After 18 months confined to digital meetings, the Norec partners in Norway were finally able to meet face to face to share their experiences.

“It was really great to meet up again. Even though we have communicated to a large extent via digital meetings throughout the period, this could never be the same as meeting face to face,” says Steinar Hoel Korsmo, Managing Director of the Seed Forum Norway association and project coordinator for the Global Entrepreneurs Exchange Project (GEEP).

At the end of November, Norec invited partners from industry and commerce, the public sector and voluntary organisations to a meeting at Gardermoen. This was a real milestone, after 18 months without meeting partners face to face.

“We have had digital meetings with our partners during the pandemic, but it is important to be able to meet properly. This was a great opportunity for our partners to get to know each other better, but also for us at Norec to get to know our partners better,” says Head of the Section for Companies and Institutions, Linda Martinsen.

Important to support partnerships
When the pandemic broke out in the spring of 2020, 600 participants had to be sent home from exchange programmes around the world.

In every country and for all partners, there was a high level of uncertainty as to how the pandemic would develop. Norec decided to continue to support partnerships, even though actual physical exchanges were not possible.
“It was challenging for Norec to facilitate partnership, as this was new and unfamiliar territory. However, we felt it was important to keep partnerships going during a time when many donors pulled out,” says Linda Martinsen.

For many partnerships, the solution was to have a “home exchange” using digital systems, allowing the partners to continue exchanging both knowledge and experience.
“Our partners are very optimistic about being able to return to actual exchanges. At the same time, there is still a lot of uncertainty about how long the pandemic will last and about local restrictions in different countries,” she continues.

Made new contacts
It is therefore extra important to be able to meet with Norwegian partners to discuss issues and listen to lectures.
“Knowledge sharing among partners is perhaps the most important action we can take in this current phase,” says Linda Martinsen.

The meeting at Gardermoen lasted two days, allowing the partners to network and get to know each other better.
“We benefited from positive experience from other partners who have carried out exchanges, just like us,” says Steinar Hoel Korsmo in Seed Forum Norge.

Brith Løkken attended the meeting as a representative for the cultural school in Fredrikstad, and was very happy to have the opportunity to share her thoughts with other partners.
“It was useful to get a deeper insight into the measures taken to allow for physical exchanges and the situation involving visas for participants from the south travelling to Norway,” says Brith Løkken.

Inspiration for new methods
“Some partners met others for the first time, gaining an insight into their respective organisations and the countries where they work. I am confident that many of the participants found inspiration for both new working methods and new ways of carrying out exchanges,” says Linda Martinsen.

The partners generally agreed that it was difficult to be in a situation in which you have no way of knowing when a physical exchange can take place.
“Right now, everything is uncertain. You can plan for the future, but changes are suddenly announced that mean you have to make completely new plans. It’s challenging to retain talented persons who have planned to travel, but constantly have their plans changed,” she says.

With the current situation, only Hald international school in Mandal has physical exchanges. They are allowed because their participants are classified as students.
“Our partners who have students can carry out exchanges as they want. But for all other categories, it is practically impossible to know when an exchange can start,” she concludes.