• Be like water, make your way through cracks. – Irina Janevska


    In this Interview we are talking with Irina Janevska, a very active and social skilled enterpreneur from Macedonia / FYROM. She´s explaining the importance of social entrepreneurship in our society, talks about her new projects and shows in how far Social Impact Award influenced the development of her further entrepreneurial activities.


    Who is Irina Janevska and what is ARNO?

    Irina Janevska


    Who is Irina is still in process of discovery, but few facts support the general observation (she laughs). I have been working on different projects with social missions within 15 years. I’ve started as peer educator at H.E.R.A, then continued to advocate for SRHR as Y-PEER Focal Point, and since then, as part of different organizations, formal or informal movements (Youth Can, CIRa, Global Shapers) I never stopped with inventing, creating, contributing to initiatives that aim to bring change in our societies. If I weren’t engaged in the civil society sector I would have ended up working in an advertising company or media house, I guess.


    ARNO is a story that came very organically- friends from different sectors recognized few fields that can contribute to, decide to do something together and the story begun. We like to call ourselves “wannabe social enterprise”, and we’ll see this year’s strategic plan where it will guide us. So far, ARNO’s implemented projects belong to the fields of: promotion of Social Entrepreneurship, support of Green Business Ideas (Regional Contest), youth advocacy, IT for social change, creative civic initiatives. Our work has been supported by international and local donors: The Rockefellers Brothers Fund (USA), UNFPA (Regional EECARO Office), UNDP (Macedonia), Social Impact Award etc.


    Why social entrepreneurship?

    The observation of the systems we decided and agreed to live in, doesn’t promise much of equality among the people. I won’t comment now on capitalism and distribution of power since I feel I have limited and changing opinions on the topic. I just feel that, within the given frame we have one tool, one approach that we still haven’t approached closely and it’s promising because it unites a wider set of components –social entrepreneurship. I like the “social” part of the undertaken economic activity with goal of ensuring profits because it brings another dimension to what we know in the today’s world of business. If businesses start to care more about the environment, about the people that constitute the whole and distant a bit from the “CEO”, dividends, fanatical profits I really believe it won’t matter if we call it ethical business, social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, social economy or whatsoever. To answer the question “why social entrepreneurship”, because I believe that we need new responds to old questions.

    With the current world happenings, we as humans need to reinvent ourselves, and I see that ‘social entrepreneurship” has a great momentum to both address the issues of inequality and to provide, perhaps, smaller but effective responses to the call for change.


    How would you describe social entrepreneurship from your point of view?

    Social entrepreneurship in Macedonia has great perspectives. I will speak now for my generation; we are raised in everything but not entrepreneurial environments. Our parents still advised us on getting a job in the state sector, our friends rarely decide on establishing companies, the overall state of development is challenging. In these circumstances it’s hard to take risks, and entrepreneurship is per se taking risks. I see that the field of SE is under the spotlight with the many projects and initiatives that happen in the country in the past few years. That’s great because we have new and new generations exposed to the new business models and that there is support for SE. That means that we have new generations aware that no business can be called successful if it does not protect the environment, cares for its workers and customers and re-invests in its mission.


    How did you enroll in the social business at first place?

    Long story short is that our first idea was to establish a private company. We went to a workshop for business start-ups, the trainer was super-inspiring (thank you Percy Emmet (NESTA-UK)). The workshop catering was delivered by the students from the state school and having in mind my previous contact with the topic (Jamie Oliver’s story) the idea was soon scaled and became first funded ARNO’s project. We cooperated with NGO’s, municipality, private sector companies, the state school on gastronomy-

    ARNO’s first project was designed to promote the concept of SE, but I guess I am the “one to blame” to be so much attached to the concept. I have 12+ years experience in the NGO sector and I like to see entities more donor independent and self sustainable. I also was a fellow at Social Enterprise Mark in the UK (Plymouth and London 2013) and I got chance to see how the concept works and people recognize its true meaning.


    What is the best advice you have ever gotten for you to stay motivated?

    Staying motivated is not much of a challenge for me. I do everything with passion and I am devoted to my work. The best advice might be coming from a friend of mine that passed away few years and I miss his wise words terribly. He said to me (knowing my passion to change things and my frustration when I hit a wall)

    ”Be like water Irina, make your way through cracks.”


    Would you change something from when you were a child?

    Yes, I would like to sell lemonade and cookies. Seriously. I think that if we want to raise generations in the spirit of SE, then we need to embed the concepts in early school or at earliest age. It would be so much easier to think progress and adapt to the system if we have practical experience. My generation, we are lucky to have internet and globalization. We travel and we learn. Other than entrepreneurial experience I would not change a thing. I am so grateful to have amazing parents that learned me real values. I strongly believe that they influence my choices, their ethics and moral set standards in my head and everything I do now is connected to those standards. Philanthropy and human dignity. I think this is what I have been thought when I was just a kid.


    How did SIA help you?

    I once stated that to win an award is different than receiving a grant, it’s more competitive, it’s more public, and it’s more entrepreneurial. You are exposed to a whole new world of relations because you are pushed forward and everybody expects something award-winning to be done. SIA is great initiative that gives winners lots of publicity and recognition. And whatever you do in the business sector, that’s what you need. I would also repeat that what SIA gave to ARNO is the shift of the predictable narrative of “being an NGO, doing the NGO work” in Macedonia. It not only changed the way others perceive us, but it changed us-it changed the team, the relations, the bigger picture etc.

    At the end, meeting SE minds in Vienna at the SIA Bootcamp was also of great benefit to our mind stretch.


    Tell us more about the classes for cooking.

    The cooking classes are continuation of the project “Youth Professional Kitchen-New technologies for social business” designed to reflect highest social-entrepreneurship values. This was the first time in Macedonia for Cooking Classes to be organized. ARNO tailored the concept in partnership with the State School on Gastronomy and with support from the top chefs and restaurants in the country. The idea was to promote cooking as desired activity and profession, and to involve stakeholders and ensure profit. The Classes were used as economic activity that generated support (profit will be re-invested) for maintenance of the ongoing students’ platforms (Mojketering  and Coolinari) and build up of students’ soft skills.

    The story behind this project is that the Cooking classes were an idea that was developing few years. We finally launched the initiative because of the SIA Award. We did 6 Cooking Classes with 6 recognized chefs. The mission of the initiative was to raise funds, generate profit that will be further re-invested in the youth chefs from the State School on gastronomy “ Lazar Tanev”. We have great feedback from the participants, the youth chefs and the famous chefs. We are now in serious search on finding a support to continue the idea. The market says there is a strong need for this activity (the entrepreneurial part) and the young student- chefs they love the project and want to be part of similar activities (and we are so happy to see their motivation, and tackle youth unemployment though promotion of VET, this is the social part).


    What type of advice would you give to the potential social entrepreneurs?

    Dear fellow social entrepreneurs, it’s not going to be easy it’s not going to be fair and just. We have a strong mission and we need to make things happen together. Build your skills, learn new things adapt and change (just like water) but do not compromise your values and dreams. Hold on and keep it real.  Also, feel free to  come to our next event (Global Shapers Skopje Hub) named as “FuckUp Nights” . With bunch of people we try to promote the idea of failures, the idea of “work hard play hard” and to encourage young Macedonians to be more brave, but to encourage them with real stories not sugary calls to be a (social)entrepreneur.


    Thank you very much for your time and keep it up, Irina!

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