20 years of mutual exchange
20 years ago, this month, Norec was relaunched by the Kings Council of Ministers. Since then, we have facilitated exchanges for 10,000 individuals, and seen that partnerships, equality and reciprocity are key for getting results in development.
The budget of Norec constitutes 0,5 % per cent of the overall Norwegian funds allocated to development. Through our yearly budget of 135 million NOK, we support around 80 projects. This means that our support can only be a supplement to other types of development co-operation, and not on a large scale. Our specialty is mutual exchange of staff and volunteers, and this must be the fundament in all the projects we support.
An exchange means that both parties involved swap staff and knowledge. A mutual partnership means that all parties both contribute and get something in return. All partnerships must lead to mutual reinforcement of capacity and ability to learn.
An example: Haukeland University Hospital has for years had an exchange with hospitals in Tanzania and South Africa. Doctors from Norway have gone to South Africa to get practical training in trauma-care from the local context, whereas South African doctors have learnt the same in Norway but with focus on the Norwegian context and procedures. Thus, everyone will teach and be taught something.
The health-portfolio of Norec is constituted of 15 projects. These vary from neonatal care, health-services in marginalised communities, improvement of conditions for people living with handicap to combating leprosy. All these projects have different frameworks in terms of content, timelines, duration and competency-levels. But what they have in common is the fact that they both send and receive competence and knowledge, from South to North and vice versa.
Time-a key factor.
20 years of exchange means 20 years of experience. We know that we achieve more and sustainable results through long-terms exchanges than by short term. If we want to achieve reciprocity in partnerships, we need trust, and trust can only be built over time.
Participants exchanged need time to get used to a new country, a new culture, language and working context.
Our partners have exchanges ranging from 3 to 18 months, and the need for this is assessed by Norec on a case-by-case basis. In our experience, a participant needs to spend three months a minimum on exchange to have any kind of benefit.
Young and competent.
Focusing on young competency is part of our mandate. Our upper age-limit of 35 is based on young people worldwide being excluded from the professional sphere. Their education is at the highest level ever but are still on top of the statistics regarding unemployment and underrepresentation.
When choices have to be made between a newly educated person without any work-experience from before and a person with 20 years of experience, the person with more experience is usually selected. This is where Norec and Norway try to make a difference: exchange of professionals and volunteers give valuable international exposure and better professional opportunities. We also note that the long-term effect of the exchange is maximised when the participant returns to the home-institution from which she was sent out. Young employees have a longer career ahead of them, and thus more time to implement what they have learnt through the exchange.
Our age-limits are not written in stone: if the competency of a certain participant is vital for results, age comes second. This is a flexibility we offer in all projects, even though our main focus should be towards young participants.
In November 2019, the consultancy firm KPMG made a report at the request of Norec to map experiences of exchange between public Institutions. Reciprocity as a key-factor in the success of projects was one of the main findings. Challenges were also found, and Norec is working systematically to address those challenges.
Norec is a dynamic force within development, and our model is developing as per official Norwegian development policies. We should be flexible, while ensuring that all applications for our support are treated in a uniform way. Last but not least, reciprocity should form the foundation of all projects.
Avdelingsdirektør program, Norec