Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country filled with beautiful, untouched nature and very welcoming, hospitable people. However their history is filled with centuries of turmoil. Walking around the streets of Sarajevo, buildings are riddled with bullet holes alongside monuments and graffiti remembering those lost in the Yugoslav war in the 1990s.
Rebuilding the country is an ongoing process resulting in many associated social challenges. According to the International Labour Organisation, Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country of about 3.5 million people has almost 50% youth unemployment. Recovering from war has impacts on the economy, quality of life and opportunities for young people. One of the big challenges facing Bosnia and many countries around the world is ‘brain drain.’ Between 20 000 – 40 000 Bosnian nationals are leaving the country every year, with most of them being young people. They are leaving to pursue careers with higher wages and better lifestyles. This limits the potential of the economy and leaves a big gap in the labour market
Mozaik Is THE Impact Investor Network
Mozaik was established 17 years ago as a private foundation to support community development and social cohesion around the country. However, in 2015, followed by growing demand to address the youth unemployment issue, Mozaik developed a new 10-year strategy with the following impact statement: To lead the development of a break-through generation of entrepreneurial and innovative youth that will create new social and economic value, new jobs and become a role model to other youth in the region.
Their ultimate goal is to create opportunities for every young person from Bosnia and Herzegovina to succeed professionally, regardless of social status or place they come from.
Today, there are over 21 000 volunteers and 4 300 individuals, businesses, NGOs and government offices involved to support over 2 100 youth-led community actions. They have also invested in the establishment of 25 social businesses.
Their approach is innovative and has expanded with a range of programs and funding opportunities, including grants, venture philanthropy, impact investing, mentor networks, accelerator program to source new business ideas.
I met with Sejdefa Basic Catic who is the Collective Impact Director at Mozaik. Her career has spanned across the US Foundation Project HOPE, Canadian Public Health Organization, Partnership for Public Health Association, working with UNICEF and UN Population Fund. In 2011 she established network of centres for healthy aging and today there are 11 of them across Bosnia and Herzegovina. This model of community care for elderly has also been adopted by Macedonia, Serbia and Georgia.
Sejdefa’s role at Mozaik is to identify all stakeholders who can join the ecosystem and support young activists and entrepreneurs. She is developing various value propositions and creating a win-win situation for private, public and NGO sector, so that young person can get all available support to succeed as an entrepreneurs.
Supporting The Next Generation Of Entrepreneurs
‘Our job here at Mozaik is to support the next generation of entrepreneurs by helping them navigate the challenges of coming up with a business idea as well as simplifying the processes required to start a business here in Bosnia and Herzegovina.’ Sejdefa shared. A key component of their work is to create online resources and support so young people across the country, including regional and remote areas are able to start businesses.
‘We had one young entrepreneur come to us with a business idea to reduce waste on the chicken farm he worked at in the countryside. They are now exporting the chicken feet to Asia. By starting this business they are reducing their waste, employing more people and creating a stronger export market.’ Sejdefa highlighted a number of examples of young people who have successfully started a business by accessing Mozaik’s incubator programs, venture philanthropy and the extensive mentor network.
Using Digital Channels To Expand To More Young People
With less than 20 percent of the population living in the capital, Sarajevo, there is a strong need to reach beyond the capital city. To ensure people in regional areas are able to be engaged in programs, Mozaik created a number of online resources. ‘Although Bosnia and Herzegovina has a relatively small population, we are quite spread out so it is important we use new digital platforms to help bring people closer together.’
Through their LONAC platform, they have a forum space for young people to problem solve and share their ideas. They also have online resources and are building out webinars for young social entrepreneurs to continue their work without having to be in a large city.
Three of their programs, YouthBank, Impact Incubator and LONAC.pro are particularly interesting.
1. YouthBank Program
YouthBank program is the largest grantmaking program for small local initiatives in the region. Every year, young trained individuals approve 400-500 small grants through transparent and participatory grantmaking process. The most interesting thing is that since 2008, when the program started, over 20000 volunteers implemented over 2100 projects in total amount off over 6M€. From every Euro that Mozaik grants through YouthBank, almost 3 other Euros are mobilized locally.
Young people in non-formal groups are applying with various projects that can improve their communities. Projects are approved by their peers and then voted by the community to prove its relevance and impact.
Every idea that has the potential to address the social issue in an economically sustainable way gets the opportunity to develop and test its minimum viable product at the market in Mozaik’s Impact Incubator.
2. Mozaik Impact Incubator
Mozaik Impact Incubator invests in early stage start-ups of young people between 17 and 35 years of age. It focuses on young women and men with potential for social entrepreneurship across any sector as long as they create new social and economic value. Their program supports young social entrepreneurs through business development, marketing, sales, finance, operations and expansion. They do this through using the lean startup methodology as well as providing access to a range of talented career professionals who act as mentors.
Every year they invest in 15-30 new social businesses and organize several demo days to showcase them to the general public, aiming to motivate other young people to start their (social) businesses too.
It is anticipated that by the end of 2022, Mozaik will invest into 125 new limited liability companies, social (impact) businesses, and award grants for additional 125 micro-enterprises. See more of their methodology and program here.
3. LONAC.pro – online and offline community for activism and entrepreneurship
In order to enable access to these opportunities for every young person in the country, in April 2018 they launched platform named LONAC (the pot) and created the strongest on-/offline community for activism and entrepreneurship. Over 21000 people registered from all parts of Bosnia and co-created unique content that supports other youth. The aim of the community is to support the ecosystem and whenever young person have an idea and want to get support, Lonac is the place to be.
‘At the moment, our impact spans from waste reduction to employment. Every time we employ someone through a new, sustainable small business it is great for the country.’ Sejdefa shared.
‘We want to continue to see young people in Bosnia establishing and growing their businesses here. To do this, we need more mentors. Recently, some businesses including banks, are allowing their employees to use volunteer days to mentor young people. Bringing people from different backgrounds together will strengthen our economy, culture and opportunities for young people.’ Sejdefa shared.
The Mozaik team of about 27 employees have ambitious plans. By 2026, they aim to attract and offer numerous opportunities to at least 50 000 registered young social entrepreneurs.
They also plan to have youth grants for at least 5 000 youth-driven small community projects along with investment in 500 new social businesses.
Using digital channels is critical to expand the reach of social impact moving into the future. For an organisation who has been deeply engaged with building the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina through young people for a number of years, they are constantly evolving and using new methods to increase their reach. The passion and excitement from Sejdefa and the team to invest in young people shows a bright future for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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