Last year, the British Council received funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to run a six-month youth entrepreneurship programme between October 2015 and March 2016. The objective was to support young people from five countries in the Western Balkans to start their own businesses and improve employability skills through quality training programmes and interactions with the UK. It also aimed to influence Western Balkan decision makers to empower the next generation of young entrepreneurs.
Project activities included the regional conference on youth entrepreneurship (November 2015), creative enterprise training through Nesta (December 2015 and January 2016), and the youth entrepreneurship challenge (February 2016) and UK study visit for policymakers and entrepreneurs (March 2016).
The recommendations made at the regional conference were shared with all 51 participants from the region. Moreover, by participating in the UK study visit, 15 of these participants had the opportunity to strengthen their skills and knowledge in the field of entrepreneurship. UK partners in this initiative included, among others, the Goldsmiths’ Centre, South Thames College, the Peter Jones Foundation, Nesta, Oxygen Start-up Accelerator and The Trampery. The excellent feedback from the study visit delegation speaks of the project’s potential to further develop an enabling entrepreneurial environment in each of these five countries.
Furthermore, the project established a network of 200 creative entrepreneurs from different industries. It also brought together business hubs in the region to work collaboratively to improve the business environment in the region, drawing also on the experience of British peers and business hubs.
Thanks to the programme and competitive pitching event, 61 young entrepreneurs were able to hone their skills. They have reported that, since completing the training, their business idea is making good progress, that their level of motivation has been high, and that many are still networking and collaborating with one another.
Over the past five months, the project’s website has received 44,000 unique visits and more than 14 million impressions on social media. The project publication, together with the website, will help communicate and disseminate the results, ensuring that these are maintained beyond the project’s timeframe and reach diverse audiences across the region with similar initiatives over the coming period.
By bringing together work in creative economy and in education and employability, the project demonstrates that a dynamic environment for start-ups can be created together with policymakers and the emerging business founders who are essential to the region’s future.
To find out more about the project visit the website, follow #WesternBalkanStartups on Twitter and read our blog on how this project is helping create an enterprise eco-system in the Western Balkans.