all? What plans are there for this in the future?
FELCA does not have the economic strength to promote itself globally, so there is the action of the national associations in each country. Within our sector, however, FELCA’s increased activity, also stimulated by the emergency, has certainly served to put the association’s name in the spotlight. At the moment, with Covid still in place, FELCA’s main actions will be to increase the number of affiliated associations and to communicate more directly with all the individual FELCA-accredited agencies.
Why should agencies form national associations? What are the benefits?
Bringing the agencies of a single country together in national associations gives them greater bargaining power vis-à-vis institutions, especially national ones, and makes all member agencies grow through discussion and joint work. I am sure that there is not a single agency that is part of the national associations within FELCA that can say that being part its own national association has not been fruitful and enriching. In the same way, being part of FELCA broadens the perspective of each individual national association, and makes the whole agency movement grow faster.
I am a fanatical promoter of associationism, I think that the original idea which gave birth to the national associations and at the same time to FELCA was, and still is, a winner, that we just need to push further in this direction.
What does FELCA have planned for 2022?
In general, FELCA’s aim in 2022 is to put into practice what will be discussed in the meetings among ourselves and with schools to help the recovery of pur market and to resume an information-promotion action for FELCA activities, hopefully soon to be carried out in presence, as before the pandemic.
Paolo Barilari is the President of the Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations ( Felca ).
Formed in 2000, Felca represents 15 national agency associations, including ARSAA – Argentine Study Abroad Association ; ABELIO in Belgium; AMTE in Mexico; AREA (Alliance of Russian Educational Agencies) ; ASEPROCE in Spain; BELTA in Brazil; FDSV in Germany; IALCA in Italy; IECA – Taiwan ; L’Office national de garantie des séjours linguistiques et éducatifs in France; JAOS in Japan; KAEA (Kazakhstan Association of Educational Agents) ; KOSA in Korea; TIECA in Thailand; and UED – The Association of International Edu in Turkey.