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I am Ledio Allkja, a spatial planner from Albania and this is a short post on introducing myself as the new member of the AESOP Young Academics Coordination Team. My endeavors in planning education have started in 2008, when I enrolled on a course on Property Development and Planning at the University of the West of England in Bristol. Coming from Albania, where the spatial planning system and practice were weak, I wanted to learn more on how systems evolve and how I could contribute in my own country.
After my bachelor studies, I went to the Netherlands where I followed the European Spatial and Environmental Planning master at Radboud University in Nijmegen. In 2012, I returned in Albania where I started working at POLIS University as an assistant lecturer and as a spatial planner. Besides lecturing I took part in the preparation of different spatial plans at the local level. This was one of the greatest experiences as a newly graduated planner to put my university knowledge into practice. In 2014, I was appointed as the head of the sector of Regional and Local Planning in the Ministry of Urban Development in Albania. There I had a chance to work first hand with the review of the planning legislation and the preparation of the first National Spatial Plan of Albania. After two years, I decided to start my PhD at TU Wien focusing on the Europeanization of the Spatial Planning System in Albania. I returned to Albania after my first year to conduct my field research and I also decided to engage again as an assistant lecturer at POLIS University and as a researcher at Co-PLAN.
I became acquainted with the AESOP YA when I attended the PhD Workshop in Aveiro in 2017. I have followed the AESOP Annual Congresses in Lisbon, Gothenburg and Venice where I had the possibility to better understand the great work of the YA CT. Initiatives such as co-chairs in the Congress tracks, roundtables, Expert Clinics, PLANEXT are an amazing opportunity to support each other in the difficult path of academia. I started working with some other colleagues from POLIS in bringing some of the AESOP and AESOP YA activities to Albania. We organized the 13th AESOP Lecture Series in 2019 and afterwards applied for organizing the AESOP YA Conference in 2021 in Tirana. This also pushed me to apply for the upcoming elections of the AESOP YA CT. My desire is to expand and promote the YA network in the Western Balkan.
Despite the difficult and uncertain period of pandemics where social distancing is necessary, I think it is also a great possibility for the network to grow stronger. Shifting our attention to online services is one of the possibilities. I think this is a great time to expand some of the activities that the YA CT conducts especially in creating mutual support between young planning academics in order to develop a more resilient community of young planners.