More than 100 changemakers, social entrepreneurs, and government officials from the region and the EU gathered to discuss how to improve the environment for social entrepreneurship.
(Skopje, September 15, 2023) – The third RISE Regional Forum for Social Entrepreneurs, organised by the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), was held in Skopje from 12 to 14 September. This region-wide conference gathered more than 100 social entrepreneurs, changemakers and government officials from the region and the EU to discuss how to improve the environment for social entrepreneurship as a powerful instrument for the social and economic development in Western Balkans. Through different panels, discussions, and interactive workshops, participants had the opportunity to exchange ideas, experiences and best practices across the region.
Deputy Prime Minister in Charge of Economic Affairs of North Macedonia Mr Fatmir Bytyqi said in his opening speech that Western Balkans Governments created and implemented policies for the development of social enterprises to support socio-economic development, but that regional cooperation needs to be strengthened.
“We need to improve the competitiveness of social enterprises so that they can compete outside national markets. But we should also use the opportunities brought by digitalisation to continuously create new and innovative social enterprises. This will not only make us more attractive partners for the EU but will strengthen our collective regional resilience and competitiveness in the global market arena,” Bytyqi said.
In addition, the French ambassador to North Macedonia, H.E. Cyrille Baumgartner, also pointed out the launch of the RISE project in October, at a time when France was reaffirming its desire to strengthen its involvement in socio-economic development in Western Balkans. The aim of RISE is to enable young people in the region to get to know each other better, exchange ideas and create new synergies by using social entrepreneurship as a tool for reconciliation.
A platform to stimulate positive impact
Through a series of enlightening sessions, experts underscored the need for adaptable legal frameworks to enhance social innovation, inspired renewed commitment to harnessing youth potential, and emphased the transformative power of sports in empowering marginalised youth.
“To understand needs of youth and to make solutions, it is very important to use creative way of thinking and creative tools. Trends are changing very fast and to be able to engage youth we have to seek creative solutions, especially using IT technology where we can crunch data and predict trends and outcomes.” Adem Lisičić, from RISE Local Nesto Vise, underlined during an interactive session on “Creative approaches of applying social entrepreneurship for supporting youth in need”
Two significant workshops were held during the Forum. The first workshop focused on intercultural skills and was facilitated by SEEYN and OFAJ. Risers developed the knowledge and competencies necessary to interact and collaborate with people from diverse cultural backgrounds effectively. The second workshop, led by Groupe SOS PULSE, centred on “Rethinking Enterprises into Impact Entrepreneurship” and aimed to equip RISE Local Incubators with the skills needed to integrate impact-driven approaches into traditional business models.
The final day focused on the young social entrepreneurs from the RISE project. At the first session animated by Jelena Bogdanov from RISE Local Incubator Smart Kolektiv, Risers from the RISE Journey 3 eagerly shared their insights as emerging changemakers who had actively participated in the RISE Incubation Chapter. As part of this program, they received a €3,000 grant to delve into concepts aligned with their social enterprise idea and develop an initial prototype of their product or service.
“Social economy is not only a concept of a new economy. In social economy, we have faces and names. The Forum gathered practitioners of social economy, and we are happy to see that our incubation programs have real impact and real faces behind social businesses. It’s great that decision-makers met our Risers. We need people and institutions that support and believe in social economy. ” Irina Janevska, from local RISE incubator ARNO, pointed out.
Awards for the best social entrepreneurship ideas
An exciting addition to the Forum, the competition RISE Alumni Award allowed 6 social entrepreneurs who had been part of the RISE Journey to present their social business to a jury and potential partners. This first competition aims to stimulate the economic growth of these social enterprises. As Risers Alumni develop their businesses, they can create jobs, contribute to the local economy and strengthen their impact in their communities.
Among the 6 contestant, Droplet, an app to facilitate the search for blood donors, and Women on the Way, a social business that aims to empower women refugees through sustainable fashion design, won the competition and each received €5,000 in financial support to further develop their businesses.
Harun Šabanović from Droplet, winner of the RISE Alumni Award expressed his delight, stating, “I’d like to congratulate all the Risers, and I’m delighted to see the progress our ideas are making. It’s an ongoing motivation for our companies and social entrepreneurship. And I’d like to pass on this motivation to other people to join the RISE journey. This award gives us the opportunity to boost our business to the maximum.”.
Toward the RISE Journey 4
The RISE Regional Forum ended with a focus on the next step of the RISE project. The Local Incubators announced once again that they launched a call for applications for the RISE Journey 4, offering all 16-35 year olds in the Western Balkans the chance to make a positive impact in their community.
“New RISE Call for Social Entrepreneurs has been open since the 1st of September, and we plan to select and support over 200 young entrepreneurs in the region, so we invite young people with great ideas and vision to apply. Initiatives like RISE (Regional Incubator for Social Entrepreneurs) provide opportunities for young people to make a difference and shape the future. Let’s help them at this Forum to be closer to that goal, at least for one step,” saidMr. Albert Hani, Secretary General of RYCO.
Thanks to the financial support from L’Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the European Union, RYCO and the Franco-German Youth Office (FGYO), The RISE project has already supported more than 350 young social entrepreneurs and given life to 130 social enterprise ideas across the region.
Launched on 1 October 2019, RISE (Regional Incubator for Social Entrepreneurs), with its ten partners, supports young people’s ventures in the Western Balkans that aims to have a positive social or environmental impact on their communities. The implementation of the project takes into account the specific needs of the region as well as its historical and political context. Thus, this project aims to foster reconciliation in the Western Balkans through the promotion and strengthening of social entrepreneurship.
This project is co-funded by the Agence Française de Développement, the European Union, Regional Youth Cooperation Office and the Franco-German Youth Office (OFAJ). RISE project is developed in partnership with the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO),Groupe SOS Pulse, South East European Youth Network (SEEYN), the Franco-German Youth Office (OFAJ), ARNO, Balkan Green Foundation, Nešto Više, Smart Kolektiv, IEC Tehnopolis and Yunus Social Business Balkans.