Young people push boundaries: A new culture and quality standards for social action
August 12, 2023
One in 3 young people in Montenegro wish to work in the state administration or in an institution, while the share of those thinking of starting their own business is extremely small (1.9%). More than two-thirds of young people have not engaged in any type of informal education, while as many as 70% of unemployed youth believe that additional education does not help in getting a job, that personal contacts take precedence over qualifications. Institutions often perceive young people as passive, disinterested in the activities intended for them, unwilling to get involved. On the other hand, young people say that they do not have enough information about the possibilities to participate in activities and decision-making processes. They also report lack of opportunities to get involved in designing the activities and programmes intended for them, which mostly end up not suiting their needs or interests. More than half of young people are not interested in getting involved in decision-making around societal issues.
Nevertheless, many young people do push boundaries, create a new culture of belief in their own ideas, see success not as a safe job or an official function, but rather as the creation of new value, quality, integrity and commitment to social development. The team of young people from the Centre for Youth Education (CYE) dismantle stereotypes with their work, patience and enthusiasm and achieve impressive results, sharing a common vision and goals, believing in themselves and in other people. Trust, togetherness, authenticity and enthusiasm are key to the success of this, as they call it, "small family", which has reached out to over 50,000 young people, with more than 100 realized activities and dozens of implemented projects across Montenegro and beyond.
The non-governmental organisation Centre for Youth Education promotes and encourages activism, informal education, volunteerism and mobility among young people. The results they are achieving come from their perseverance and sincere motivation, despite the obstacles that inevitably arise whenever launching something new. The CYE founder, Jugoslav Radović, notes that setting up of the organisation was motivated by the desire for positive change, which persisted regardless of the challenging beginnings. "The first projects, for which we managed to raise funds, happened only a few years after our establishment, when we actually started to be more active in developing the organisation. Naturally, that was not enough to finance all the people who were involved, so we were more or less oriented towards volunteering to be able to get anything going," says Jugoslav.
Today, when the majority of young Montenegrins want a secure job in a state-owned or a private company, these young people overcome their fear of risk with commitment to their ideas and dedicated work with people they share the same personal and business values with.
Believing in the vision, stepping out of the comfort zone and being ready to take risks are not easy when leading by example. In the initial stages of the organisation's work, Jugoslav had an excellent and secure job in the fast-growing IT industry. However, he quickly realised that with this job he could not fully devote himself to the development of the organisation. Instead of giving up on the organisation, as many advised, because a job in an IT company is still more promising, Jugoslav did the opposite. He quit his job to devote himself to the idea he believed in. He couldn’t know what the choice would bring him, but it didn't sway him.
"It was a big risk, but when you're young you try to achieve something and challenge yourself. It was not a problem for me to work 10 or 15 hours a day because I believed that something good would happen. I felt I should take the risk. After all, no great idea ever materialised without some risk being taken," Jugoslav noted. Comments from his immediate surrounding, often inclined to choose safety over risk, did not have much influence. "It never shook me. On the contrary, it even helped me because nothing ever comes from a pat on the back".
The first major CYE project was the European Youth Card (EYCA), which enables young people from Montenegro to use numerous discounts in our country and throughout Europe. Thus, Montenegro became one of the 37 members of the EYCA Association. Beginning to work on this project was quite challenging, because many conditions and procedures had to be fulfilled, partnerships forged, trust gained - both from young people and from a large number of different stakeholders and the interested public. Since those uncertain beginnings, the team has won four international awards for the results achieved - more than 45,000 young people use over 250 discounts in Montenegro and 70,000 discounts in Europe.
Other opportunities open up for the card holders - access to information and personal and professional development programmes, where cultural activities and travels stand out among the most common discounts.
Thanks to continued excellent results and contribution to the development of the European Youth Card Association, Jugoslav was elected Vice President during the last EYCA Assembly in Podgorica.
The Ministry of Sport and Youth strongly supported the project from the very start, helping a large number of young people have access to the card. The Ministry has expressed its strategic attitude towards this important project through the adopted European Youth Card Development Programme, set up for the period 2023-2024 with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Montenegro and Joint SDG Fund.
Such results are achieved by continuous and consistent high-quality standards that they set for themselves. Ambitious goals, striving for quality and ethics in their pursuit, and the humility shown in constant questioning and learning makes their team successful.
They do all this by giving their best and relying on each other. "We support each other and learn different skills, which is our greatest strength. It's really encouraging when the work of my colleagues actually helps me do my own and motivates me to push forward," says project manager Jelena Kavarić, emphasizing the invaluable strength of such an environment.
This attitude is shared by the project manager, Natalija Bošković, who claims that togetherness is the most important feature of a stimulating work environment for young people. "We are all there for each other. We all strive to go one step further, to always have a goal and a motive to push the boundaries and be better every new day than we were yesterday. In a stimulating environment, there are people who push you to take a step forward, so that the moment you think you can't proceed, you have colleagues to tell you - You can do it!"
Apart from togetherness, for the success of an organisation it is necessary to enable employees to be authentic. A prerequisite for that, as stated by the brand manager, Amar Mulić, is freedom. "For me, freedom is the strongest wind in my sails and the biggest motivator to work at the CYE, especially given that I’m in charge of the creative part. I am always free to follow my creativity and, if it is not the right time to do something, I wait for the right moment".
For the CYE to be able to offer content to young people, it needs to function in a youthful way, said project assistant Batrić Buzić. "The thing that I like the most is the spirit in the organisation itself. It is easy to reach out to a young person if the organisation itself is the embodiment of such an approach. Everything is adapted to and geared towards the young and their needs".
The outstanding results with the EYCA card project encouraged international partners to entrust the CYE with the management of the Social Impact Award (SIA), Europe’s largest youth social entrepreneurship support programme, from 2022 onwards; thus, apart from pursuing their own ideas, they help other creative young people to achieve theirs. They quickly justified the trust placed with them. As a result of diligent work, four out of 33 ideas young people applied with in 2022 were supported, while this year over 150 young people submitted more than 50 creative proposals. The ideas they support are original, sustainable and socially responsible, like Igraj.me, an educational game that helps people get to know Montenegro better. Realising the multiple potential and importance of social entrepreneurship both for innovation and for employment, economy and addressing societal problems, UNDP supported this year's SIA competition.
The project manager, Jelena Kavarić, says that young people who apply for the SIA programme are not expected to know everything. It is only important that they are innovative and creative, and everything else is up to the CYE - support, mentoring, connecting with other young people and potential collaborators and partners.
Montenegro abounds in creative young people, but there is a belief that social entrepreneurship carries financial insecurity, which prevents them from being daring and taking risks. However, Jelena adds, the possibility of long-term employment is one of the greatest, but less perceived advantages of social entrepreneurship. "In social entrepreneurship, young people choose what they want to do, address community problems and have a sustainable story that ultimately represents their permanent job."
The CYE team advises young people to find mentors, to engage in informal education and work on their own motivation. They point out that it is important for young people to recognise what they want to change over time, rather than what they want to acquire. The point is, as they say, to work on what we see that our society lacks, and we wish it to be there.
The CYE say they will continue to support young people to realise their potential, whom they encourage to get moving and create, but to keep the spirit of curiosity and authenticity in all they do and, as they say, "not to forget that they are young".
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