• “No matter your age or standing, there is potential to turn a passion or skill from your professional or social life into a social enterprise idea”

    Ana Filipovska is the General Secretary at the Country Coordinating Mechanism, a multi-sectorial body that includes institutions that have important roles in delivering key interventions and shaping policy and advocacy in public health. She is responsible for providing technical assistance to its committees, conducting trainings, and overseeing grants supported by the Global Fund. Filipovska also has experience in strengthening Macedonian communities by using social enterprises as resources for the mobilization of social programs.

    1. What is your motivation to do the job you are doing it right now?

    People from my community motivate me to love to work in social enterprise development field. Especially vulnerable people because they are usually neglected but have a lot of potential to offer to the community we all live in. Living in a country with 30% of unemployment and lot’s economic and social challenges I choose to work in social enterprise development because I believe in the empowerment we give to each other with our work, initiatives, care, love and unity. I believe that in Macedonia will rich development if we have bottom- up approach that means that development starts within community trough social enterprise creation.

    There are big challenges in Macedonia that weren’t being solved and an untapped resource within Macedonian society. I’m optimistic that, given the opportunity, communities could provide the solutions to some of our biggest challenges and support social entrepreneurs that are developing big, new ideas to tackle Macedonia social problems. We knew that some of these ideas might not succeed, but we knew that if they did, the social impact would be transformative.

    This optimism is critical to bringing about any major change. When you look coldly on the challenges that we are facing in Macedonia, it would be easy to give up in despair. The problems we are facing can sometimes seem too great, too entrenched. But optimism changes the way you see the world. It forces you to focus on potential, to seek out opportunities as they arise and take full advantage of them. Optimism empowers us to find our own role in improving the society that we live in. And social entrepreneurs are eternal optimists. Therefore I’m eternal optimist and saw social enterprise development as proactive approach to tackle some of our bitter problems in our society as unemployment, inclusion and poverty.

    But optimism in isolation is just a pipe-dream. It requires action to turn vision into reality. And this is where social entrepreneurs set themselves apart. They show the courage of their convictions not just to believe that things can be better, but they take action to actually make it happen, to turn their ideas into impact. My constant motivation is to create possibility for youth to become proactive change agents as social entrepreneurs that will be capable to understand potential and impact they can have through social enterprise creation for benefit to Macedonian community.

    1. Would you change something from when you were a child, to now?

    I will change just one thing: having opportunity and knowledge when I was 14th years old to start my first social enterprise in order to inspire more people on my pathway.

    1. How would you sum up your work experience?

    Born and raised in Macedonia, Ana Filipovska has more than 13 years’ experience in straightening communities in development of social enterprises as resource mobilization for social programs. Her experiences in India, Canada, USA and some countries in Europe have all augmented commitment to economic and social development and international cooperation. She have Bachelor in Economy  and received MA in Social Economy, University of Florence, Faculty of Educational Science, in collaboration with the ART Universitas Programme (UNDP, UNOPS), graduated with Magna Cum Laude. She made a research in Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy, Quebec, Montreal, Canada with title: “How Social Economy and Social Entrepreneurship  influence Local Economic Development and Employment” published on the Italian UNDP web page. Through community solution program she was engaged in nonprofit program of Mountain States Group, Inc., in USA specializes in the support needed to launch and grow local businesses through microloan funds, one-on-one consulting, business plan training courses and she was responsible to establish a Social Enterprise HUB within META-Micro Enterprise Training and Assistance organization. She is currently working through the Macedonian country coordinating mechanism as social economy expert for community organizations working or composed by vulnerable population  that are willing to establish social enterprises in Macedonia. Her vision is to establish Social Enterprise HUB in Macedonia where already there is existence of social enterprises and good local economic cooperation with local community, non-governmental organizations and business community and she is working towards establishing a platform to support and promote social economy initiatives at various levels in South East Europe.

    1. What’s your vision of Social Economy; how do you see the social business in the future?

    Social economy is a bottom up approach and is very complex system including a lot of actors from different sectors from all society:

    • Civil society
    • Business
    • All levels of the Governments
    • Labour movements
    • Women movements

    This is crucial for building a complex but sustainable system which will provide sustainable national, regional and local development.

    The social economy is there to respond to the needs of our society. Those needs can include quality of life, job creation, respect for the environment, use of natural resources, and access to communications. The social economy is not a fad, it is an international trend, a paradigm shift from old models and the old social context into a new way of looking at the world, one that considers society’s social, economic and environmental needs. To build a social economy movement a system needs to be put in place where goods and services are produced, not in isolation, but by a broad spectrum of players and society as part of a broader vision for the environment and the social impact. Part of economic democracy is making the right choices about how we produce goods and services. The social economy makes sense because it often offers the best way forward and should be a legitimate choice.

    The new social economy is being driven by two basic dynamics and this is how I see social businesses in Macedonia in future driven by :

    • dynamic of need (e.g. first social cooperatives developed because no one would loan to them)
    • dynamic of vision (e.g. young professionals creating social enterprises because they want to work collectively in a democratic environment – not with a boss, also not alone, and want to work based on their values).
    1. How can we build better ecosystem in Macedonia (for the growth of social entrepreneurship)?

    What I understand from all my experience is that Social economy is an extension of the social and community values in the field of economics. You may have the most beautiful and meaningful social mission, but you have to have sustainable means to fulfill it, the economic activities must be efficient and produce some financial return. And the biggest challenge in the social economy to find and maintain the delicate balance between its social goals and profitability. In a world dominated by individual and corporate interests, Social economy has the capacity to mobilize and focus on common goals to do things differently because of the desire of social and economic transformation for justice and respect of the environment.

    If we want to keep moving forwards equity and sustainability, we have no other choice than to be creative and innovative.

    1. What would you like to give as an advice to the younger population?

    There are moments in life when you have to make hard decisions that can only come from listening to the deepest part of yourself.  And you will certainly have those moments if you decide to venture out and try to do something few have ever done.  You will find that people might not always understand you.  But in paying that price, you will discover who you really are and what you are capable of doing. And of course that journey of change and self-discovery comes with a high risk of falling flat on your face, repeatedly.  But as the great American philosopher John Wayne used to say: life is about getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down.” I have opportunity to fail many times which increase now my chances to succeed. We should accept failure as part of the learning process without that you can’t creative passionate social entrepreneurs being in love with the social business ideas and having enthusiasm and passion operating in challenging social and economic environments.

    1. What do you think about Social Impact Award Macedonia?

    Personally I think we need more initiatives as Social Impact Award in Macedonia because it gives opportunity, creative thinking, possibility for professional and personal growth and have opportunity to provide support to many communities and accomplish many social missions by youth. With 1.300 projects from ten European countries that applied for the Social Impact Award since 2009, out of which almost a hundred projects have been awarded behind this wonderful initiative are many inspired young change agents as social entrepreneurs that give us hope that we may live in future better, more equal, inclusive and sustainable for all communities.

    1. What are the best entrepreneurial examples in Macedonia? (According to you)

    My favorite social enterprise that is in current development by Health Education and Research Association with social mission is to improve the economic and personal wellbeing of women who suffered domestic violence and who are socially and economically marginalized. The programs supports women to increase their economic and community engagement by building and enhancing their skills, business and life skills by providing opportunities for them to access markets in order to earn supplemental income in respectful and empowering ways. The program blends social and entrepreneurial goals while making a commitment to creativity, flexibility and safe alternative forms of earned income.

    HERA in cooperation with local and international partners will create a sustainable social enterprise that supports and enhances the goals of the HERA Family center and additionally creates financial benefits for women that are victims in domestic violence. The social enterprise is a revenue generating venture structured either as a division within organization or as separate legal entity – nonprofit or for-profit. A social enterprise is further defined by the interdependence of social impact and business success; the enterprise will be created in order to contribute to a social cause and operates according to the methods, discipline and innovation associated with a for profit business.

    The Social Enterprise program  will bring women victims of domestic violence employment through providing home care assistance on older adults with quality care that enables them to live happier, healthier lives at home. Home support services can help with the senior’s daily activities such as personal care (ex: bathing, grooming, feeding), light housekeeping, and meal preparation.

    Thank you Ana for this inspiring talk! 

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