Irina and Marjan’s Participation in Konektor – Philanthropy East Forum image

Irina and Marjan’s Participation in Konektor – Philanthropy East Forum

ARNO is proud to announce the participation of Irina Janevska and Marjan Icoski in the esteemed 26th edition of the Konektor – Philanthropy East Forum. Held from September 24th to 26th, 2023, in the historic city of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, this renowned forum, formerly known as the Grantmakers East Forum, plays a pivotal role in nurturing philanthropy and civil society across Europe. It also serves as a catalyst for collaborative efforts within the philanthropic sector to integrate into global philanthropic initiatives.

Guided by the overarching theme, “Peace, Justice, and the Promise of Democracy – What Did We (Not) Learn?” the event provided an essential platform to navigate the complex landscape of global issues. In an era marked by uncertainty and multifaceted challenges, the forum underscored the pivotal role of civil society organizations and communities in shaping a world characterized by peace, justice, and democratic values.

The forum commenced with a thought-provoking session titled “Youth as Key for the Deadlock.” It addressed the pressing issue of democratic deficit in Europe amidst a backdrop of uncertainty, war, green transition, and digital transformation. During this session, young participants engaged in discussions about their role models, anti-heroes, the influence of (trap) music with potentially harmful lyrics, and the power of social entrepreneurship, adding a dynamic perspective to the forum’s discourse.

Another enlightening session attended by Marjan and Irina explored the intersection of justice, democracy, and ecology. This session prompted essential questions about building alliances that promote ecological, social, and intergenerational justice. It also highlighted the potential for transformative change through collaborative efforts.

A distinctive feature of the forum was the integration of alternative arts into the conference setting. Irina and Marjan had the privilege of joining a session led by Damir Sagolj, a Bosnian national whose journey from an engineering career to photojournalism exemplified the power of visual storytelling. Notably, Damir was a 2004 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his Iraq war coverage and a 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner as part of the Reuters team that covered the Rohingya crisis.

Image courtesy of REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Image courtesy of REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

In reflecting on his work, Damir shared, “As a photographer, you want to get as close as possible to your subject – to see the smallest detail without missing the big picture. That old rule will never get too old to forget. But how do you apply it to an event that took place a decade ago? The bigger the distance – be it time or space – the harder it gets to tell the story accurately. It gets blurred, obscured, and perhaps even twisted. Some parts vanish, while others grow. I’ve covered over 100 mass graves and identification processes in my career, full of mass killings and major natural disasters. Many of these assignments took place long after the tragedy.”





The forum covered a diverse range of topics, including the potential applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for NGOs and discussions on the role of youth in shaping society’s future. Irina and Marjan were vocal advocates for the active involvement of young participants and youth advocates in these discussions, as their contributions infused the event with a youthful perspective and energy.

A memorable highlight of the forum was the site visit to Greens BA, an exceptional social enterprise that integrates people with disabilities and produces organic microgreens and vegetables. This visit not only showcased inspiring initiatives but also sparked exciting ideas for potential collaborations in the future. ARNO eagerly looks forward to ongoing engagement with the exceptional individuals met during the event, ready to advance its mission with renewed enthusiasm.

About the KoneKtor – Philanthropy East Forum:

Formerly the Grantmakers East Forum, KoneKtor helps sustain the steady development of philanthropy and civil society in communities and states in wider Europe and facilitates collaborative efforts of the philanthropic sector to fully integrate into European and global philanthropic initiatives and institutions.

Focus areas: Providing networking opportunities and platforms for critical discussion about grant-making.

Activities: The Forum is an annual 2-day conference that convenes on average 100 participants, representing foundations, bilateral donors, international organizations, and corporate funders. This annual meeting takes place during the autumn, in a different country every year.

Network background: The Forum grew out of Philea’s Grantmakers East Group (GEG), which was created in 1992 by several Philea members active in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union states. The group first met at a side event organized at Philea’s annual conference. However, as interest in the group grew in parallel with developments in the field of grantmaking in the region, the GEG grew into an independent project with an Annual Meeting taking place in a different country each year. The first GEG Annual Meeting took place in Paris in 1996.

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