Meet ARNO Project Manager

The best lesson I learned from the RISE project is teamwork because I realized that teamwork is the dream work.

This lesson comes not only from the RISE teams but also from the RISE consortium because the teamwork among our colleagues and the cooperation that we have makes the project one of the best ones in the WB region.

We need to learn more about how to cooperate, and how to create a common vision, because through this open collaboration and setting common goals we can achieve a better life and a better place for young people and for everyone in the region.

Marjan Icoski - ARNO Project Manager

What is ARNO?

ARNO means “good”, and we genuinely believe that doing good is the way to improve the world we are living in. We were established in 2013 in Skopje, North Macedonia by a group of young and creative minds with philanthropic hearts, experienced in different industries and fields, and passionate about our social causes. We are led by the mission to develop and support social innovation through the design of new options and diverse social initiatives, and to shape the future by sharing our resources and discovering new approaches. Our work is focused on building skills, resources, and relationships as the path toward building a stronger impact. Social innovation, sustainable development, youth, social entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship education are the areas in which we work hard to achieve our goals.  

In these ten years of existence, ARNO became recognized as a ground-breaking leader in the field of social entrepreneurship in North Macedonia. Among others, ARNO is currently managing one of the most important green and social entrepreneurship programs in the WB6 region: the “Green Ideas” Competition and Regional Incubator for Social Entrepreneurs (RISE) project. Through the Green Ideas, ARNO supports small, local, and green business ideas, contributing to the sustainable development and local economy in our country, while the RISE program supports young social entrepreneurs and the development of their social businesses as forerunners of positive change.  

Moreover, through our international networks, we bring international examples and innovative approaches to N. Macedonia and connect the young people, educators, institutions, and business community with their counterparts abroad. Jointly with several high schools in N. Macedonia, we are developing social entrepreneurship curricula, digital tools, and handbooks that help youngsters from an earlier age to learn about social entrepreneurship, solidarity, and empathy values and get involved in the world of social and green entrepreneurship. By building these new collaborations and partnerships with high schools, entrepreneurship teachers, and even universities, we tend to create much-needed synergies between various sectors and professions and raise awareness of the concept of social entrepreneurship.   

 We are proud to say that we are one of the few organizations in our country that acts as a nationally recognized resource organization for sharing know-how, good practices, and experience in social entrepreneurship and green entrepreneurship, and a bridge connecting North Macedonia, WB6, and Europe. Thus far, through these and other entrepreneurship programs and initiatives, ARNO has supported and educated more than 200 green and social entrepreneurs and helped the establishment of tens of social and green businesses in North Macedonia.  

How do you and your local incubator contribute to raising awareness of the importance of social entrepreneurship?

At ARNO we believe that the actions should speak for themselves. That is why all our initiatives are aimed not only to directly support young social and green entrepreneurs but also to raise awareness of the key role of social entrepreneurship as an instrument for solving social problems. Through showcasing inspirational stories and good practices, we try to raise awareness of social entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship education in our country. And one of those stories is ours. As a socially and environmentally responsible organization, we “walk the talk” and lead our own social initiative named “Coolinary” focused on the promotion of gastronomy and support of vocational education. “Coolinary” is ARNO`s contribution to the local community and a hands-on concept through which we organize cooking classes together with the students of the High School for Gastronomy “Lazar Tanev” from Skopje, helping them to reduce their unemployment and channel their further careers. 

Of course, social media for ARNO is one of the most powerful tools for engaging and raising awareness of social entrepreneurship. We take communications quite seriously and we are very active on all our social media channels. Through storytelling and story-doing on social media, we are spreading the good word about social entrepreneurship, especially among our young audience. We are extremely proud of the success of our social entrepreneurs and we love to showcase their stories and raise awareness through their concrete actions and impact on the local communities. Our social entrepreneurs are our stars and are the heart of our communication and a crucial part of the national and international awareness-raising campaigns we take part in.  

ARNO is also involved in research and advocacy for social entrepreneurship in N. Macedonia as an awareness-raising action. For example, currently, we are part of the consultations on drafting the new Law on social enterprises and we are creating the first nationwide mapping and registry of youth social enterprises and youth social entrepreneurship ideas as part of the biggest project in our country “Support to social enterprises”. Through our media and civil society partners, as well as national and international networks such as the DIESIS network, National Youth Council of Macedonia, Y-Peers network, etc. we use these key policy and research activities to promote the social entrepreneurship, not only for young people but also to key institutions and stakeholders in the social economy in North Macedonia and WB6 region. 

How are you helping young entrepreneurs in their project?

The support we give to young social entrepreneurs is quite comprehensive, and tailored-made for their needs and wants at the start of their entrepreneurial journeys. We deliver a set of trainings and consultations to help their dream ideas come true. We work with them on how to develop their idea into a viable business model, how to create and present their values to the local communities, how to sell their products and services, how to plan their budgets, and so on. We offer them constant support in and outside of our programs, being there to assist them in any way possible since we know how challenging the start of the social business especially is. We also connect them with the business community helping them to explore and use the ecosystem in our country. Thanks to our donors and supporters, through the RISE program and the Green Ideas Competition, we also offer financial help to young social entrepreneurs, to kick-start their businesses and do good.  

Alongside, young social entrepreneurs are becoming part of our ARNO community and have access to various opportunities for further professional development, education, and networking through ours and the activities of our partners. We regularly communicate with our alumni community and potential social entrepreneurs, offering them space and a chance to further grow. Doing this for long years, the ARNO team has created a big pool of mentors, experts, and friends who want to help as well, and give back to their communities by sharing know-how and experience with youngsters. The social entrepreneurs can experience several months of the mentoring process of senior experts who are specialized in particular areas of business and impact development and help them with specific concerns.  

As said, we believe that we grow through the growth of the young entrepreneurs, and we take pride in every achievement they made. Therefore, part of our support for social entrepreneurs is in boosting their visibility through the promotion of their stories and impact through social and traditional media, which further helps them to get recognized and distinguish themselves in the local communities as businesses that do good.  

We are ARNO and we do good.  

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