RISE: Bringing Western Balkan Youth Together

Regional Incubator for Social Entrepreneurs (RISE) is a project aiming to enrich the Western Balkans (WB) social entrepreneurship eco-system and enable young people to develop social innovative solutions, consequently contributing to reconciliation, cooperation and mobility in the region.

Youth Time spoke to Adrien Delaby, RISE Project Coordinator, on how they manage to reach, connect and build mutual cooperation with respective young people and how RISE manages to create space for the development of entrepreneurial cross-border projects between young people, leaving behind various disputes in the historical context.

Further, in this piece, he discusses the importance of this exceptional initiative with a special mission of development and implementation of social innovation and promotion of new options and contemporary approaches for societal change.

 

Social Entrepreneurship

Adrien starts by explaining that collaboration of young people within the region is channelled through social entrepreneurship because this field of action is the cornerstone of social change.

“Indeed, young people in the Western Balkans are a pool of talent for innovative ideas, but they lack the support to develop their full potential.

“Despite highly dynamic national ecosystems, a regional platform for reconciliation through social entrepreneurship is necessary and is the central objective of this project.”

Adrien adds that the network of regional actors, national partners supporting young people with innovative ideas, and young people from across the region will be strengthened through activities to promote a regional eco-system.

“The project, due to its very regional nature, will tend to increase the number of cross-border interactions around social entrepreneurship during the three years of the project implementation and thereafter.”

A regional eco-system will be strengthened through five regional activities and 66 events organised by six Local Incubators in the Western Balkans.

“To develop regional cooperation among young people in the Western Balkans, it is necessary to strengthen the capacity of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“Capacity building will focus on supporting national social entrepreneurship actors working to promote and strengthen young entrepreneurs.”

 

Team Spirit

Adrien says that the implementation of their program for young entrepreneurs, consists of two parts: Ideation and Incubation phases.

Ideation is being implemented on the local level, while the incubation phase starts with a regional boot camp bringing together project leaders selected at the end of the ideation phase.

“The boot camp will provide the selected teams with the essential tools and knowledge to develop their project during the incubation period. It also aims to create a team spirit with a regional dimension among the participants.

“It is crucial that participants connect during this phase of regional cooperation to learn and to build bridges between themselves.”

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Rising Up: RISE are able to bring young people together all over the Balkans

In this perspective, the focus will be on the possibility for the project leaders to discover other actors in the region, who work on the same topic or in the same sector as them.

The incubation program will conclude with a regional closing event, bringing together all the participants, teams, project partners and key actors of social entrepreneurship in the region.

“This event aims to generate a network of dynamic actors, supporting the social entrepreneurship of young people in the region.”

It can also allow project leaders to meet with investors, business angels and other entrepreneurs in the region.

 

COVID-19 and RISE

Adrien acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down most of the efforts to combat challenges that young people face in the region.

“Youth mobility, exchange and cooperation across the region needs to be re-established and nurtured in expectation of economical and societal recovery that is to follow in areas where COVID-19 has hit the hardest.”

However, RISE strongly believes in economical, but also societal injustice relief that young social entrepreneurs can bring to the region.

“This is why we are dedicated to finding creative and alternative ways to continue with achieving our project goals. In the last few months we have been researching different approaches to online youth education and many advantages that non-formal education has compared to the traditional ones.

“We strive to make our training interactive and interesting in order to compensate for lack of offline communication and approach.”

 

Facing Challenges

Reminding that the region has been economically challenged in decades following regional conflicts, Adrien emphasises: “One of the economic areas mostly affected by this is youth employment, where unemployment rates of young people are among the highest in the world.”

He brings into discussion that labour markets of the Western Balkans are still much divided and there is a lot of space to improve cross-regional mobility and exchange.

“At the same time, young people can easily identify many social and environmental problems in their local communities, and those problems seem to be very similar throughout the Western Balkans. Even though a lot of progress has been made in youth participation in decision-making processes, the result is still far away from the level of youth participation in EU countries.”

He adds that one of the most fitting solutions to combat youth unemployment and solving social and environmental challenges of the region is development of social entrepreneurship initiated by the target group.

 

RISE Incubators

RISE Incubators are six local structures selected as the best RISE partners for the development of the project.

You may find below a short intro for each of them:

ARNO is an organisation for social innovation established in the civil landscape with a special mission of development and implementation of social innovation and promotion of new options and contemporary approaches for society change.

ARNO is the voice of social change and innovation, which believes that their voice can be spread regionally and internationally.

Balkan Green Foundation (BGF) – Prishtina – is a regional organization that promotes inclusive and equitable progress within the WB on sustainable development. Along with its partner organizations, BGF places a strong focus on advocating for solutions that promote development policies, which are in line with the world’s latest developments, global challenges and national agendas for European Union (EU) integration.

Nesto Vise – Sarajevo- is a non-governmental organization established in 1997 by a group of young people experienced in working with organizations from the civil society sector.

It encourages positive change in society by giving individuals and groups the opportunity to build, through formal and informal education, networking, work, shared experiences, and help, others into competent and responsible leaders who believe in themselves and others for openness and belonging to their society.

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Working Hard: RISE is part of many groups cooperating in the region

Smart Kolektiv– Belgrade – is an organization guided by the idea of connecting business and society in finding ways to apply business logic and experience to the solution of social problems. Organization is dedicated to the development of corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship in Serbia.

IEC Tehnopolis– Nikšić – works on development of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial community based on the scientific and research work, development and implementation of new technologies, knowledge-based growth, commercialization of innovations and establishing more intensive cooperation between the scientific community and the economy.

Yunus Social Business (YSB) Balkans– Tirana – is part of YSB Global Initiatives, a network of entities supporting the creation and growth of social impact businesses around the world. It aims to address social issues through the supporting development of start-ups/businesses that have potential to create social impact for the society in Western Balkans.

The RISE project is developed and monitored by the Consortium consisting of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), GROUPE SOS Pulse, the South East European Youth Network (SEEYN), the Institut Français, and the Franco-German Youth Office (FGYO).

This project is supported by the Agence Française de Développement and Regional Youth Cooperation Office.

Follow RISE on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin.


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