Filed under: Development Poverty Social innovation

2013 has turned out to be a particularly exciting year for UNDP in Albania.

Earlier this year, the Future We Want campaign ran at full speed, with consultations being held with nearly 500 young people across the country about what they want their future to look like.

We listened to the concerns expressed by young Albanians and reflected on how their needs could be included into the post-2015 development agenda.

One of the biggest concerns for youth in Albania? Jobs.

What we heard over and over throughout the Future We Want campaign was that most young people want jobs in the public sector. But they described state institutions in charge of employment and vocational training as apathetic, old-fashioned and incapable of meeting the needs of the younger generation. They also complained of a lack of professional services in support of entrepreneurship.

Indeed, the lack of business development services is major handicap in Albania.

Heeding these concerns, UNDP joined forces with the Albanian Investment Development Agency (AIDA) over the summer to support their “Be Brave – Start Up and Innovate” campaign, which involved a business ideas competition for young people.

The campaign poster

The campaign poster

Amazingly, following just one month of online advertising and a few presentations at universities, we received almost 200 contest entries and nearly 7,000 Facebook likes from all across the country, including some of Albania’s most deprived regions.

Following this interest, and in view of the lack of physical entrepreneurship support in Albania but the increase in Internet access and use of social media across the country, a proposal for an online business incubator was articulated in support of potential young entrepreneurs..

The success of the “Be Brave” campaign invigorated our thinking, and together with Yunus Social Business Albania, we decided to try to make the concept of an online business incubator a reality. An online portal for young entrepreneurs has now been drafted, and a beta version will be up and running shortly.

YouthAlbania2 (to be launched shortly)

As young people lack the practical skills and experience to start a business, many lack the confidence to engage in a business venture. Further, young people rarely have the resources needed to finance a new venture or the network required to promote their ideas or find partners.

An online business incubator portal will allow young people to overcome these challenges by providing access to valuable resources, including mentoring opportunities and the Yunus Social Business Accelerator Program for Personal Development.

The portal will allow for networking and will provide the opportunity to have an idea funded. Through a voting system, ideas can graduate from a simple elevator pitch into true business plans with the help of available UNDP and Yunus Social Business funds.

The portal will function both online and offline. Online it will serve as a resource centre, providing hangouts, training programmes, an idea pool, crowd testing, crowd research, and online mentoring. Offline, at the Yunus Social Business premises, young people will be able to take part in training, business labs, lectures, and advisory services, and make use of office space and a mentoring programme.

We are excited about the long-term prospects for this project, with sustainability already secured thanks to funds committed by Yunus Social Business. Starting with a minimum viable product, the portal will be made available to a selection of prospective users identified during our presentation tour at public and private universities in Albania. Once finalized, the portal will be launched and advertised online.

Stay tuned for the next update!