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Rise program Western Balkans
AFD is supporting “Rise” – a program to help young entrepreneurs in the Western Balkans set up social enterprises. They are a key component of the region’s continuing development, and part of efforts to facilitate reconciliation and generate economic inclusion.

On the sidelines of the Social Innovations Forum organized in Belgrade on 9 and 10 September, the RISE project was presented at a press conference organized by the French Embassy in Serbia. It’s a project involving several actors, including the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), Pulse, Smart Kolektiv an AFD.

RISE (Regional Incubator for Social Entrepreneurs) is a program that aims to help young entrepreneurs in the Western Balkans set up social enterprises. The objective is to promote reconciliation in the Western Balkans by helping build solutions to address the challenges identified within communities, such as economic inclusion and strengthening social cohesion.

Regional incubation program

Social entrepreneurship seeks innovative solutions to social problems and to environmental challenges. AFD is providing €500,000 in financing for the project, which is implemented by the association Pulse. RISE involves other partners alongside RYCO, such as the Institut Français, the Franco-German Youth Office (FGYO) and the South East European Youth Network (SEEYN).

Launched in 2019 and scheduled until 2022, the RISE program has already assisted 46 teams, made up of 137 young people from the Western Balkans, with the development of their social enterprises. The participants have had access to training, individual coaching sessions and a business support program. Twelve of these teams have been awarded a €2,500 grant and a regional incubation program.

“The enthusiasm and determination of young people in resolving the problems they encounter in their community have been clearly seen during the RISE program. We need to continue to help them succeed and work as a community,” says Guillaume de Saint-Phalle, Project Manager for NGO Financing at AFD.

New call for applications

During the present health crisis, the contribution of French expertise to the development of the social and solidarity economy in the Western Balkans is a major vehicle for reconciliation and economic development between countries in the region.

The project will continue to support new ideas for social enterprises under a second call for applications, which closed on 26 September. The objective is to recruit a new generation of social entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 35, in teams of at least 2 people, and help them develop their business start-up projects.

This call for applications marks a new stage in the cooperation between France and the Western Balkans to promote the social and solidarity economy (SSE) and reconciliation as a driver of sustainable development and the fight against social exclusion, unemployment and climate change.  

Further reading