In May 2023 Norec launched a network for former exchange participants, and it has exceeded all expectations.

– To date, 1400 people have registered with Norec Network. In the course of 2024, all 12,000 former exchange participants will be invited to join, says Tonje Polden Steinsland, Network Adviser at Norec.

Individuals who have undertaken a Norec exchange sit on a lot of knowledge gained from the experience. Norec wanted to create an arena where this knowledge can flourish and grow, which is how the idea of Norec Network came about.

– We want them to pass on the knowledge they’ve gained to build sustainable local communities and continue creating new cross-border networks with other participants. In this way, we can continue sharing knowledge even long after they have completed their Norec exchange, Steinsland says.

First physical meeting in Kenya

The starting shot for Norec Network was fired at the end of May 2023, when 30 former Norec exchange participants came together in Nairobi, Kenya.

– This group had the chance to help shape Norec Network. We know that individuals who have undertaken a Norec exchange are sitting on a lot of knowledge. But we were lacking an arena where they could share this knowledge and form new networks of people who can benefit from others’ knowledge and experience, Steinsland says.

Norec has sent out 4000 invitations and set up a LinkedIn group where members can communicate digitally.

– We can’t hold physical network meetings for everyone, it’s simply not feasible. But we can use a digital network on LinkedIn to put them in contact with one another and provide information on courses and webinars, and they can forge contacts across fields of expertise and national borders, Steinsland says.

Wide variety of activities

Our goal for 2024 is to run at least one activity and send out one newsletter every month.

– Activities can be anything from physical meetings, digital meetings, e-learning and webinars to other forms of knowledge sharing, Steinsland says.

She is looking forward to all 12,000 former Norec participants being invited to join the network in the course of 2024.

– The reason we haven’t yet invited more is quite simply the massive response we’ve had. We’ve prioritised putting a framework in place for the network and answering people’s questions over inviting everyone at the same time. That would have led to a situation where we wouldn’t have had the capacity to respond to everyone, which would have been unfortunate, she says.

Benefits for Norec too

In the autumn of 2023, the network held its second physical meeting of participants, this time in Nepal. The reception here, too, was overwhelming.

– This is clearly something that has been missing. We’re seeing immediate results from the two meetings we’ve run so far. People find things they have in common, see opportunities and solutions, and call on one another in professional contexts, Steinsland says.

The new network has also opened new opportunities for Norec as an organisation.

– We’ve met people whom we can bring on board, for example as lecturers on our courses, interpreters or resource persons in other fields, she says.

She’s delighted to see the level of enthusiasm among network members.

– As people gain insight into the knowledge others have, they start to tap into a well of expertise, and new ideas spring forth one after the other. Seeing this happen is truly rewarding, Steinsland says.

Taking Norec’s work to the next level

Each year Norec supports the exchange of staff between Norwegian government agencies, companies and organisations, and 25 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. A Norec grant enables a workplace to send employees on exchange to another country.

When the employee returns, the whole organisation benefits from what they have learnt. The employee gains international work experience, new stimuli and new skills. Since Norec started in 1963, more than 12,000 people have participated in exchanges. For many of these individuals, the knowledge they acquired through the exchange has had a big impact on their life.

– This is a super way to further develop everything Norec represents today – 60 years of shared knowledge. The sharing continues, but in a completely new way and in a new forum. We’re excited to see where this could lead, Steinsland says.

She has a message for anyone who wants to join the network but hasn’t yet received an invitation:

– We’re inviting former participants on a country-by-country basis. But we know from experience that we don’t have correct e-mail addresses for everyone who has been on a Norec exchange. If you know that others from your home country have already received an invitation but you haven’t, mail me so that we have the right contact details for you, Steinsland says.


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