About Connect Europ
Connect Europ was originally formed by three friends (Mike Stokes, Alexander Hamilton and Chris Dolan) in early 1992 with the idea of bringing together an ever-widening range of international activities. At that time, Mike Stokes was working as International Officer for Strathclyde Education Department, a jointly managed project between Strathclyde and the then Scottish Community Education Council (SCEC); Alex Hamilton was with Lothian Regional Council and Chris Dolan was Scottish Co-ordinator of Community Service Volunteers. What they all shared was an active interest in the development of international work, and between them they were involved in a wide range of voluntary international activities, usually under the umbrella of ISEE Scotland.
(For further information about the International Social and Educational Exchanges organisation see ISEE, and for details of the numerous international activities that led to the formation of Connect Europ see History.)
For Mike in particular, it was becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between his full-time international work for Strathclyde Region/SCEC and his voluntary involvement with ISEE. It was therefore decided that Connect Europ should be developed as a partnership, and that Strathclyde Regional Council and SCEC should be approached with the idea of their contracting out a set range of international responsibilities to Connect Europ. The same services would then be offered to other Local Authorities and organisations throughout the UK.
In the event, this idea of contracting out services to another organisation was not accepted at that time, although in retrospect Connect Europ’s founders were probably just too far ahead in their thinking. Mike subsequently formed Connect Europ as a Sole Trader in early 1992. Both Alexander Hamilton and Chris Dolan have since become widely recognised figures in the arts, Alex as a respected artist, and Chris as an International Consultant for UNESCO and an award winning poet, author and playwright.
Since 1992 Connect Europ has worked with more than 35 countries, in particular Russia (34 projects) and Germany (45 projects), and has organised some 122 projects, mainly consisting of study tours, conferences and training courses, many of them grant aided by different European Union Programmes e.g. the Tempus Programme (12 projects), EU Priority Actions (four projects) and Youth for Europe. On behalf of the Russian Federation, Connect Europ has organised some 20 specialist group study visits to the UK (sixteen groups on behalf of the Russian Ministry of Taxes), as well as an eight-month placement for 32 students from the Siberian Region of Yakutia and a five-day, 85-participant (including four members of the Russian State Duma) conference on the insurance industry, held in Edinburgh.
More recently, Mike Stokes worked as Deputy Director of the International Office of St Martin’s College (a higher education institution, now the University of Cumbria) for several years and organised a number of projects on their behalf (see About Mike Stokes). Under the auspices of Connect Europ he registered as an International Expert on EU databases and has undertaken missions for the EU Tempus Programme (Assessment of Projects) and for the Turkish Ministry of Education in Ankara on behalf of Cambridge Education. In 2015 Connect Europ celebrates 20 years of working with the Bayerischer Jugendring in Munich, organising 12-week school placements in the UK for German youngsters. (For more information about projects that Mike Stokes has organised see Record of international activities.)