Skopje hosts the Third RISE Regional Forum for Social Entrepreneurs
From September 12th to 14th, Skopje was the host of the third Regional Forum for Social Enterprises, a significant event in our world of social entrepreneurship, organised by RYCO. The RISE Regional Forum for Social Entrepreneurs was a three-day event with a sharp focus on the vital role of support systems and legal structures in nurturing social entrepreneurship, and platform for promoting the faces of social economy (our RISERs). .The RISE Regional Forum is an integral part of the Regional Incubator for Social Entrepreneurs (RISE) project, receiving support from L’Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the European Union, the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), and the Franco-German Youth Office (FGYO). Under the RISE umbrella, ARNO acts as the local incubator, working alongside partners from other Western Balkans countries to implement a comprehensive program aimed at nurturing young social entrepreneurs.
The Social Enterprise Fair and Commitments to Social Economy
The forum kicked off with a traditional fair that brought together more than 50 social enterprises from the region, showcasing their products and innovations. This event was organized by RYCO in collaboration with the project “Support for the development of social enterprises,” that is supported by the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Skopje, and Pacomak. The fair held immense importance as it served as a platform for key decision-makers to express their commitments to the social economy.
The fair carried significant weight as it provided a platform for influential decision-makers to reaffirm their dedication to the social economy. Among those who lent their support were Ms. Jovana Trenceska, Minister of Labor and Social Policy; H.E. David Geer, the Ambassador of the EU Delegation; H.E. Cyrille Baumgartner, the Ambassador from France; H.E. Krzysztof Grzelczyk, the Ambassador from Poland; Mr. Naumce Mojsovski, the Director of the Agency of Youth and Sport; Mr. Albert Hani, the Secretary General of RYCO; Ms. Barbara Sadowska, dedicated Team Leader for the “Project for support of the development of the social enterprises”; and Mr. Filip Ivanoski, who leads the way as Managing Director of Pakomak. Their presence and commitments at the fair made it all the more impactful.
ARNO’s Impact and EICEE Project
As the local RISE incubator, ARNO played a significant role and garnered substantial visibility during the event. Our ARNO team showcased past and ongoing projects, including the Green Ideas Competition success stories, materials from the YouCanBe project (Handbook for SocEnts), the fresh one pager promoting the concept of Parkours for the future, a glimpse of the upcoming EU funded Coolinari4Impact project (featuring bagels and doughnuts), and distributed eco-friendly flower seed cards produced by a former Green Ideas winner.
Given the central nature of this event, ARNO also took the opportunity to promote the project “EICEE – Western Balkan Eco Innovation and Circular economy Ecosystem implemented by Association for Democratic Prosperity – Zid from Montenegro together with CEDRA from Croatia, Deli Center from Serbia, ARNO from Macedonia, Lens from Kosovo, Green Building Council from Bosnia and Hercegovina supported by European Union through call EU Civil Society Facility and Media Programme in favor of the Western Balkans and Turkey for 2021-2023 (IPA III). The fair provided a direct avenue to engage with the project’s target audience, inspiring Aleksandar Bogoevski – Coordinator on behalf of ARNO, the Project Partner from North Macedonia, to conduct a quick survey regarding the project’s activities, such as the opening of a Regional Awareness Centre with a podcast studio and the grant scheme.
“This is what we need, real contact with our target group,” noted Aleksandar Bogoevski, Coordinator in North Macedonia. “So we used the opportunity to ask them, who do they want to see and hear in our future podcasts as part of the EICEE project? What are the faces of the green economy they would like to meet? What is inspirational? It was great to see many answers. People mentioned ‘RETO Nadez’ (Hope), ‘In-Vivo’ (Work integration of homeless people through the production of bio humus), ‘Mama Organa’ (a local green and social business providing work to single-parent families by selling organic fertilisers), O-Krug (a Green Ideas winner)-youth initiatives producing essential oils from orange peel waste, among others. These are all initiatives we would definitely approach as part of the project.”
Uniting Voices for a Stronger Social Economy
The forum continued in a more exclusive format, bringing together key players in the social economy arena. The Deputy Prime Minister in Charge of Economic Affairs of North Macedonia, Mr. Fatmir Bytyqi, and The Secretary General of RYCO, Mr. Albert Hani, both expressed their support and commitment to this emerging economy in their opening addresses.
The Zero session, titled “State of play of the social economy in the Western Balkans,” featured experts and officials from the region presenting the current landscape. The Panel Discussion, “Social Economy: European Perspectives and Recommendations for the Local Actors,” moderated by Gianluca Pastorelli from Diesis Network (of which ARNO is a member), included insightful contributions from Ms. Vera Strobachova, Budway – Economic Affairs Officer at OSCE, Ms. Kelly Robin, Deputy Director of Groupe SOS Pulse (a RISE consortium member), and Ms. Barbara Sadowska, Team Leader of the “Project for support of the development of the social enterprises.”
In the subsequent parts of the forum, the concept of Living Library Sessions allowed participants to engage more closely with speakers and actors in the Social Economy. The final session, “Uniting Voices for a Stronger Social Economy in WB,” adopted a circular format, fostering direct recommendations and reflections sharing.
The last day of the Forum featured the RISE Alumni Award, a highlight of the event. Harun from Droplet, with the idea of creating a mobile application to simplify blood donor registration, and Katarina from Women on the Way, aiming to empower women refugees through sustainable fashion, emerged as the competition winners. Each received €5,000 in financial support to further develop their businesses.
The third RISE Regional Forum for Social Entrepreneurs in Skopje demonstrated the power of social entrepreneurship as a catalyst for social and economic growth in the Western Balkans. It was a gathering to celebrate new ideas, people’s strong dedication, and organizations working hard to make the future better.