IVY seen from the Central Baltic Programme

From idea to volunteer

- Thank you, that was all. Please ask if you have any questions.

A presentation finishes and my thoughts wonder outside at the European Cooperation Day workshop in Berlin. A single leaf flies by the window. Somehow this now brownish memory of summer has managed to survive until late January. Slides are changed and we hear about the Interreg Volunteer Youth (IVY). The Commission representative tells us that a pilot to involve the European Solidarity Corps in Interreg has been approved. The specifics are being worked out. This sounds very interesting!

The workshop finishes, we pack our things and head back home. As we wait for further news, an idea for the volunteer begins to form. During spring, the idea is converted into a plan and before submitting our host organisation application, we realise that the natural place for the volunteer is to work at programme communication. After all, communication is fast-moving and ever changing.

Fast forward over the summer holidays, our volunteer Sofia starts her work on the second week of September. We are a bit hesitant as what to expect – so far we’ve only had a Skype call with crackling noises and breaking audio. Our positive initial feeling is, however, quickly confirmed as Sofia enters our premises. Not only pleasant and kind, she also proves to be a quick learner; in a week we have introduced her to practical matters, as well the tools we use in communication. On top of that, she feels right at home, later describing the atmosphere at the programme being “friendly and accepting”.

Content from a fresh angle

A mindless worker is not a happy worker. Thus, we did our best to create a focused weekly schedule for the volunteer that covers a wide range of communication activities from event reporting to following project activities – with enough resources set aside for training and learning of course. The schedule includes social activities, such as lunches with co-workers and after work activities as well.

Besides the above-mentioned activities, one of the focuses for our volunteer was to provide a fresh angle from our projects, by taking existing content and creating something new from it. Envisioned articles included creating a compilation of results from ended projects (current programming period), having a look into recent activities of our priority axis 1 projects and reporting from a project event. The content, including all other activities, has been published or promoted on our programme webpage, social media (e.g. look for Twitter hashtag #cb_ivy) and in the programme newsletter.

An experience for the volunteer and the programme

As a programme, we have had the possibility to experiment with new kind of areas of content and also involve Sofia in our social media activities as an ‘outside observer’, who reports on project events and visibility. Using and updating social media and other electronic channels used by the programme is also a concrete skill that Sofia mentioned she will be taking home with her. Alongisde, Sofia mentioned that she has learned a lot (positive things) about Interreg.

During her stay, Sofia was mostly surprised by the Finnish work culture; even during the busiest times people managed to stop for a quick break before resuming their activities. Another thing that surprised Sofia is the openness in which colleagues were able to discuss, sometimes difficult, matters with each other.

More volunteers in the pipeline

After two months, Sofia has now safely reached home and thus we are looking over to our projects, at least two of which have agreed to become hosts as well. The first project is currently selecting their volunteer, whereas the other one is making travel arrangements and waiting for their volunteer to arrive on 30 November. We will check back with the projects to learn about their experiences with IVY.

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