The COVID 19 pandemic has had a big impact on our RAISE Youth project implementation in all four participating countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Spain. Instead of the old “normal” when we were planning our in-person Board Meeting in Spain and gathering NEETS in each project country, we all found ourselves in a new reality of working from home, closed borders, social distancing and very limited mobility. Our focus and activities had to shift quickly to some new tools therefore giving space to online meetings & trainings, and digital campaigns. In Romania project partner National Association of Human Resources Specialists started using a NEETS online national platform in order to motivate and activate NEETs, Spanish project partners Casarrubuelos City Council and FUNDECYT-PCTEX – Science and Technological Park of Extremadura organized online focus groups with NEETs and stakeholders while Center for Sustainable Communities Development in Bulgaria switched its storytelling course into a semi-digital format using Facebook as a space to exchange materials and to discuss. In Croatia, GTF-Initiative for Sustainable Growth created a motivational video for NEETs that will be used as a part of a summer digital outreach campaign.
Apart from this shift in our way of working, this pandemic has a major influence on the RAISE context i.e. the number of NEETS and their interests that we have until now analysed is changing, likely increasing. Due to the fact that many businesses EU-wide had to close down and the upcoming tourist season, as we know it, is on hold, many young people who were working abroad or in tourism regions are returning to their home countries (and rural areas) where they are searching for new opportunities. Also, communities and countries as a whole are experiencing a mental shift as this pandemic raised awareness of the importance of sustainability, local agriculture, short value chains and domestic, rural production. The RAISE Youth consortium is ideally situated to use the crisis as its unique and innovative RAISE model is based on enabling young rural NEETs to gain knowledge and skills related to agriculture, sustainable tourism and digitalization – 3 areas which are precisely what the whole world is turning to nowadays when trying to find a way out of the crisis. RAISE Youth aims to enhance self-employment and sustainable entrepreneurship of rural NEETS, hence the approach of turning problems into opportunities is built into RAISE Youth DNA!
In conclusion, this new context will bring a bigger value to our project objectives as the formation of skills that provide an autonomous and sustainable life became a must in a constantly and rapidly changing life context such as the current one. The RAISE Youth project with its RAISE model is providing concrete answers and support for current NEETs and for the youth who are becoming NEETs in rural areas. Our consortium is in the driver’s seat, using this new momentum of global switch in appreciation of rural to reach out to even more people and have even bigger and deeper impact than initially expected.