Social Innovators: 2020’s highlights

Credits: Social Innovators

The year 2020 was certainly marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. A year ago, we were looking forward to the opening of our social innovation hubs in Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Croatia, our community space for meetings, events, and collaborations. The pandemic caused us to adjust our activities and even temporarily close the hubs for the public. Nevertheless, we adjusted our activities to an online format. This brought less spontaneous interaction with our community, but it enabled us to collaborate with the youth and CSOs outside of our local areas using digital tools. One of the ways we overcame the obstacle of not being able to maintain activities online was by introducing webinars, workshops, but also online one-on-one consultations and other ways to engage with the public.

One of the events which successfully switched to online platforms was a discussion forum on the topic “Social innovations and the potential of the social economy for recovery from the COVID-19 crisis” held on July 23rd, 2020. The discussion was organized by the National Management School in Bulgaria, and it gathered over 50 participants in the online discussion and 275 engaged in live broadcasting which had over 2.000 views.

Credits: Social Innovators

The forum outlined key challenges for social enterprises in several areas (related to employees in CSO, the environment, and the market). Possible solutions discussed will be officially sent to the Bulgarian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and European institutions. The result of the discussions were concrete proposals for the next steps so as to continue the dialogue between the participants in the social and solidarity economy. Moreover, the conclusions contained in these proposals from CSO representatives for Bulgaria’s plan for recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

You can watch the video here: click.

But the year 2020 also proved to beespecially fruitful in the context of the apprenticeship program which was launched in Croatia, Slovenia, and Bulgaria.

PiNA had a very successful national campaign Nurturing the World can be a job. There were a lot of positive responses, both from NGOs and young people. The campaign was designed in response to the high youth unemployment rate and at the same time low employment rate in the non-governmental sector. More than 40 non-governmental organizations from all over Slovenia participated, with the desire to enable young people to gain a unique opportunity to participate in the non-governmental sector with the help of quality mentoring, thus gaining important work competencies in various fields (project leadership, communication, education, administration, advocacy) and the opportunity to help care for a better world in the chosen NGO. 187 young people joined the campaign, who will ‘nurture the world’ in organizations throughout Slovenia until April 2021.

In Bulgaria, after 4 training sessions for mentors in CSOs including more than 30 mentors, 52 students have started their training apprenticeships in hosting CSOs. All participants in the training of mentors were unanimous that “SocialInnovators” appear at the right time for them. During the training, the representatives of the civil society organizations gave a lot of positive feedback about the Program as an extremely meaningful, flexible, and support initiative for the sector, which is the only one of its kind.

In their speeches and feedback we received after the training meetings, they shared the urgent need to meet new and enthusiastic young people to train and possibly retain in the work of their organizations, and themselves – to strengthen their mentoring skills. For a small number of organizations, writing a job advertisement and mentoring, in general, proved to be a completely new challenge for them, as they are fully determined to learn the new mentoring skills and take the benefits of this entirely new challenge.

In Croatia, more than 90 NEETs applied to the program, as well as more than 80 mentors. Currently, around 50 NEETs either finished their apprenticeships or are in the process. Both mentors and the apprentices agree that the program is very valuable and more than 90% of participants claim they would like to partake in similar activities in the future. Additionally, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, coordinating the activities in Croatia, launched special support groups for mentors, additional educational content for the apprentices, and email lists for advertising jobs in civil society organizations.

Credits: Social Innovators

And finally, in 2021, the Social Innovation Practitioner program will be launched in Croatia, Bulgaria, and Slovenia. We all face the challenge of implementing this educational program, which was designed to be held in the classroom maintaining both the quality of the program and all the safety measures brought to us in response to the pandemic.

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