Making yourself known is half the battle, some experts say. So, why not actually go to the lion’s den: Brussels! The capital city of Europe and Belgium, home of thousands of politicians, commissions, foundations and organizations that have something to do with the European Union. Maarten & Coen did exactly that. Read what they accomplished there!
Coen arrived on Monday already, 1,5 days earlier than Maarten, so he attended the weekly CouchSurfing meetup in MONK alone, to share The Unity Express with all the local CouchSurfers. A group of about 15 to 20 people listened to the story and asked questions and had ideas how to get involved. Thanks, CouchSurfing community of Brussels, for the opportunity to tell the story in the midst of the meeting!
On Wednesday we had a meeting with people from The HUB Brussels. HUB is a worldwide network of 26 (as of now) co-working spots for freelancers, entrepreneurs and change makers, with a growing network of more than 4000 professionals. Each HUB has a set of hosts, people that are going to help all the members of that HUB to accomplish their dreams and build businesses. Go check out their website, their working spaces are very cool, maybe you can join or create a HUB in your city!
After talking with the hosts of The HUB Brussels, we soon realized that we could help each other.
- The HUB has a big network of 4000+ professionals that can help us realize The Unity Express: we can be featured across the network and come into contact with people for funding, manpower or maybe something else…?
- Hosts from The HUB are trained “mediators” and have experience with connecting networks to each other. So, as soon as submitting projects to The Unity Express journey starts, The HUB could function as a help to accomplish your project on board. If you have a project to perform a theater play on board and you need decorations, The HUB can help you get that. Or if you need help with finding the right project, they are here for you too, even on board!
- There are 26 HUB locations across the world right now, and although they are not in the cities we pass through with the journey, we might visit those cities whenever we have a Team Meeting every other month. If we go to a city that has a HUB, we can arrange to use their co-working spot for free!
In return, we give The HUB a possibility to further spread their network across the 24 countries we come across and stop. We could even see it happen that a new HUB location will be born in a city we visit!
“Generation Europe Foundation operates a two-way communication platform enabling exchanges of views between young people, the private and public sectors. We are experienced in providing educational information material covering a wide range of issues in 24 languages through a variety of media.” – source: Generation Europe Foundation website
We met the guys from GEF in the HUB (it quickly became our favorite place to come to work and have meetings ;)) to talk about a partnership. After explaining to each other what we are about, we discovered that a partnership would be very interesting. GEF can:
- Help us get City Coordinators in several cities that we stop, since they have a network of active volunteers in 36 countries in Europe, mostly excelling, active students or ex-students that want to be “the decision-makers of tomorrow”, as GEF puts it.
- Become a EU funding partner if necessary. For most of the EU funding programs you need 2 or more official co-organizers and GEF has experience with that.
- Give The Unity Express exposure in their newsletters and magazines, that is spread to their whole range of followers and members. They actually did already. In the future it could be more.
GEF was especially interested in the creative sessions that can be done on board. These sessions are sponsored slots in the program where a sponsor can bring in a question, hold a survey, discuss about a topic, or do a workshop on creating something for the sponsor. Of course these sessions are free to join or leave as you please, don’t worry :).
Thanks to Maarten’s efforts of mailing the European Commission and the EACEA, the agency that takes care of all the structural funding programs within the EU, we managed to have a talk with representatives from the commission that deals with the funding programs. They were not the actual people that give a yes or no to fund requests, but they know everything about the programs.
It was an interesting talk, where new possibilities opened and known ones were questioned if it are the best ones to apply for. We certainly learned a lot and are now looking into the pro’s and cons. Difficult!
We also talked to EURail Group again, one of our long-term sponsors. The meeting was in Utrecht, not Brussels, but it was directly after we returned to The Netherlands. EURail is going to do a lot for us, on top of what they already do for us:
- EURail Group will sponsor all 12 interrail passes for the Unity Express on Tour in October!
- They are also sponsoring 2 interrail tickets per MONTH (5-in-10 days or 10-in-22 days flexipass) to team members that need to travel somewhere (a team meeting for instance)
- They are seriously going to propose The Unity Express to their partners and funders to see if they can sponsor a wagon for the journey to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Interrail in 2012. That means EURail, or Interrail, could be one of the first to “adopt” one of the wagons of The Unity Express! More info somewhere at the end of June, beginning of July.
We, in return for the free Interrail tickets, will be blogging on the travel blog of EURail Group and of course provide them with all the information necessary to convince their partners of investing in us.
We think that this is one of our greatest achievements this past week, and we are very grateful of the opportunities EURail Group has given us. If you ever want to travel through Europe, be sure to consider the Interrail/EURail pass, it’s well worth the money!
We’ll be back…
In just under a week we met so many new people and got so many suggestions for organizations that we should contact, that we’ll sure be back in Brussels soon! The number of foundations and organizations that are doing something with tolerance or unity in Europe is simply amazing, and we have the idea that we know only the tip of the iceberg right now. We will of course share the dates of our return journey as soon as we know :).