RISE Expedition, a Journey of Cooperation and Exploration

With the support of AFD, the European Union, the Regional Youth Cooperation Office and the Franco-German Youth Office, RISE has empowered young social entrepreneurs engaged in the RISE Journey to embark on a transformative expedition across the Western Balkans. During this journey, they have had the invaluable opportunity to connect with their peers, forge potential partnerships, and engage in meaningful exchanges of experiences. The RISE Expedition has imparted a regional dimension to the entrepreneurs’ social enterprise ideas, allowing them to explore parallel concepts within the region. As part of the 13 remarkable teams of social entrepreneurs, Blatologija, Bus On Time and Panacea are sharing their inspiring stories.

From Niš (Serbia) to Priština (Kosovo*)

Blatologija, a group dedicated to conserving traditional building methods and cultural heritage, recently embarked on a regional exploration of sustainable practices.

One notable stop on their journey was Gaia Kosovo, an organization Milijana and Tijana had followed closely. Here, they witnessed firsthand the outcomes of Gaia’s sustainable efforts.

Over two enlightening days, Blatologija learned about Gaia’s evolution into a sustainable property guided by permaculture principles. This experience fueled their desire to incorporate permaculture into their future workshops. Gaia also shared their expertise in natural building and restoration, offering valuable lessons on workshop organization. The visit revealed how to involve international volunteers and prepare for their stay, broadening their horizons for future collaborations.

Their visit to Gaia solidified Blatologija’s determination to establish their sustainable center and strengthened their bond with Gaia, grounded in shared values of environmental preservation and natural building.

The journey continued with visits to other inspiring organizations. EcoZ, founded by the resilient Egzona, motivated them to persevere in their mission despite challenges. The meeting with Balkan Green Foundation unveiled exciting collaboration prospects, combining natural building with modern sustainable technologies like solar panels and electricity. A productive discussion with the Local Branch Office of RYCO provided valuable feedback and future support.

Blatologija’s journey was a rich learning experience, unlocking doors to future collaborations and reinforcing their commitment to preserving traditions, sustainable building, and environmental awareness. Their story is an inspiring example of how young enthusiasts can impact cultural heritage and the environment positively.

From Tuzla (Bosnia & Herzegovina) to Podgorica (Montenegro)

In their mission to revolutionize public transport through innovative digital solutions, Kabir, Kenan and Maid us the RISE Expedition as a great opportunity to expand their horizons, forge meaningful partnerships, and delve into the heart of Montenegro’s culture.

Their journey began with a meeting with their peer Zoran, whom they had met previously at RISE Bootcamp 2023, a regional gathering of Risers marking the start of the incubation chapter of RISE Journey. From this meeting, they exchanged interesting experiences about developing digital solutions for public transport.

Later, the team had the opportunity to engage in fruitful discussions and knowledge sharing with local experts at Data Design, a company specializing in digital solutions for public transport. This exchange provided valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities in the Western Balkans’ digital transport infrastructure.

By visiting Montenegro’s public transport systems and discussing with local transport companies, Kabir, Kenan and Maid gained a deeper understanding of the technical intricacies involved. This knowledge is crucial for the development of their digital application.

Their journey also included a visit to the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) in Podgorica, where we emphasized the importance of regional collaboration. This exchange highlighted the significance of cooperation for economic growth and peaceful coexistence.

Beyond work, these three young entrepreneurs immersed themselves in Montenegro’s natural beauty and explored the attractive destinations of Budva and Sveti Stefan. Bus on Time team gained a better understanding of the region and the richness of human experience.

From Priština (Kosovo) to Skopje (North Macedonia)

In its mission of tackling unemployment in Kosovo, Panacea offers a solution by granting financial independence to women through the cultivation and sale of aloe vera. Aloe vera, known for its healing properties, requires minimal care and supervision, making it an ideal choice.

During their RISE expedition to Skopje, Egzona met with Irina from ARNO local incubator, who shared her invaluable experience of successful social enterprises. Following this productive meeting, discussions with local RYCO representatives focused on the progress of the PANACEA project. Through these meetings, the PANACEA team gained valuable knowledge and insights into successful social enterprises, as well as a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the social enterprise sphere in Northern Macedonia.

The journey allowed PANACEA to establish a robust network of contacts and potential collaborators in North Macedonia. Her meeting with Aleksandra from the Ampersand organization provided Egzona deeper insights into the organization’s workings and their commendable efforts. A mutual understanding emerged that both countries need heightened awareness about social issues and social enterprises, along with concerted efforts to uplift marginalized groups.

PANACEA was inspired by the success stories of local businesses, such as Rasadnik Slavevi, a family-run floristry business, and Vinarska Vizba Lazar, a local winery. The chance to meet individuals like Maja, a member of the REBEL team incubated by ARNO, and listen to their triumphant journey served as a powerful motivator, reinforcing PANACEA’s determination to press onward in their project’s pursuits.

About RISE Expedition Following the Demo Day, the selected social entrepreneurs received a €500 mobility grant for a 3 to 7-day trip to the Western Balkans. The RISE Expedition is a valuable and enriching experience that provide Risers the opportunity to connect with their peers or social enterprises, explore similar social entrepreneurship concepts in the region and share lessons learned. The RISE 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), PULSE (Groupe SOS), South East European Youth Network (SEEYN), the Franco-German Youth Office (OFAJ), ARNO, Balkan Green Foundation, Nesto vise, Smart Kolektiv, IEC Tehnopolis and Yunus Social Business Balkans.
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