For a weekend in early April 2018, a GFYL delegation set out to discover leadership and European commitment outside the French capital. They travelled to the heart of Burgundy in Eastern France to visit a young leader and former conference participant of 2017. Vincent Chauvet, the founder of “Initiative citoyenne européenne”, became a young mayor of the city of Autun at the age of only 29. He invited the GFYL team to discover his city, learn about its historic role in the region, understand its economic development and challenges better and most of all engage with the hospitable Autunois.
The trip not only offered the opportunity to be immersed in Burgundy politics and culture, but also served as a retreat for the team. The young leaders got a chance to bond over Burgundian specialties such as Œufs en meurette, a dish consisting of poached eggs and red wine sauce, embrace the first signs of spring together and enjoy a weekend full of engaging debates and new discoveries!
To start the retreat, the team got to discover Autun's lively history through a city and museum visit. Autun with its impressive cathedral Saint-Lazare d'Autun was founded by the Romans as “Augustodunum”. The birthplace of the Nobel Prize for Peace winner Luis Renault became a centre of cultural influence when established as an important destination for pilgrims in the Middle Ages and underwent several transformative changes until modern day times as explained by the director of the Musée du Patrimoine de la ville d’Autun Agathe Legros. Agathe even gave the team access to an abandoned prison not yet accessible to the public. Built in 1854, it represented one of the first buildings designed as a “panopticon” – an archaeological concept where all prisoners could observe and control each other’s privacy.
After those historic and cultural discoveries, the GFYL team members went on to learn more about today’s economic situation of the city and region meeting with Hubert Joby, a passionate Autunois and Director of the Autun Morvan Formation Développement (AMFD). Providing trainings and apprenticeships, the center helps people in the region to develop the kind of skills necessary to thrive in the regional business landscape. The small city of Autun with its 13,000 inhabitants watches a lot of its young talents leave to find education and jobs elsewhere, and also more experienced professionals struggle to find jobs matching their skillsets. Consequently, the community actively joined forces of entrepreneurs such as Hubert with the job centre to become a more attraction location for talent as well as business by investing in its people.
Expressing his excitement for his work and the immediate impact his efforts can have on fellow citizens, Hubert showed the team a range of training facilities ranging from elderly care to construction or IT. With training demand and supply on the rise, Autun with this successful initiative could serve as a blueprint for other rural regions looking to retain and develop talent. What an insightful visit and experience for the young leaders!
The team ended their retreat by diving into Autun’s cultural life and exchanging more with Mayor Vincent. The young leaders had the privilege to join an official dinner that he hosted in honour of the Fête du Livre, an event taking place the same weekend. During the book fair, Autun welcomed authors from all over France and abroad to give them a chance to present new publications at a book fair and awarded outstanding literary works and authors. The team got to exchange not only with authors and publishers, but also with Christophe Barbier, Editorial Advisor, Columnist and former Managing Editor of L'Express.
At dinner and joined by writers and publishing professionals, the young leaders got to discuss city politics with Vincent, hear more about his career path, his passion for the life of Autun, mayor responsibilities and the city's future projects – while enjoying Burgundy wine and food. Who would have thought that a city the size of Autun counts 150 civil servants and has an annual budget of 50 Million Euros?
What a great way to end an insightful, sunny and interesting day! Many thanks to the City of Autun! Why don't you go and visit?