Interreg volunteers as ambassadors of Cohesion Policy:



 

In spring 2019 DG Regio and AEBR developed a further action within the framework of the “Interreg Volunteer Youth” (IVY) initiative: the volunteers can organise events to raise awareness of Cohesion Policy on behalf of the European Commission, so called “Citizens’ Engagement Activities”.

Current as well as former volunteers may present AEBR ideas to design and implement activities aimed at informing citizens about Cohesion Policy and European Territorial Cooperation. The European Commission supports the volunteers with a budget which can be used to create an event to involve citizens in a debate on the endeavours of the European Union in the region – the format of the event is freely decided by the volunteers, whereas AEBR’s team helps whenever needed.

Agnès Monfret, Head of Communication Unit at DG Regio, told AEBR why IVY volunteers are the best ambassadors of Cohesion Policy. “Three main reasons explain why we thought that the participants in Interreg Volunteer Youth would be ideal ambassadors of Cohesion Policy: As young people, they are best placed to address the younger generation (which several polls show tends to take European benefits such as peace, equal opportunities, free movement across borders and the Euro as granted because they were born with them). Secondly, as young people, they are more likely to engage in a fresh innovative way being more prone to get disseminated within their generation. Last but not least, they are familiar with Interreg, which is at the heart of European integration and illustrates daily, with concrete achievements,  the added value of working together across borders, of building bridges between people for a greener, fairer and smarter Europe”, said Ms Monfret.

In June the first two “Citizens’ Engagement Activities” took place, both in Spain. The very first one was organised by Maria Trinidad Giner, who volunteered in 2018 for the Interreg Project Atlantic Youth Creative Hubs (AYCH) in Lugo, Spain.  One year after, she returned to Lugo to orchestrate a series of workshops in the framework of a “Camino de Santiago”event, to illustrate how Cohesion Policy has helped improve the city's architectural, historical and cultural life.

The IVY volunteers Simona di Costanzo, Clémentine Zill and Hélène Champloy have set up “EcoPiriDay”, an event gathering projects supported by POCTEFA Interreg Programme focusing on ecology, recycling and inclusion in the Pyrenees. Simona, Clémentine and Hélène told AEBR that they have learnt a lot while organising the “Citizens’ Engagement Activity”. They coordinated with currently implemented projects under POCTEFA and arranged the organisation, from catering to music – safety included, adds Clémentine. Hélène points out how they also took care of the communication of the event, making sure to use the proper hashtags to boost their social media campaign. It was a very good experience, the best of the whole volunteering period, says Simona.

Creativity and enthusiasm being at the core of the “Citizens’ Engagement Activities”, the volunteers communicate about Cohesion Policy involving everyone – exactly as Ms Monfret had anticipated.

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