• Social entrepreneurship is also a chance to excite a new generation of talent to engage in activities that are positive for society. – Peter Vandor

    Peter Vandor is the founder and scientific director of SIA. He is also the initiator of the first university course on social entrepreneurship in Austria, which has won several awards at WU. We asked him a few interesting question:

    peter-vandor-portraitSIA is a program around Social Entrepreneurship. Why do you think that S.E. is a promising approach to tackle the key challenges of our times?

    One of the main DNA-strands of Social Entrepreneurship is innovation. The discourse is very much centered around questions such as “how can we think about social challenges in new ways? What could we transfer what works from very different contexts?”. Such questions can be very powerful to come up with good answers to challenges in a complex world. Of course, innovation is no dogma, we cannot expect our existing solutions to continue working while problems, the affected individuals and the environment change in a rapid pace.

    From a systemic point of view, social entrepreneurship is also a chance to excite a new generation of talent to engage in activities that are positive for society and this change is happening. 15 years ago, most students at my university wanted to become investment bankers. Now, entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs are the rock stars on the campus.

    Looking at the state of the world today, what do you expect from the current generation of students?

    The same I expect from myself: try to have a positive overall effect on the world in their small and big decisions, from a job decision to the question when it is really necessary to blast vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere for long haul travelling. This is a big thing to ask and I personally regularly at it fail, but we have try, and try better especially when we face large-scale threats like climate change.

    Why is WU Vienna engaged in SIA?

    wuwienMy motivation to start SIA was a very personal one. I had wanted to be engaged in the field of social entrepreneurship as a student but have found no matching offers in my university, no courses to learn about the topic or to play around with it. So the intention was to create something like this for others. This intention has since then been shared by my colleagues at WU and I received the opportunity to continue to work with SIA on topics where we can add competencies, such as research, the design of the academic curriculum and strategy.

    You are also in charge of the impact assessment of the program. Why do you consider this as important?

    Our impact assessment activities, among others including the use of international surveys, allow us to learn systematically what is really going on in the program, what works for students and what not. This is very important for a program on this scale. After all we want to make sure that the program is effective in all countries and for all stakeholders. Also, it allows as to enter a systematic dialogue with participants and learn about their perspective on social entrepreneurship. For example, when I learn that more than 70% say that they believe so strongly in their idea that they will implement it, regardless of whether they win SIA or not, I know that we have managed to attract the right kind of people to our award.


    Thank you Peter for this interesting interview!

  • The victory of Social Impact Award gave us everything you need to start a race. – Czechitas

    Czechitas are specialized in IT and believe that women can be as good as men in such an area. Their team is formed by twelve strong and self-confident girls, who are trying to break stereotypes in IT area and to show the girl’s power. They started to organize workshops based on IT skills and to educate women in it. Czechitas´ workshops became so popular that they decided to open a special IT school only for gentle gender.  

    In 2015 you won the Social Impact Award in Czech Republic. What does the victory mean to you after one year? Have you been moved by the experience of winning SIA? 

    I can’t believe it has been already a year! What a fantastic year! What a race! The victory of Social Impact Award in September 2015 gave us everything you need to start a race. A lot of confidence to stand up at starting lane right next to other contestants (entrepreneurs), many fans cheering, established team and also some kind of qualification, meaning that we are social entrepreneurs so we can do good and be independent, sustainable business at the same time. So the others should watch out. (They are smiling.)


    IT area is considered to be a men matter. Do you have succes in breaking stereotypes? Do women tend to continue in IT thanks to you?

    Sure we do! That is the main reason why we get up every Monday morning. We have more than 3800 graduates from our courses and as result, we motivated more than 50 women to change their careers entirely. Because women can do IT.

    Do you remember any serious problem which happened to you during the workshop?

    Yes, I remember that one day the wifi didn’t work at all and we couldn’t use data from Cloud. It was actually pretty fun, you have to see the bright side of the life.


    What do you think is the reason of stereotypes in IT area?

    Well, IT area is very male-dominant so no surprise that people make their stereotypes. So why there are no women in IT? We realized that there are three things behind those stereotypes: (1) the lack of female IT role models at schools and families, among teachers and moms, CEOs and leaders at Czech IT scene make us think of IT specialists as men (2) the lack of confidence and (3) the lack of information about IT education, careers and opportunities. We can change all of them.

    page-14-cz_czechitas-1Where are you heading to at the moment? Don’t you have in mind to open a special IT girl/women school? 

    Exactly. It has actually become short-term goal! We are opening our first pilot Digital Academy for Women in January, offering full-time IT (data based) education for 3 months to 20-30 women. It is going to be very practical, challenging but amazing opportunity to raise new talents in IT.


    What do you like (enjoy) the most about your work?

    I love every single part of it. That feeling you have on Monday morning when you wake up and are very excited about the entire week. When you appreciate every challenge and opportunity you meet and everyone in your team. Surrounded by those and them I am growing. And of course I love the flexibility… time wise but also in visions.


    Good luck girls! We wish you all the best!

  • Students are inexhaustible source of inspiration and innovation; they come up with something new every day and have ideas that can change the world – Branka Novcic

    Branka Novcic, teaching assistant at the Faculty of Organizational Sciences (FOS) in Belgrade, is one of the most respected and loved among students. Branka studied at FOS herself, and has won many awards on international competitions for the faculty. She is now devoted to ehancing the experience of her students and helping them learn practical skills for the “real world”.  

    Branka is also SIA Serbia Jury member, and is actively promoting SIA and social entrepreneurship among students. We talked with her about the works she does with students and social entrepreneurship in general.

    Tell us something abut your work with students. How did you decide that you want to work at the university? 

    32ee3c4I started working at the faculty accidentally, as I accepted the job with an idea to “buy some time” before deciding where I want to work. However, it turned out that this was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Having participated in various case studies and competitions as a student, I continued working in this area, but now as a mentor. It was the experience in these case studies that helped me when I started working with students, because my teaching method is based on learning practical skills and through examples. Today, going into classroom is the most valuable part of my job as I am aware of the privilege that I have and the impact I make teaching these young minds.

    You are communicating with students daily. Do you see innovation in the way they think about business? 

    Students are inexhaustible source of inspiration and innovation; they come up with something new every day and have ideas that can change the world. It is up to us to move them in the right direction and support their wishes, as well as give them the necessary knowledge to make those wishes come true.

    How have you become interested in social business? 

    I became interested in social business in 2011 when we applied for Hult Global Case Challenge, a global crowdsourcing platform on the topic of social entrepreneurship. To be honest, I didn’t know much about it before this, but we learned a lot very quickly and started working on a project for the poor neighborhoods on the topic of water supply and sanitation.

    Do not run away from social entrepreneurship, because this is a profitable area too.

    Do you talk about social businesses with your students and how do they react to this? 

    3Part of my job is presenting the successes FOS teams had on international competitions. As it turns out, our two biggest successes were at before mentioned Hult Global Case Challenge in 2011 and 2012, when we represented Europe in finals and had significant results. Therefore, our students are informed about this, but then it is my job to bring closer to them what we did and why were we so successful. Student reactions and getting better each year and more of them is becoming interested in the topic. We have most definitely raised awareness of social entrepreneurship among our students and tore down some taboos.

    Your expertise is in marketing and PR. How important is this field for the development od social business ecosystem in Serbia? 

    When developing business model, marketing is everywhere, but it is more important to understand the problem itself and adequate recognition of needs and characteristics of target groups. Actually, in those beggining steps of business model development, market analysis and segmentation are two phases where most business models fail. If that is done in the right way, the implementation of marketing plan is the cheery on the top. Therefore, understanding the problem, market analysis and segmentations are the key to success of every business model.

    You have joined SIA Serbia as a Jury member. How was your experience so far? 

    I am truly grateful to everyone from SIA Serbia team because they recognized me as a jury member. All the experiences I have gained from this are valuable and I think that Serbia needs more similar initiatives. Educating youth about social entrepreneurship is a prerequisite for the further development of the field, and that is exactly what you do. Thank you for making me a part of this story.

    DSC_1725What is your message for young people and future social entrepreneurs? 

    Do not run away from social entrepreneurship, because this is a profitable area too. Social entrepreneurship is currently a trending topic among many companies who are looking for ways to reach out to the poor. Therefore, you should try and work on your ideas that can solve some of the burning societal issues.


    Thank you Branka for this interesting interview and your expertise as a jury member!

  • Change cannot happen in isolation and that collaboration is always the way to go – Anastasya Markelova-Gavrish


    Anastasya Markelova-Gavrish is one of the co-founders of Impact Hub Moscow that organizes Social Impact Award program in Russia. Anastasya has answered a few questions concerning social entrepreneurship development in Russia. Let’s look!


    Ksenia: What do you think about social enterprise in Russia? How do you see the movement of social entrepreneurs in 5 years (in Russia)?

    Anastasya: I think that entrepreneurship in general and social entrepreneurship in particular in Russia is quickly developing and becoming more and more popular, it is kind of a real movement nowadays indeed. At impact hub Moscow we see more and more young people willing to find a meaningful career and considering founding or working for an impact oriented startup as a valid option. Moreover, we see people with experience in non for profits who are looking for more sustainable ways of delivering impact to their target audience. We also see the number of business focused entrepreneurs who try to find an impactful way to deliver value to customers. There is also a huge interest in learning about social entrepreneurship from outside of Moscow. All these trends supply us with a much larger number of idea-stage entrepreneurs. This year, we had more than 4000 people in total from all over Russia learning about social entrepreneurship via participating in at least one event hosted by impact hub Moscow (including more than 2000 participating in one of SIA RUSSIA events). Our early stage program 90 days challenge is accelerating 30 ventures this year from idea to the first sale (comparing to 6 startups last year (2015) and 5 in 2014). On top of that, we see that the number of matured entrepreneurs has grown, and their needs are different: we now need to work on providing them with education and resources around scaling, securing investment, growing operations and etc. I think in 5 years we will consider social entrepreneurs to be a usual part of our daily life and hopefully as customers will always have high quality options to satisfy all of our needs by buying products and services from social entrepreneurs.


    Ksenia: You are a co-founder of Impact Hub Moscow. It is great because Hub is the first organization that organizes international programs to support social entrepreneurs in Russia. What helps you to promote social ideas in Moscow? What obstacles do you face in business development?

    Anastasya: We are endlessly grateful to our partners, especially City foundation, for helping us build impact hub Moscow and supporting our programs. City foundation and other partner organizations helped us by providing expert support and resources. We strongly believe that change cannot happen in isolation and that collaboration is always the way to go.




    We are bound to host a cross-sectoral community of social entrepreneurs, experts, representatives of corporations, foundations, educational institutions, individuals etc, so together we can achieve the world that works for all.

    As for the obstacles, I often see a reputation that social entrepreneurship has in Russia of being ‘too social’ and less perceived as a business. We always emphasize the idea that having a strong business model and providing products and services of impeecable quality are the crucial elements that will allow social entrepreneurs to win the markets and sit at ‘grown-ups table’ as well as make a greater impact.


    Ksenia: Do you plan to organize other programs to support social business in Russia?

    Anastasya: As I mentioned before our programs grow together with our community and we see that entrepreneurs on more mature stages of development require different knowledge and skills, especially in the areas of investment and scaling. As for investment, we will run an investment preparedness lab in November (together with Unreasonable Institite) this year aiming to help entrepreneurs to navigate different types of capital, to learn how to create and gather all the necessary materials for raising capital, and to get feedback from experienced investors.


    Thank you Anastasya for this interesting and powerful talk! 

  • Once people start to think about ideas on how to improve their lives in a creative way and also have an impact in the communities, many great initiatives were put in place

    In this Interview we are talking with Loredana Urzica, the founder of Youth HUB in Bucharest, Romania. She believes that young people should have a proper environment to achieve their full potential, therefore all her work is concentrated on developing new projects and programs in order to empower the young generation.

    Dear Loredana, why did Youth HUB join SIA?


    Loredana UrzicaYouth HUB is a social enterprise in itself, designed to help young people start their our business and create jobs. We do that by offering space for working, by offering support, knowledge and consultancy in various fields such as business modelling, financial, juridical, marketing, funding etc. The reason we joined SIA 2016 is because we find it to be the kind of project which helps us fulfill our mission of promoting entrepreneurship as a method of solving current problems in our life and also as a way of empowering the young generation to be active. We also are very interested to promote social entrepreneurship among young people, as it is a new concept and not so many are familiar with the concept.


    What is the value your organization feels that SIA is bringing to Romania?

    One of our core values is the belief that young people can make a difference in our society and have a positive impact. This is also something that Social Impact Award is promoting as an important part of the activities and it is one of the few complex projects that are organized in Romania in the field of social entrepreneurship.

    What is your role and what do you offer?

    Youth HUB is the Incubation Partner and our role in the project was to host the meetings of the organizing team and also workshops on business modelling. We were happy to welcome the finalists in our co-working space during the incubation period and offer access to our facilities and knowledge.

    How do you see the future of social innovation in Eastern Europe?

    Eastern European countries have acknowledged the concepts of social innovation and social entrepreneurship much later than the western countries. But once people start to think about ideas on how to improve their lives in a creative way and also have an impact in the communities, many great initiatives were put in place. We see thinkers and doers that come together for a higher purpose which is related to solving the needs and the problems they are facing. We already have started to have good practices and examples of social business that have saved communities and created a spirit of proactivity.


    Thanks for this interesting talk!

  • We want to have long term benefits and finding a way to support social entrepreneurship – Dragana Crvenica


    “I would be happy if we show our SIA participants that it is a worth effort trying and learning, and that success is not about being lucky.”


    In this Interwiev we´re talking with Dragana Crvenica, Head of Communications Department of Erste Bank AD in Podgorica, Montenegro.

    1. Erste bank is recognized as a responsible member of Montenegrin society. Do you see yourself and Erste bank as pioneers of bringing the idea of social entrepreneurship to Montenegro?

    Dragana_Crvenica1Erste bank is part of the regional Erste Group, institution with more than 190 years of tradition, with roots in the noble idea of economic empowerment of the poor by helping them save money and gain financial independence. Social responsibility was and is the core of its corporate philosophy. Erste is among the top banks in Montenegro and is very much aware of how its actions impact the society we all live and work in. I admit, one feels fulfilled as a person when sharing company’s success with the community, but we also recognize it as the right way to achieve long term sustainable business growth, reduce costs and manage risks better. Corporate philanthropy is just one way of being socially responsible though. Another part also comprises of actions you undertake to empower people. Just like in the saying about the difference between giving a man a fish and teaching him how to fish. We want our actions to have long term benefits and finding a way to support social entrepreneurship is clearly one of them. But we cannot call ourselves pioneers in this field. Social entrepreneurship is a known term here. What we can say is that we are unique in efforts of establishing a framework for young future social entrepreneurs that will work for them and support them in every step of the way – providing education, financial support and when possible, becoming buyer of their products or services. That’s what SIA is about.


    2. In your opinion, are young People ready to stop searching employment within state administration and take the initiative and try to realize their ideas?

     Unfortunately, we do not see evidence of this trend going down. Paradox is that even students of entrepreneurial studies often see themselves in state administration. This is not bad per se, on the condition they see their role as enablers of the change towards system more favorable for entrepreneurship, but I fear this is not the case. Our economy is open and import dependent, it is not so easy to find opportunities. However, we are not lacking ideas and we saw this during the application process for SIA Montenegro. Combining this fact with the very high rate of realized and still going strong social entrepreneurship projects in SIA in previous years, I am confident that we can and we will change something.


    3. As a Head of Communications, but also as a successful former journalist, how do you see the role of SIA in the process of changing the mind-set of future generations of potential entrepreneurs?

    Changing mind-set is the most ambitious goal one can imagine. Sometimes I am not sure I can change mind-set of my six year old kid. And he is not even the stubborn one in the family – she is smiling. On a more serious note, I would be happy if we show our SIA participants that it is a worth effort trying and learning, and that success is not about being lucky. Having even one SIA Montenegro project realized will then speak volumes, much better than any awareness campaign we could, as good as we are, organize and execute.

    Thank you Dragana for your encourage thoughts.

  • FACE TO FACE – A Voice and Power for the Voiceless & Vulnerable

    The extent to which a society is developed can be seen in its dedication to protecting the rights of vulnerable and minority groups. This is the first lesson of the principles of democracy and a prerequisite for freedom and quality of life.Unfortunately, the path to a free society is long, windy, and without immediate results. To properly protect and integrate those people who have found themselves at the margins of the society, a new approach is required, a long term strategy that does not passively wait for new systems or rely on alms. We’re talking about a long term approach in which active and conscious citizenship, civil society organizations, institutions, companies and other structures will continuously support vulnerable citizens in their decision to accept the biggest challenge: a “decent job”.

    In Macedonia for the last 4 years, the street paper “Face to Face” has taken on the role of initiator, supporter and mediator of the changes needed in the lives of the most vulnerable. Active in six cities around the country, its second name could also be “Step by Step”, since the changes it generates emerge from the rhythm of durable, tangible actions with real effect.
    Basically, “Face to Face” aims to impact the lives of people who for various reasons have found themselves on the sidelines, by helping them to develop their entrepreneurial spirit as a basis for further progress.

    Moreover, “Face to Face” is a pioneer in promoting the model of social entrepreneurship in Macedonia, though the country’s proposed Law on Social Entrepreneurship has yet to pass. This product, from which half of the revenue always remains with the seller, is primarily a response to the economic crises that emerge in almost every society undergoing a process of transition, as Macedonia has in recent years. The basic approach is to use work as a tool to make these vulnerable citizens more socially and economically resilient. By focusing on their abilities, they feel useful and see themselves as an important part of society. With this labor model, they have the opportunity to be responsible for the successes they can achieve and escape the cycle of poverty into which they have fallen.

    The concept of “Face to Face” is one of the most innovative and successful self-help initiatives for the homeless and other vulnerable groups in Macedonia. The magazine works with a number of target groups, including youth over 16, homeless people, people with a history of alcohol abuse, disabled people, social welfare recipients, single parents, former victims of violence, etc.
    Selling “Face to Face” is a micro business for these people and provides benefits on several levels, including: daily sustenance, shelter, social inclusion, and adequate preparation for reintegration into the labor market.

    Returning from street to school; from street and uncertainty to being at work, from open sky to shelter above head… are just some of the changes generated by the “Face to Face” model. Each story is different, but almost everyone has a positive outcome.

    1.Armando is a young man that replaced the street with school hours by taking the “Face to face”–challenge. Through numerous trainings, an award for continuous development and commitment to one’s work, and trips in Europe, he was able to take responsibility for his life. He is one of the heroes of “Face to Face” and manages his earnings to support a family of eight. Through his work and dedication, Armando motivates other vendors to make success inevitable. “I feel secure working for ‘Face to Face’. If in a day I sell more magazines than usual, I immediately begin to think of all the plans I have” says Armando, whose dream for the future is to become a hairdresser.

    “I support ‘Face to face’ because some people were not given the best shot in life. With this initiative we will be able to provide those shots that are missing”, said the famous Macedonian actor Sasko Kocev.

    The process of selling the magazine is generally face-to-face and represents another opportunity to raise people’s awareness about poverty and homelessness. This serves to fight common and pervasive stereotypes. Changing the way, the general public sees these groups influences their own self-perception as acceptance becomes more widespread. In this way, the vendor of the street magazine will not wait for passive measurements from the state and its institutions, but will actively act towards the enhancement of their everyday lives.

    “I feel good working with ‘Face to Face’. Of course,it’s my job. It is shameful to hold out one’s hand and beg. On the other hand, life without money is difficult. The most important thing you need is consistent work, to go on site and work” – said Sadik Ercan, the best seller of “Face to Face” for 2015.

    Before entering into the work process and the ongoing operations, “Face to Face” vendors undergo a training which focuses on self-confidence, motivation, sales techniques and improvement of communication skills.
    The preparatory program is conducted by a certified trainer for personal development, a social worker and a psychotherapist, in coordination with a mentor who is assigned to each seller.

    “F2.ace to Face” enjoys credibility among public figures in Macedonia from all areas and spheres of society, who selflessly give their voice to support the specific priorities of the entire platform. “Face to Face” furthermore has a mission to stimulate and awaken social responsibility among companies. The vendors serve as bearers of social change, especially through different activities they conduct (in cooperation with companies) and are continuously alerting about important issues of our life.

    One such example was a campaign which used the selling of the magazine to influence reading habits, especially among young people. This campaign had positive repercussions on several levels in improving the quality of society.

    Through its content, the magazine continuously works to break prejudices, to raise awareness, to support and encourage collaboration and partnerships, to inform, to educate, and to build values.

    The sellers of the magazine, as our fellow citizens, each have a unique, personal story. They also have the same rights, desires, potentials and the urge for belonging that everyone else has. In order to understand these citizens and act accordingly, it is necessary to have a sharp and awakened civil and social sense.

    Another very important aspect is the coordinated effort to improve the situation of marginalized people. Only in this way, if we all work together, the goal can be achieved faster. The ultimate goal is the economic and social empowerment of the vulnerable groups of citizens. If we are aware of the efforts made in this sphere, only if we listen to each other and exchange experiences, we can move forward from the starting point. And our goal is to move continuously and to move in the right direction.

    Web: www.licevlice.mk

    FB: https://www.facebook.com/LiceVLice


  • 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!

  • Young people need a platform where they will feel safe when experimenting and failing – Edin Mehić

    In this Interview we´re talking with Edin Mehić, who brings a lot of knowledge in the field of Start-ups, Entrepreneurship and Recruiting.


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    He works as a serial entrepreneur, proven business executive, angel investor, mentor, active motivational speaker and co-founder of Networks. Networks is a business center and a co-working community in the heart of Sarajevo. Their various services are designed to inspire growth, innovations and business development.




    Dear Edin, what is the basic difference between entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship?


    There should be no difference. Every enterprise should be social and this is the history of the development of corporations. The first corporations were made to serve the society/customers and not to abuse their ignorance or habits. On the other hand, all of the companies that I have started were always primarily socially useful and created value, and only in the second phase I was thinking about the business model.


    Are the young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina sufficiently educated about the concept of social entrepreneurship? 


    Similar to the previous answer. I’m afraid that people generally know very little about entrepreneurship, but if we broaden their vision of it and we change the image of entrepreneurs, it will help with getting significantly more people involved.


    How programs like Social Impact Award and what Networks does can empower students and young people to start their own social businesses? 


    Young people need a platform where they will feel safe when experimenting and failing. For me these are the two most important ingredients of new business models, innovations and ultimately successful businesses. We are not a community that has a reasonable tolerance for experimentation, networking, sharing of knowledge and resources. Because of all that it is extremely important to have initiatives that promote inclusion, solutions and taking control. Entrepreneurship not only enhances the economic development of the individual, but also creates a society of independent individuals who can ultimately create greater social change.


    Does the future of the world economy lies in this type of entrepreneurship?


    An entrepreneur in the future will not be able to choose whether to be good or not, he/she will simply have to be. I am glad that more and more traditional companies are changing their business models in order for them to be more socially responsible. I hope that we will experience the life in a society where all companies are socially responsible. These initiatives help secure this goal.


    Thanks for this interesting talk! 

  • The future is bright, the future is blue… Enter the sea of opportunity! – BlueGrowth

    Aephoria is a sustainable-business education and incubation program for startup companies operating in Greece. Its goal is to help entrepreneurs transform their dreams into business with a positive economic, environmental and social impact. Aephoria’s most successful initiative is  BlueGrowth  which aims to inspire and help young entrepreneurs realize their innovative concepts relating to marine and fresh water resources. 


    Present to us your organization in 2 sentences 

    The sea provides us with inspiration for progress. The contradictive conditions of the sea are challenging the human brain for forethought, for taking advantage of every element given, for triggering inventive imagination. When imagination leads to a feasible idea, then actual problems can be solved. When we see this energy, faith and desire for success to a 20 or 25 years old entrepreneur we can have hope for the future.


    Do you believe that entrepreneurship is the key to overcome not only economic crises but also social and political ones? 

    For Greeks, the sea has been timely the way of economic downturns, disastrous wars and civil conflicts. For Greeks, the sea is the timeless partner for development.

    We are among those who believe that Greece will find their ‘seaway’ to growth, through the empowerment of shipping, ports, tourism. During the years of financial crisis, shipping and tourism have been the two pillars that survived and were preserved while all other productive sectors have stalled. The Greek shipping remains 12417709_1743304712618687_4649155871951646087_na global protagonist, continues to bring foreign currency into the country, maintains and creates jobs, while the Greek tourism thrives, against forecasts and adversity. The sea provides us with inspiration for progress. The contradictive conditions of the sea are challenging the human brain for forethought, for taking advantage of every element given, for triggering inventive imagination. In the ecosystem of startups, when imagination leads to a feasible idea, then  actual problems can be solved and more jobs and growth to be created.  Blue Growth Competition startup teams make their ideas feasible. The Blue Growth is ‘in the genes of the City of Piraeus’. A basic part of the interconnectivity of the transportation and logistics system throughout Europe. The Municipality of Piraeus is spurring innovation that can leverage this dynamic, young and new business ideas, through structures like the Blue Growth.  The City of Piraeus sets the priorities and brings the innovation and entrepreneurship to the port. After two years of work has now established Piraeus the map of startups entrepreneurship.


    How does the social entrepreneurship scene in Greece looks like in your opinion?  

    It is doing baby steps and it is still in an initial stage (and still random) but with continuously increased human resources with the right knowledge it will grow higher.


    Is it important for young people to try and fail? Is this the way to be successful? 

    Try,try, try, fail, fail, fail, success. The more you try the more you learn, the more you can avoid in the future. There are many benefits that are derived from failure and disappointment. I am sure each of us can look back on some of our less successful moments and identify how they have helped us become a stronger, wiser, or a more complete person. Just as we have all learned lessons the hard way, this generation of teenagers need to be able to learn some hard earned lessons as well. In a world that is obsessed with teaching young people the ’correct’ way to do things, we risk creating a generation that is focused on not getting things wrong rather than on really understanding or exploring ideas.

    Letting young people have the freedom to fail and to make mistakes empowers them to explore their creativity, to learn real lessons, and develop a deeper understanding of the world and who they are.


    Share with us a moment you felt proud about something you achieved within your organisation.  

    When Blue Growth first year winners awarded by European Commissioner Karmenu Vella in European Maritime Day Conference (Solbrine, Phee, Nostimo Salt) and also when the second’s year winners already scaled abroad (XYZ laser scanning) and others became sustainable businesses (Hopwave, Journey Post, MyCityLane, Resicle). We are starting to have great exposure such as when BG II winners presented themselves at the largest shipping exhibition in the world, Posidonia, on June 2016. Our and their journey has many stops and challenges ahead, in a competitive yet fragile environment  nothing can be easy but we are starting to believe that we are reaching our goal to set the maritime economy and innovative entrepreneurship at the forefront of sustainable development here in Greece and worldwide.


    Thanks and good luck in the future!