Smart Start Project: Social Entrepreneurship as a Catalyst for Economic Growth

The development of social entrepreneurship is a subject of increasing public interest everywhere for the last couple of years, and it is correct to say that social enterprises are very popular in Europe as well. According to statistics, they make up almost 10% of small and medium-sized enterprises.

The Center for Research and Policy Making (CRPM) is a civic association, founded in 2004 in Macedonia. It is the first organization from this county that engages in a project called “Smart Start” whose main objective is to help create an enabling environment for social entrepreneurship of civil society organizations, improve their sustainability, financial viability and social impact. “Smart Start” is project co-financed by the European Union, through the Civil Society Facility and Media Programme 2014-2015, and the network of Civil Society Organizations. This project is led by Centre for Civil Society Promotion (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and the project partners are Centre for Research and Policy Making (Macedonia), Institute for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (Montenegro), Centre for Development of Non-Profit Sector (Serbia) and YADA Foundation (Turkey) with support by CEDRA HR (Croatia). General aims of “Smart Start” the strengthening of CSOs advocacy and networking capacities, improvement of internal governance structures, diversifying of funding base through establishment of social entrepreneurship and elaboration of strategic long-term organizational plan. These results are expected to enable a generation of new and more professional CSOs more dedicated to their mission, citizens and society at large as well as partnership of CSOs and the business sector in all 5 countries, bringing mutual benefits to all parties.

This place is special for a variety of reasons, but most importantly for being innovative and unique. For one thing, Kerakamika is the only studio of its kind in Macedonia. On top of that, the surrounding area where this studio is located, the Skopje Old Bazaar, inspires creativity and imagination on its own, offering a magnificent atmosphere for giving life to one’s ideas. What’s more, visitors can create inside the studio or outdoors, while savouring a sip of coffee, lemonade, or Turkish tea, specialities of the bazaar. To boot, Kerakamika is also part of the crafts centre ARTIZANI, therefore, one can learn other creative skills and crafts, not far away.

CRPM is an NGO that engages in policy analysis, seek to open the policy making process to citizens, improve laws, assess institutional capacities for their implementation as well as monitor and evaluate how much these policies are creating public value or are directed towards the “Europeanization” of Macedonia. The organization has had more than 60 research projects implemented, out of which 24 were regional projects; and organized 4 international academic conferences. CRPM has a teaching arm that delivers training in 12 policy areas and a School of Public Policy “Mother Theresa” which belongs to the network of schools in political science of Council of Europe. We work on several fields such as social entrepreneurship, transparency and accountability, good governance, environmental protection and inclusive education.

“We need to build capacities for social entrepreneurship”

Zlatko Simonovski is a part of CRPM team, and has a direct involvement in the project “Smart Start”. He explained us that the “Smart Start” project is generally well accepted in Macedonia, and gave great opportunities to start a social enterprise. Statistically, young people are the most interested in entering the social entrepreneurship’s world, but he says it is also important for the state to find some ways to motivate youth to take active participation in the society.

“In my personal opinion, youngsters are already strongly motivated for taking active participation in the field of social entrepreneurship. However, the motivation for youth must be an imperative and be frequently stimulated, primarily by the state, as well as by investment backgrounds. The reason why this attention must be paid is that social entrepreneurship as well as innovations can be an extreme catalyst for domestic economic growth”, says Simonovski.

Going through the implementation phase of the project, the team responsible for “Smart Start” managed to transform 20 non-governmental organizations in incoming social enterprises, in the course of six months.  20 non-governmental organizations began to reflect market oriented and they have prepared to make a profit in order to finance its non-profit organization. They are ready to incorporate social and entrepreneurial approach in the way of their thinking and acting towards certain social problems, thereby directly including communities or groups of citizens with whom they work every day. Zlatko is very satisfied of the interest NGS’s have in social entrepreneurship, but implies that raising funds for that purpose is genuinely difficult for them:

“Going through with this project, we have learned that many NGO’s in Macedonia have the interest to participate in social entrepreneurship, but their capacities are weak. According to the self-assessment, survey carried out by the CRPM, named OESA, 47% of self-assessed NGO’s have an idea, but do not have business plan for social entrepreneurship, while  39% are  interested in starting a social enterprise, but do not have an idea. Another challenge in Macedonia is the collection of founds for social enterprises. The lack of legal framework for social entrepreneurship creates difficulties for NGO’s and social enterprises to raise funds. Apart from grants coming from large foundations or international donations, methods for raising funds are very limited. Currently, in our country there is not a single state fund to support this kind of entrepreneurship, nor there is a credit line from commercial banks”, finishes Simonovski.

Prepared by: Irina Popovska

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