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Peter Saxenhofer encourages members to stand for EASPD Elections 2024!

Read through Peter's journey as EASPD Treasurer.

We give you a peak into the journey of Peter Saxenhofer who has been the EASPD Treasurer for 8 years. With a background in economics and deep knowledge of the social services sector, Peter has been elected Treasurer twice! Encouraging members to stand for the upcoming EASPD elections, he talks about tough decisions, happy days and lessons learnt during his journey at EASPD.

What motivated you to become Treasurer at EASPD?

Peter: To begin with, I think the EASPD Board needs umbrella organisations from local, national, and international levels to have a seat at the table. Luckily, I represent an umbrella organisation! So, I decided to stand for the EASPD elections, 8 years ago.

Secondly, no matter how strong the mission is, an organisation simply cannot survive without proper financial management. My background in economics and interest in the social services sector in Europe provided me with the expertise to apply for the position of Treasurer.

I also wanted to influence decision making and be part of the important discussions when I joined the Board and then the Executive Committee. It is so important to keep rotating these positions to bring in new people who have a fresh take on things. Which is why I urge EASPD members to submit their candidature for the multiple positions opened in the EASPD Board and Executive Committee.


Reflecting on your term, can you share some noteworthy accomplishments?

Peter: EASPD in the past years has grown significantly. Alongside welcoming new members into the network and an increasing number of projects, the EASPD staff has grown considerably. Finding the right leadership for the secretariat in Brussels has to be the biggest challenge. It required a lot of critical thinking and quick decision making on the part of the EASPD Executive Committee.

Secondly, the drafting of the new statutes. It’s a massive achievement as it is a symbolic visualisation of moving from the old to the new. We want our members to know that EASPD is a space that is open to change and growth.


What value does joining the Board/ Executive Committee bring to EASPD members?

Peter: Every decision made in Brussels will impact your country. EU institutions play a massive role in deciding laws and policies that will have a direct or indirect effect on grassroot organisations in countries across Europe. If you expect EASPD to have a lasting impact on influencing these policies and laws, you have to be prepared to get involved - and it's worth it.

In fact, associations like the Swiss Network that I work for are also impacted, even though we are not a member of the European Union. So, how far your voice can reach through EASPD’s Board and Executive Committee is phenomenal.

Service provision in the disability sector has drastically changed in the last 10-20 years and we need to be aware of the pace of change in different countries. Especially since the relation between service providers and people with disabilities is evolving. This can help facilitate peer-to-peer learning.

To sum it up, I believe members can really benefit from joining the EASPD Board where we can express opposing ideas respectfully.


What are some lessons your learnt during your tenure as Treasurer?

Peter: One lesson learnt is when its “good weather” in an organisation and everything is going fine, it’s easy to be a Board or Executive Committee member. But once the storm hits, you have to be aware of the responsibility this role holds. It goes beyond just being present at meetings and networking with colleagues in Brussels and saying ‘yes’ to every decision. You have to be prepared to make yourself unpopular by taking unpleasant decisions.

During hard times, some of the decisions we have to make impacts the livelihood of the staff in Brussels. Therefore, you are not just the lead of an organisation when you join the EASPD Board, you are also, in another sense, a responsible employer of the secretariat in Brussels.

Which leads me to the second most important lesson learnt ­– taking quick decisions. I would say at EASPD we don’t wait around too much when action is needed, we take it swiftly.  


Which skills should an ideal candidate possess to be part of the Board/ Executive Committee?

Peter: In my eyes, an ideal candidate should possess a couple of qualities. Being a good listener tops the list. The role needs someone who can listen to and really understand the perspective of EASPD employees and other members of the network.

Secondly, willing to invest time in the organisation. If you have too much stress prior to joining the Board or Executive Committee, it really defeats the purpose of the role. It requires you to spend time and really soak in the ideas and goals of the organisation.

This brings in my next point of prioritising motivations of the organisation. As Treasurer, I had to consciously align myself with the goals of EASPD and keep them in mind while taking big and small decisions. So, not just focussing on my personal interests, rather having a more holistic approach to decision making.

Lastly, willingness to take unpleasant decisions. It doesn’t happen often, but when a tough situation occurs, we need to be able to jump into action and take difficult decisions.


Three Vice-President positions, along with 15 other governance roles, will be open for election on 19 October 2024. Eligible candidates have until August 31 to submit their applications for a Board position. For more information about the application process, please visit the EASPD website here.