The MOST project. Results.
The MOST project (Mobility Scheme for Targeted People-to-People Contacts) is over. Six years of hard work on establishing contacts between Belarusians and EU citizens are behind us. It was a joint effort of the project team and participants who were looking for partners, opportunities and resources to visit Europe. Everyone who applied for the MOST project had a great desire to meet colleagues from other countries and expand the geography for future activities. The project staff did their best to help Belarusians in this endeavour. The result was 4 873 trips of Belarusians to EU countries and citizens of EU member states to Belarus. Professional contacts between people have developed into fruitful cooperation, joint projects, friendship, grand plans for future, innovations in various spheres, and fresh ideas.
Project participants attended over two thousand events, such as conferences, festivals, exhibitions, fairs, and workshops. Belarusians exchanged experience with their Western colleagues, got acquainted with their work, and demonstrated their knowledge and skills.
All citizens of Belarus aged 18 and over had the opportunity to visit the European Union. The coverage of professional spheres was also practically unlimited. Businessmen, scientists, doctors, farmers, designers, social workers, librarians, teachers, and actors exchanged experience with their foreign colleagues. The number of categories that could be chosen in the application form increased from five to eight over the five years of the project. These categories included "science and technology", "entrepreneurship", "innovation and information technology", "culture", "education", "health", "sports and tourism", "society" and the "other" category. Scientists, cultural and educational workers, and medics were the most active and numerous participants of the project.
Twenty-eight countries have opened their borders to the participants of the MOST project. These countries were Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (before Brexit). All these countries could be visited either for a long period of a week to a month or for a short period of no more than seven days. The participants travelled alone or in groups, depending on the purpose of their visit.
During the project, the interest of European partners in Belarus increased. 173 people visited the country on return visits, which shows that contacts between the participants have been strengthened. This figure, as well as the total number of mobility events, could have been much higher, but the COVID-19 pandemic made a difference. Hundreds of joint events in Europe and Belarus had to be cancelled. Nevertheless, even in this difficult period, 16 people were still able to take part in the online conferences. This was the first such experience during the project.
The most successful trips within the MOST project:
- gave an impetus to the development of local communities in the regions of Belarus. Participants applied the new experience at home, setting an example for colleagues, neighbours, friends and acquaintances; they applied for participation in other international projects, being inspired by the example of European partners. As a result, cooperatives and like-minded communities emerged in the regions, united by the common idea of improving life in their neighbourhoods, towns and villages;
- inspired third sector workers to implement new social projects;
- helped realize many joint cultural projects in the performing and theatrical arts, exhibitions of artists and photographers, and designer shows;
- encouraged businesses to explore new markets and products;
- enabled Belarusian scientists to become part of European science and conduct research at a higher level;
- promoted the introduction of the most advanced technologies in the field of health care;
- opened up new hiking and cycling routes.
During the six years that the project existed, the MOST project has shown how great is the need for people to cooperate with each other across borders. By broadening their horizons, participants changed themselves and therefore changed the world around them, and this ultimately turned out to be a good job for Belarus.