Cooperation between civil society and the business sector – how to turn challenges into new opportunities?
The Belgrade Open School (BOS), as a civil society educational organisation, has spent almost three decades dealing with the development of human resources, the improvement of public policy and the empowerment of the civil, public and business sectors, with the aim of building a better society based on freedom, knowledge and innovation.
Improving cooperation between the business and civil sectors in Serbia is one of the issues in the focus of the work of the BOS. This cooperation has to date often been limited to donations and sponsorships, rather than extending to the pursuit of shared development goals and a joint approach to decision makers and the general public.
The political and economic challenges that we face as a society have a significant impact on the business world, but also on various organisations in which citizens realise their right to unite around common goals, which we refer to in short as civil society.
This was actually what prompted BOS to launch the “Integration Innovation” initiative, which aims to create new opportunities for civil society and the business sector to engage in public policy making and advocacy.
Resolving the important issues of social development requires the involvement of both parties. Monitoring and supporting the reforms brought by European integration and working towards the achieving of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals represent a great opportunity for the two sectors to collaborate, which will bring the greatest benefit to citizens. Many European examples show us that major positive changes in society were solved precisely through the mutual cooperation of all stakeholders. Making this cooperation tangible and creating a common vision are BOS’s priorities in the period ahead.
A good example of cooperation with the business world is provided by the activities of the Belgrade Open School aimed at amending the legal framework for implementing internships. Internships are short-term programmes for gaining work experience that aim to improve the employability and employment of interns. This primarily refers to internships performed by the unemployed after the completion of their studies, because other forms of work-based learning, which are an integral part of the education process, are subject to regulations in the field of education.
BOS has been working strategically for many years to advance public policies in the field of improving youth employability, always taking care to ensure the involvement of all three sectors of society: public, business and civil. Cross-sector cooperation in the field of improving the quality of internships is extremely important, both for young people entering the labour market through internships and for employers. Internships have numerous positive effects on the employability of young people, such as reducing the time it takes to move from education to the labour market, then improving knowledge, skills and competences. Through internships, young people gain the more than necessary experience and explore career opportunities and options.
Despite the confirmed positive effects that internships have on employability, numerous obstacles hinder the implementing of quality internships in Serbia. No precise legal solutions currently exist, nor by-laws governing internships for the unemployed – those who practise with their employer after completing formal education. Companies are often in a dilemma over which kind of contract to sign with interns. This situation impacts on both young people and employers, who find it more difficult to opt for internship programmes because they are not entirely sure of their obligations and rights. The Belgrade Open School, together with the business sector, proposes measures and solutions for improving the legal framework, which should create conditions for high-quality internships, after which we will have empowered young people and satisfied employers.