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A press conference was organized by the French Embassy to Serbia at the French Institute in Belgrade on Wednesday, 8 September 2021. On this occasion, the French Development Agency (AFD), the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), PULSE (SOS Group), and Smart Kolektiv presented the Regional Incubator for Social Entrepreneurs (RISE) project and its regional forum.

RISE: On to a new generation of young social entrepreneurs in the Western Balkans

The objective of RISE is to foster reconciliation in the Western Balkans through the promotion and strengthening of social entrepreneurship in the region. The project opens new spaces of reconciliation for the Western Balkan youth through a regional program that supports social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship is a way of doing business that places economic efficiency at the service of people and the environment. A social entrepreneur therefore tries to find innovative solutions to social problems.

RISE, a three-year project launched in 2019 already supported 46 teams composed of 137 young people from the Western Balkans in the development of their social business ideas. The participants accessed a series of training, individual coaching sessions and a mentorship program. Twelve of those teams were rewarded with financial grants of 2.500€ and a regional incubation program.

As the 8th Social Innovations Forum begins in Belgrade on 9-10 September, RISE is launching its second call for applications across the Western Balkans to recruit a new generation of young social entrepreneurs and help them in the development of their social business ideas. This call for applications marks a new step in the cooperation between France and the Western Balkans to promote social and solidarity economy (SSE) and reconciliation as a lever of sustainable development and fight against social exclusion, unemployment and climate changes.

The RISE program is looking for young people from 18 to 35 years old from the region gathered in teams of a minimum of two persons who are motivated to learn about social entrepreneurship, be involved in a regional program and develop their social business idea. They should be ambitious and committed to develop a concrete idea with social impact and ready to travel and learn from other actors in the Western Balkans.

Application deadline for the RISE Journey #2 in the Western Balkans is the 26th of September 2021.

Apply here:

Discover and meet RISE entrepreneurs at 8th Social Innovations Forum 2021

The Social Innovations Forum is the biggest annual event dedicated to the social entrepreneurship and sustainability of civil society in Serbia and the CEE region. The conference was established in 2014 as a tool for social and economic change. During the SIF 2021, RISE will organize a regional forum where the participants will discuss the current state of social entrepreneurship in the region, current best practices and shed light on European initiatives and the Western Balkans’ perspective. By bringing different actors together, this event aims to give a platform to exchange experiences to take the region’s social economy to the next level.

The press conference held at the French Institute today, was opened by the Chargé d’affaires a.i, of the French Embassy to Serbia, Mr. Fatih Akcal, who welcomed the speakers and media representatives.

AFD’s Project Manager for NGO Financing Mr. Guillaume De Saint Phalle pointed out that the contribution of French expertise to the development of a social and solidarity economy in the Western Balkans is a factual vector of reconciliation and economic development, not negligible in these times of health crisis.

“The enthusiasm and determination of young people to solve the problems experienced in their communities was strongly felt during the first RISE program. We must continue to empower them to succeed and evolve as a community,” he said.

Speaking about the approximation of the economic standards of the Western Balkans in comparison with those of the European Union, RYCO Secretary General Mr. Albert Hani said that it must be designed to fit the dream of the youth for a better, more sustainable, wealthier future.

“We need to give young people space and all of the resources that they need to come up with ideas that will be the solutions for the future – both in politics as well as in business. I see the RISE project as an endeavour that reflects the real needs of the youth but also the necessity to urgently merge all the forces which are aiming to help the Western Balkans,” Mr. Hani underlined.

On the other hand, Chief Executive of PULSE Ms. Anne Leila Batel mentioned: “We are committed in making social entrepreneurship a lever of inclusion and sustainable development in the region. We wish through the RISE program to provide young people in the Balkans with the keys of social entrepreneurship and create a regional community. Thus, building upon French success stories and our methodology, we aim at supporting them in developing concrete and impactful responses to global issues such as unemployment and climate change.”

“Events like Social Innovations Forum represent a unique opportunity both for the interconnection of young social entrepreneurs from across the region and for wider exchange between all key actors in the regional ecosystem of the social economy,” Smart Kolektiv Executive Director, Mr. Neven Marinović, underlined.

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