Over the past four years of the Regional Program on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (ReLOaD), funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), civil society organisations and local governments in Niksic, Tivat, Kotor, Pljevlja and Podgorica have jointly and successfully implemented dozens of projects that contribute to youth and women empowerment, as well as other socially marginalized groups. Successfully implemented projects of NGOs and local self-governments have also contributed to the development of communities through the improvement of living conditions, the development of rural tourism and the concept of smart cities and environmental protection.
Since economic empowerment is a key to social empowerment, one of the ReLOaD’s components was aimed at introducing innovative business opportunities to socially vulnerable youth and women in Montenegro.
The project “Click to Work”, implemented by the Association Business Center in Niksic, combined social innovation workshops and mentorship to equip young unemployed people from Niksic municipality with the skills and resources they need to find their place on the labour market.
Within this ReLOaD initiative, freelancers from Niksic got logistic and technical support. Experts in digital technologies shared valuable knowledge and advice in creating online profiles, finding the first employers, and networking with other freelancers. As a result, the database consisting of 75 local freelancers and 17 UpWork profiles have been created. Moreover, 45 youngsters went through employment training, and they have already achieved eight online employments.
Business Center in Niksic established successful cooperation with the Municipality of Niksic, the Institute for Employment, and the Investment and Development Fund of Montenegro, to continue developing freelancing network in their local community.
Mr. Darko Zugic, a project coordinator at the Business Center, says that participation in the ReLOaD project has significantly enhanced their knowledge and experience in project management. It allowed them to set higher professional standards by following the methodology presented through the Programme. “We shared experience and opinions with all local and national stakeholders in the field of self-employment. The ReLOaD project has created a solid platform for transparent, project-based cooperation with the local government, and it enabled us to reach beneficiaries more efficiently”, says Mr. Zugic.
Within the ReLOaD program in Montenegro, one more civil society initiative used the creative potential in their local community to bring social benefits to those in need. The project “Women's Social Entrepreneurship in Culture”, implemented by the Creative Center in Tivat, gathered more than 80 women who have learned how to use their talent and creative ideas to develop a successful entrepreneurial story. They participated in workshops on drawing, painting on natural materials, weaving, photography, meditation, and yoga. Finally, their work was presented to the public through five exhibitions organized in the local cultural center.
For some of the participants, this project meant much more than just the opportunity to learn new handicraft skills. These workshops brought together many socially vulnerable women – unemployed, women with disabilities, single mothers, and women affected by poor health. For them, this was a unique chance to exchange personal stories in a welcoming surrounding that can provide support and understanding.
Iva Gopcevic Celanovic, project coordinator at the Creative Center in Tivat, says that partnership with UNDP, and financial support provided by the EU, brought a positive experience that expanded their professional capacities and opened new possibilities.
“ReLOaD is important because it enables civil society organizations to strengthen their capacities, which is the key to social progress in general. Being part of the ReLOaD program has taught us skills that are crucial for professional and responsible project management”, says Ms. Gopcevic Celanovic.
The Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (ReLOaD) is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). As a regional four-year initiative, the ReLOaD project is implemented in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. The second phase of this program is ongoing and will last until 2024.