More than 100 changemakers, social entrepreneurs, and government officials from the region and the EU gathered to discus how to improve environment for social business
(Skopje, September 15, 2023) – The second RISE Regional Forum for Social Entrepreneurs, organized by the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), was held in Skopje from 12 until 14 September. This region-wide conference gathered more than 100 social entrepreneurs, changemakers and government officials from the region and the EU, to discussed how to improve environment for social entrepreneurship as a powerful instrument for the social and economic development in the region. Through different panels, discussions, and interactive workshops, participants had the opportunity to exchange ideas, experiences and best practices across sectors.
The Forum delivered on its promise to advance the social economy and foster collaborations that address societal challenges. It began with a global presentation entitled “State of play of the social economy in the Western Balkans 6 2023”. This session enabled regional politicians to elucidate the complex nuances of the social entrepreneurship landscape in the Western Balkans and set the stage for dynamic discussions.
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, in order to support socio-economic development, but that regional cooperation need 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 digitalization 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.
The Secretary General of RYCO Mr. Albert Hani emphasized that RYCO has invested near 600.000 euro, empowering 6 Local Incubators, over 350 Young Social Entrepreneurs and brining to life 130 Social Business Ideas across the region.
“New RISE Call for Social Entrepreneurs is open since 1st 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) are providing 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,” says Hani.
Through a following series of enlightening sessions, experts underscored the need for adaptable legal frameworks to enhance social innovation, inspired renewed commitment to harnessing youth potential, and emphasized the transformative power of sports in empowering marginalized youth.
The final day focused on the young entrepreneurs from the RISE project. They eagerly shared their insights as emerging changemakers who had actively participated in the RISE incubation program, shedding light on the valuable lessons gleaned from their mobility program within the region.
“Social economy is not only a concept of 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” – expressed Irina Janevska, ARNO, local RISE incubator
Awards for the best social entrepreneurship ideas
An exciting addition to the Forum, the RISE Alumni Award, with aim 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.
Harun from Droplet having as an idea the creation of an mobile application to make easier the registration of blood donors and Katarina from Women on the way with the idea of empowering women refugees through sustainable fashi0n, won the competition and each received €5,000 in financial support to further develop their businesses.
Harun from Droplet of the RISE Alumni Award expressed their gratitude, stating,
I would like to congratulate all the Risers, I’m happy to see the progress in our ideas. This is a lifelong motivation for our businesses and for social entrepreneurship. And I would like to spread this motivation for others to join the RISE Journey. This award will boost our business to the maximum.
In the closing remarks, the Deputy Secretary General of RYCO Denis Piplas, who was member of the jury, said that
When it comes to social entrepreneurs and organizations dealing with this topic – like RYCO does, we agreed that we need to improve the environment for social economy and foster collaborations. How we will do it? We will first check the basis and to update context, to understand better what are current situations, challenges and obstacles on local levels. After that we will decide topics for lobbing and follow the strategy, organize activities, develop policy paper, etc – Piplas emphasized.
The RISE Regional Forum was organized as a part of the Regional Incubator for Social Entrepreneurs (RISE) project, supported by L’Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the European Union, RYCO and the Franco-German Youth Office .
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.