Belarus: how MOST is building bridges

17-10-2016

An EU-funded exchange programme is offering unique opportunities to professionals in Belarus, allowing them to share experiences with European partners. We spoke to beneficiaries of the MOST programme, who looked back on what they had learned, speaking of what had spurred them to look for ideas and experience in Europe, and what plans they have on their return.

Minsk, Belarus - What do Anna, a cloud computing specialist, Alexander, a football coach, and Yuri, the director of an ecological construction company, have in common? They have all been building bridges with partners in the European Union, through the EU-funded MOST project.

MOST (which means ‘bridge’ in Russian, but also stands for Mobility Scheme for Targeted People-to-People-Contacts) is a project developed exclusively for Belarus, funded by the EU and implemented by the Goethe-Institut (Minsk) and British Council (Poland). The programme envisages various formats of professional exchange and mobility opportunities between Belarus and the 28 EU member states, and applications are still being accepted until the end of 2017.

Under the project, 1,500 Belarusians from private and public organisations, as well as entrepreneurs in various fields, are given an opportunity to find partners and to share their experience with European colleagues. Candidates working in fields as varied as culture, education, youth, science and technology, economy, health, energy, and public administration are welcome to submit their applications.

An indicator of the programme's flexibility is the background of the three recent beneficiaries of the MOST programme that we spoke to, who work in fields as diverse as cloud computing, football management, and ecological construction.

Replacing last century's technologies offers many advantages to Belarus

Anna Pobol is emotional when she recounts her experience during a 10-day trip to Germany: "Participation in the MOST project is all about communication with the leading European experts, an outstanding opportunity to develop unique competences," says the associate professor at the Department of Theoretical and Institutional Economics of the Belarusian State University (BSU) in Minsk.

Her interests lie in the promotion and use of information technologies, in particular, cloud computing, with the goal of increasing productivity and added value in all sectors (industry, agriculture, education, and public administration).

After graduating from the BSU, Anna has been a visiting scholar at universities in Austria, Poland, France, and Germany, and now she has many plans. Specific cooperation projects are at the development stage, while potential partners include colleagues from all the institutions that Anna visited during her trip, which was supported by the MOST programme: from German technical universities, from the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems, the Ministry of Economy and Energy, the Federal Security Service in IT, consulting firms in the field of cloud industry, and enterprise-providers of cloud services.

Replacing last century's technologies with new ones will offer many advantages to Belarus. However, convincing people that this change is needed is a further step, and this, too, needs to be taught, says Anna. She is ready to teach and to learn: "I am 37 years old and this is a great age to move mountains – I have much knowledge, while the enthusiasm is still there. In this academic year, at least 142 students, who take the course on the knowledge economy and innovation policy, will benefit from my last study trip."

 "I have seen a lot of useful techniques for my work"

A founder of the ‘Fair Play’ private football academy, Alexander Kushner lives in Ashmyany. He moved to this town in the Grodno region of Belarus from Minsk four years ago. Alexander, who is now 34 years old, is mainly occupied with his coaching activity, and both in life and work he is guided by the ‘Fair Play’ principles – which give their name to the sports school he founded in 2012. Alexander participated in the MOST project to learn more about training methodologies, the organisation of competitions for children and football marketing in Europe.

Alexander believes that the Belarusian system of training young football players needs to be changed, because public schools are focused solely on results, while sport should create a feeling of joy and celebration. "I originally opted for a European system of training at my school, and a week in Germany convinced me that the German system of training young football players is effective, efficient and well-established. I have seen a lot of useful techniques for my work and now I understand why football occupies such an important place in the life of Germans, and why there it is not only a sport, but a form of socialisation," says Alexander.

During his trip, Alexander learned professional secrets from the representatives of the Berlin Football Association (BFV), the sports director of the FC Union Berlin and the head of a private football academy, Fussball Talentschmiede Berlin. Alexander is confident that in the near future his participation in the MOST programme will benefit nearly 100 young footballers and their parents, who share his views on the role of sport in children's lives.

In the future, Alexander wants to find like-minded people in Europe for a large-scale project: "I would like to build a sports complex – an indoor soccer field and a hotel. This will allow to make profit from the organisation of training camps for football teams and will boost the development of grassroots football in Belarus."

"A new centre will facilitate the lives of people with disabilities"

Yury Suprinovich from Minsk is also interested in finding new European partners. He is 41 years old, and has devoted half his life to ecological construction. Now Yuri is an executive director of the International Charitable Public Association ‘EkoStroitel’. "We already have plans for three wind power installations with a capacity of 250 kW, 600 kW and 1 MW (the first one a pilot for Belarus) – including construction of a unit with higher power, corresponding to the latest European technology, to demonstrate the advanced capabilities of renewable energy sources and to improve facilities and equipment of our organisation, as well as the skills of the employees.”

Yuri is interested in the MOST project, as his organisation is involved in construction of a centre of labour and social rehabilitation for persons with disabilities in Lepel. Together with German and Belarusian partners, ‘EkoStroitel’ is creating a fundamentally new space for people with disabilities. A one-week trip to Germany, organised for a group of nine Belarusian partner organisations in the framework of the MOST project, will help them take into account German experience in construction and arrangement of similar centres, says Yuri.

Lepel’s department of day care for people with disabilities is currently housed in small unequipped premises and can host a maximum of 10 people. The new centre is designed for 50, and will offer facilities for various activities. A computer lab, and rooms for physical rehabilitation and recreation will also be constructed. The creation of a centre based on best European practices will help people with disabilities to socialise and make life easier for their families.

The MOST programme envisages various formats of trips to Europe

The MOST programme envisages various formats of professional exchange and mobility opportunities between Belarus and 28 EU member states, and applications will be accepted till the end of 2017. Exchanges could be visits to conferences, trade fairs, workshops, or seminars, for example, for small groups or for individuals for up to seven days or four weeks. Participants should be citizens of Belarus over the age of 18.

As experience has shown, the MOST programme helps professionals from Belarus and Europe meet, which, according to Anna Pobol, enables Belarusians to understand how to position their country and what needs to change in Belarus. One of Anna’s most vivid impressions from her last trip to Europe is the credibility of experts in the minds of decision-makers. In Belarus, she says, people will claim to support an innovative, but in practice everything which is unclear or new seems to be unnecessary, and finds itself rejected.

Author: Elena Daneiko

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MOST (Mobility Scheme for Targeted People-to-People-Contacts)

MOST is an EU-funded project to enhance people-to-people-contacts between Belarus and the EU, with the aim of promoting mutual understanding and exchange of best practice. The project provides professional exchange and mobility opportunities between Belarus and the EU for about 1,500 Belarusians until December 2017. The project offers short-term mobility actions (up to seven days) for both individuals and groups, and long-term internships placements for individuals up to four weeks.

Programme website