The main goal of the ERAS project is a long-term partnership of thirteen cities in thirteen different countries with the common goal of improving the conditions for the development of volunteering in the partner countries and throughout Europe. For this purpose, partner organizations exchanged information, good practices, knowledge and promoted volunteering as such. Together, we have provided a productive and content-rich environment that encourages the development of various volunteer programs.
In 2019, thirteen European cities joined the ERAS project – the European Alliance for Volunteering Support, united by a common desire to connect citizens and exchange good practices in the field of volunteering. In 2023, the ERAS alliance continued its work with a new project: ERAS II – lessons learned from the Covid-19 crisis.
As part of the new project, six partner organizations from Slovenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, and Portugal researched the impact of Covid-19 on volunteering and the support of volunteering by local authorities for a better response to crisis situations. We researched the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic by exchanging good practices, knowledge, and experience at 4 international events.
As part of the project, four international events were held with the aim of exchanging good practices, establishing connections with relevant organizations, studying the concepts and effects of volunteering in different countries, and with the aim of promoting the development of volunteering in Europe. In the project, we discussed various areas of volunteering, but we focused most on the impact of Covid-19 on volunteering and the issue of incentives for volunteering in the local environment. An important topic that we highlighted regularly were the opportunities, practices, and goals of the European solidarity unit mechanism. Based on the topics discussed at the events, recommendations were made for the support of volunteering by local authorities.
The project was co-financed by the European Union within the framework of the CERV program, which promotes the connection and networking of cities for common themes and joint projects. For this purpose, Consulta, as a leading partner, connected Litija, Lousada, Kekava, Pécs, Thessaloniki and Blagoevgrad in activities that were carried out in 2023.
Through the review of support for voluntary organizations in the partner countries, we learned a number of good practices of supporting volunteering and volunteer organizations at local levels, which can be transferred to other countries and communities. At international events, our partners exchanged experiences and the impact of the pandemic on volunteering in our organizations and local communities. We have combined existing support practices and lessons learned during the pandemic into guidelines for volunteering support for a better response to crises.
During the period of the Covid-19 epidemic, volunteers who came to help in various areas proved themselves in particular. Through their work, they selflessly contributed to limiting the epidemic and alleviated the feelings of anxiety brought about by the circumstances at the time. Together with our partners, we wanted to shed light on the important contribution of volunteers and their work during the epidemic. We presented the work and achievements of volunteers from Slovenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Latvia, Hungary and Portugal in the form of a traveling, international photo exhibition, with which we promoted volunteerism among citizens and encouraged them to become active volunteers. In all 6 cities, round tables, meetings of stakeholders or talks with volunteers were held alongside the exhibitions, where citizens could share their views on the development of volunteering and learn first-hand more about the work of volunteers shown in the exhibition. We also encouraged the local population, especially young people, to volunteer by presenting opportunities offered by the EU and opportunities within the framework of the European Solidarity Corps program.
During the project, at international events in Slovenia, Bulgaria, Greece and Hungary, we learned about many good practices in the field of volunteering, which we reported to organizations in the local environment with the aim of encouraging their transfer. Collected good practices from both ERAS projects, stories of European volunteers, a brochure for effective volunteering programs and guidelines for volunteering support can be viewed on the new online platform erasnetwork.eu. In addition to all of the above, this platform also offers a place where organizations can present themselves and find partners to realize their ideas.