Taulant Hoxha lives in Kosovo and, in spite of his youth, has been occupied with the idea of social initiative for a long time. We learned in the interview that the concept of the Eventor Hub was born a few years ago, but financial limitations made the transition from idea to reality a difficult one.
Taulant, what is innovative about your project?
Eventor HUB is the second phase of the online platform Eventor, which was recognized as the best idea at the Social Innovation Camp, organized by the UNICEF Innovations Lab in Kosovo. Our most important innovation lies in creating an institution (a hub), which will support and help young and unprivileged people, who are talented but have no support to realize their ideas, to get a free education, or to start socially driven ventures. We plan to identify and engage with successful students from the universities, who will mentor our colleagues in specific fields. We have come to this conclusion for two reasons: firstly, an age difference between teachers and students is a serious problem for the learning process. Secondly, successful students have few opportunities to obtain practical experience before graduating. This makes the process of individual career improvement difficult. And last, but not least: an innovative aspect of the Eventor HUB is that it will feature a conceptual space, which will facilitate new dimensions in the field of education by establishing a framework for co-working and turning the ideas of the Eventor HUB’s members into reality. Our slogan is: “Connecting Opportunity Seekers with Opportunity Creators.” The Eventor HUB will be frequented by many different people who are willing to start initiatives and projects to impact their communities and to improve their lives, but who are struggling.
What kind of social innovations do you mean?
We call the social innovation of our project “The Modern Robin Hood Philosophy.” We plan to offer services and premises that can be rented to groups, organizations, and businesses that have promising ideas. Using the resulting income, we would like to support groups of talented young people who want to develop their ideas and initiatives. Also, in advance we will organize “Create Weekend” – a competition, in which young people will plan, design, and create prototypes of their community-driven projects and apply their business models.
Where will the HUB be located?
The HUB is going to be located in Prizren, which is the second biggest town in Kosovo. Our long term plan is to create a World Wide Network of Eventor HUBs, but this mission is going to be more defined after we observe the actual function and success of the pilot project.
Since the Eventor HUB project is planned to be implemented in the timespan of 10 months, it goes without saying that we have planned many activities. In the course of the whole project multiple concepts will be launched, so considering this we have decided to leave aside some initiatives for other donors. This time luck seems to be on our side: we are concurrently negotiating with three possible donors. Most of them are international organizations working here in Kosovo, and some are embassies. Negotiations are going pretty well and, hopefully, soon we will raise the amount we need and maybe even more. See, it’s easier to raise funds when you already have secured the major part of the funding, in our case with the award from the Youth Time International Movement.
Taulant, how would you estimate the present state of Kosovar youth in general?
Kosovo is a post-war country in transition, and for sure there are lots of political and economic issues. The top socio-economic issue is unemployment among young adults, who make up more than 60% of the general population. So, one of the most common options for young people is to go somewhere abroad, settle down, and just live quietly in any of the developed countries. I tried doing that myself, but I came back, as living abroad wasn’t and still isn’t my goal. I want a better future for the youth of my country, I want them to have the same opportunities and resources as other young people in Europe and other developed countries. I have had a tough life myself. I passed through very difficult challenges, and when I say challenges, I’m talking about a young person who was raised in a society where the only dream was to live in peace. I lost some family members in war and went through many other challenges. But still, here I am – more than ever motivated and eager to make a change in my country, to help young people live their dreams and be a part of positive changes in the world.
What values do young people in Kosovo have and what do you think does not bode well for the future of your country?
Lately, personally and also on the project where I’m working, I see a lot of challenges down the road: education, unemployment, political inclusion, free movement (visa requirements with the EU) and many other problems. Everything considered, the near term looks daunting with a lot of work to be done. What does not bode well for the future of our youth? I think there are two main challenges: Education and Unemployment. Let’s simplify it: education unfortunately is still as it was 20-30 years ago, there is no forward movement, and no real reform. So as education is one of the fundamental imperatives for any society, our country is losing ground because of its education system, and it is Kosovar young people who are facing this and suffering from it. And the second challenge is unemployment. The unemployment rate in Kosovo is very high especially among young people, and thanks to this situation we are facing two other problems: migration and rising public disappointment which then drive us to other problems such as family dysfunction and related negative phenomena such as drug abuse, family violence and so on. So, it’s not all dark here but there are lots of challenges that need to be faced and not so many people are interested in doing it. Unfortunately, it’s sad that people have started to surrender in the face of these challenges.
Kosovo is a young country. Does that mean that young people have a voice in important decisions?
Kosovo is a new country in the sense that it has recently established its independence after a bloody conflict and after a century of occupation by Yugoslavia and then Serbia. But, responding to the question whether this is a young country where young people are primary decision makers and leaders, this is so far not the case. There are some ”glimmers of hope” that a new era of politics is starting, especially after the last local elections that were held in November-December. Some things have started to change, we have some young politicians, educated in developed countries such as the USA or European countries, who have won election as mayors. One of them was elected as the mayor of our capital city. So there is some hope that a new era is starting.
A little bit about society. Is there a unique approach to relations between men and women in Kosovo? In general how do young people in your country view new trends in European social life (like Same-sex Marriage, etc.)?
Well, if we look at the big picture we can’t complain. There has been quite a lot of improvement compared to several years ago, but for sure there is a need for more and we shouldn’t be satisfied and stop trying for more and more improvement. And about these new trends in Europe, let’s say same-sex marriage, this is quite a tough topic here, and a really sensitive one. There are lots of reasons. Some of the reasons why these issues are so “hot” can be found in the traditional and conservative values of Kosovar society, and for sure the main reason is religious, because more than 90% of the population belongs to the Muslim religion.
And a final question: what do you think defines a real man?
Wow (a million dollar question). In my opinion a real man is defined by these virtues: relations with others, vision for a better future, hard work, relations with his family, relatives and friends, and last but not least the respect he has for himself.
Photo: From the archive of Taulant Hoxha