Funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD), RISE aims to promote the reconciliation of young people in the Western Balkans through the deployment of a regional support program for social entrepreneurship. It works with six organizations to strengthen their support systems for young entrepreneurs.
In the six Western Balkans countries, many projects have been supported, such as Earth Soldiers in Montenegro (ecological summer camps), StarNuts in Albania (production of organic hazelnuts), Women on the way in Serbia (supporting refugee women in the textile industry) and Yes for Less in North Macedonia (digital platform promoting ecological and sustainable lifestyle).
A regional success
The first cycle outperformed the initial objectives: the call for projects received 257 applications from all over the region. 46 teams were selected to participate in the incubation program, bringing together 137 young entrepreneurs. 33 training sessions on social enterprise development were held, 19 community building meetings, 182 mentoring sessions, 26 expert consultations, 135 individual coaching sessions and 6 regional peer learning sessions organized, and 12 teams were selected to participate in the incubation phase.
At the regional level, the first cycle of this project ended with the organization of a social innovation summit in Belgrade, which brought together local actors in Social Economy, a growing sector in the Western Balkans.
Scheduled for a period of 3 years, the second phase is an opportunity to strengthen this program by developing the ecosystem of social entrepreneurship in the region and young people’s access to it. Its mobility component will be increased, by the organization of several bootcamps for offline entrepreneurs, visits to local actors in France as well as information and exchange forums for external purposes.
RISE is implemented by Pulse, a subsidiary of the SOS group. The SOS group is the spearhead of social entrepreneurship in France. The project thus enables French and local institutions of the social economy to enter a dialogue on their methodologies and expertise, and to exchange information and know-how on a long-term basis.
Entrepreneurship, key to reconciliation
This solid network allows young people from the six countries of the Western Balkans to connect. They have the opportunity to discuss and help each other, especially during face-to-face events. The mobility part is organized by RYCO, co-funder of the project and driver of youth reconciliation in the region. RISE project gives these young people the opportunity to develop their idea of a project with positive impact, thus motivating them to energize their country of origin and to promote sustainable transition in their surroundings.
Meeting other young people sharing the same goal opens up opportunities for synergies between their different projects, but also for new friendships and regular exchanges – essential ingredients for reconciliation. Reconciliation is an important issue in this region marked by recent wars, where stereotypes are still present. A project like RISE makes it possible to create new bridges between communities, around a common ambition of social and environmental sustainability with a positive impact.