Social enterprising on Second Regional Social Academy

Second Regional Social Academy “Social Enterprises – An Innovative Model for sustainable service delivery and integration of marginalized groups in the labour market and society” was held from 27 – 30 May 2019. in Tirana. Under the framework of IRIS Networking CSOs for protection sensitive migration management, project is funded by European Commission and implemented through joined forces of 6 NGOs from 5WB countries: IDC Serbia, ASB South East Europe, SOS Podgorica, LIR Civil Society from B&H, ARSIS Albania and La Strada North Macedonia

Over 30 participants, IRIS network members, distinctive mid-career public servants, scholars, activists and professionals from civil society organizations from the region, who were selected to participate on Academy, had a unique opportunity to benefit from a diversified training package, introduction of legal framework and practical models of social enterprises in the region, exploring innovative entrepreneurship activities for the development of the region through higher inclusion of migrants, Roma, women, youth and PwD and other marginalized groups into labour market, and social services delivery.

Participants attended 4 day tailor-made training consisted of different learning methodologies including lectures, workshops, discussions and field visits.

At the beginning of this four-day journey, Jelena Adjelkovic, project Manager in IDC Serbia and Masa Mitrovic, Project Manager from ASB South East Europe, presented Iris Network activities to all members and introduced participants to Social Academy agenda.

On first training day, Anto Janković form Center for Economic Prosperity and Freedom in Montenegro and Juliana Hoxha from Partners Albania for Change and Development introduced participants with main Academy topics:

What is Social Enterprise?
Concepts and Schools of Thought
Different models of Social Enterprises – From Service Delivery to Sustainable Social Enterprises

Leaded by Anto & Juliana, through presentations and tactical workshops, participants learned how to start with social business and how to place it on the market.

On second training day, Anto joined forces with Marko Moracic from HUBChe Belgrade and Erila Haska representing Partners Albania for Change and Development.

Marko provided to participants first-hand experience when it comes to how social enterprises can recognize opportunities in the community and the market. He also gave some inputs how to determinate customer and target groups, ways of finding sources for funding social enterprises and how to measure the social impact!

Start thinking big, if you think small, everything will be small and unreachable. Change always comes from inside, said Marko

Afternoon on second training day was reserved for business model canvas and how to use it for social enterprise design. Participant had hard mission this afternoon, to create business plan for developing their own social brand. Results were outstanding thanks to mentoring support of our trainer’s trio.

Iris Network

Peak of the Academy was third day who was reserved for filed visit and introducing with successful examples of social enterprising in Tirana.

First visit was to YAPS, Youth Albania Professional Services, which is the first social business in Tirana. The company works in the fields of parcel delivery, cleaning and fix-it services. It was founded in 2001 and currently employs 112 people. The employees are orphans, Roma, Egyptians or people coming from a difficult financial background. Before they start to work for the company, they receive training by YAPS.

After some start-up financing they are now a commercially run company. The director, Arben Shamija, explained that with their surplus YAPS has financed a kindergarten for the city and some other social projects. One of the secrets of his success is making the employees as responsible for their own work as possible.

Although this enterprise had great success in short time, they are all still struggling with funding, legislation and bureaucracy, Even they fully employ marginal groups and persons with disabilities, they have no benefits what so ever, paying full taxes and have no such as support from the Government.

Next stop on our field visit was Qendra Xhonatan / Jonathan Center, a nonprofit organization, with the purpose of helping children with Down’s syndrome, autism and children with similar special needs, and at the same time to increase the awareness of their families to achieve the best for their life. As they say, intention is to bring a change in the spiritual approach and the possibility that Albanian society can accept and create an environment where the children with special needs can be integrated and achieve the best in life.

Work therapy, music therapy, psycho-social workshops and many other things, help these children not only to survive and have a life, jet to have fun and happy life and integrate in society.

As a part of the center, in coffee shop Qendra, children with special needs are serving coffee, organizing events, karaoke, shows, theater…

Johnatan Centre is fully funded from the coffee shop profit and donations.

On last Academy day, Nikica Kusinikova and Eric Layton from European Network of Social Integration Enterprises – ENSIE talked about Legal Framework & Practices of Social Enterprises around the Region and Europe

Klotilda Kosta, from Partners Albania for Change and Development, closed the Second Regional Social Academy of Iris Network with workshop and presentations on policy recommendation on Social Enterprises development

All 30 participants successfully finished this adventure! On closing ceremony, they obtained certificates, and entered Academy Alumni.

Also, participation and great results that participant achieved on this Academy will be seen as an advantage when applying for EU based traineeships organized by IRIS network.

Now, upon finishing this adventure, some of participants will have the opportunity to receive the scholarship for traineeship in the relevant organization social service provider located in EU.

Until next Iris Regional Social Academy…

Regional Social Academy of Iris Network – socialize and learn

A few days left until Second Iris Network Regional Social Academy. Applications are collected and news is expanded that in the end of May in Tirana will be held one of the biggest regional event that brings together civil society organizations and experts in these areas. The cities have already been filled up, the plan has been made and the materials are ready. Intrusive lectures and field visits will enable students and academia to gain knowledge and experience both theoretically and practical experience.
The Academy offers participants a unique opportunity to benefit from a diversified training package, Introduction of legal framework and practical models of social enterprises in the region, exploring innovative entrepreneurship activities for the development of the region through higher inclusion of migrants, Roma, women, youth and PwD and other marginalised groups into labour market, and social services delivery.

Outstanding results at the Academy will be seen as an advantage when applying for EU based traineeships organized by IRIS Network. After the Academy, participants will have the opportunity to receive the scholarship for traineeship in the relevant organization social service provider located in EU.

How it all looked like and how the first academy was important for our participants, you can see in the videos below.

Training on First Regional Social Academy of Iris Network, Belgrade 2018
Field visits, Elementary School “Branko Pesic” and Asylum Camp Krnjaca,
First Regional Social Academy of Iris Network, Belgrade 2018

Second Regional Social Academy, which will be held in Tirana, Albania from 27th to 30th May 2019. organised by Arbeiter Samariter Bund South East Europe together with Iris Network national partner – The Initiative for Social Change ARSIS

Regional Social Academy is part of the regular IRIS programme activities, organized annually in each of the WB state.

Pictures and impressions from First Regional Social Academy you can see here.

See you soon, stay tuned!

For application and additional questions contact

Roundtable Debate in Brussels – Challenges & Opportunities for Social Services’ Providers in WB

Yesterday’s Roundtable Debate “CSOs providing social services in the Western Balkans: Challenges & opportunities”, which took place in Brussels in organization of the IRIS Network in cooperation with SOLIDAR, brought together policy makers and social services’ providers from relevant CSOs from the Balkan region.

The Round Table was attended by  Regional and Country Directors of ASB-SEE, Elmir Bojadzic and Gordan Velev (Country Office Serbia), Coordinator of the Project “Improving the provision of Social Service Delivery in South Eastern Europe through the empowerment of national and regional CSOs”, Masa Mitrovic and representatives of IRIS Network partner organizations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.

Within meaningful discussion, participants expressed their views toward existing social challenges in WB including the consequences of slowed EU Enlargement process and ongoing migrant crisis. They also had the opportunity to present innovative and sustainable solutions in the field of services provision for the most vulnerable groups, with a special focus on youth, Roma and PwD. Within this part of debate, three innovative national case studies, developed through the Project of IRIS Network, were presented.

The presentation of ARSIS, IRIS Network partner in Albania could be seen here.

The presentation of IRIS Network in B&H could be found here.

The presentation of Otaharin, IRIS partner in B&H is available here.

The presentation of SMILE, IRIS partner in Serbia could be seen here.


IRIS Network in cooperation with SOLIDAR is organizing the Round Table “CSOs PROVIDING SOCIAL SERVICES IN THE WESTERN BALKANS: CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES”, dedicated to challenges and opportunities for CSOs providing social services in the Western Balkans, which are related to overcoming current refugee crisis and the latest political and economic pressures inside the European Union that provoked a slowdown of the Enlargement process.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) need to find ways to revamp the Enlargement process and its social dimension in order to enhance economic, social and territorial cohesion. In particular the innovative capacities of CSOs providing social services needs to be strengthened and they need to be supported to strengthen their capacity and directly engage local and regional beneficiaries in decisions around the ‘EU Social Acquis’. These are the main objectives of the EU funded project “Improving the provision of Social Service Delivery in South Eastern Europe through the empowerment of national and regional CSOs” led by ASB-SEE that will be presented at this round table.

The Round Table will bring together policy makers and members of the civil society the possibility to discuss main challenges and opportunities for CSOs providing social services in the Western Balkans as well as the best solutions to make sure that Enlargement process is a catalyzer for social progress and enhancement of socio-economic rights.

More information on the even could be found here.

Traineeship in France awarded to IRIS Network candidate Megi Kushi

Professional Staff Traineeship Programme in organization of IRIS Network and SOLIDAR has officially started few weeks ago in the premises of Ligue de l’enseignement des Pyrénées atlantiques at the mountain center ‘Le Cardet à Gourette’ in France. Traineeship is involving participant in the organization and development of different activities, non-formal learning and animation with children and teenagers, among whom persons with intellectual disabilities.

After they carefully reviewed numerous applications received, the IRIS Network in cooperation with SOLIDAR confirmed participation of Megi Kushi. Let us meet her and hear the impressions of the Training.

Megi Kushi, coming from Albania, is young intern at the National Association Education for Life-SHKEJ, one of the IRIS Network member organizations. She has Master Degree in Organizational Psychology and, even though she is just 23 years old, has quite an experience in the field of social service provision and working with vulnerable groups gained through formal and non-formal education and trainings. Over the last few years she had been working with children in need – groups of Roma and Egyptian children in Albania, as well as with children with autism. Beside Albanian, she fluently speaks English and French.

Within Professional Staff Training Programme, Kushi got the opportunity to improve skills related to her psychological work-profile: She has useful conversations with the children, helps them to feel comfortable and develop their interests in social interaction, based on healthy roots of self-esteem.

“I learnt how efforts of the team are the key in organizing multidisciplinary areas that are focused on the well-being of children. I also noticed the importance of motivation as the staff priority. Cardet centre represents this perfectly”, said Kushi.

Mountain Cardet centre, which is hosting ongoing Professional Training, hosts open school – discovery classes for children during holidays. The school is providing different activities whose topics range from discovering the environment to sport and human activities, all connected to the mountain. “Children can enjoy the company of each other, explore themselves and the nature surrounding them and become engaged with life rules”, explained Kushi.

In addition, Kushi mentioned that she learns a lot spontaneously, through the work routine, the discipline and the responsibility that the mission of Cardet is accomplishing with the children. She hopes of using most of skills and knowledge gained through this Training in her future work, after she gets back to Albania.

IRIS Network members attended SOLIDAR Training Academy

SOLIDAR Training Academy “INTEGRATION, INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE AND PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE – Addressing challenges and opportunities in the social services, education and training sector”, which took a place in International Training Center ILO in Turin, has been officially closed last Friday. The training brought together representatives of 13 Civil Society Organizations from different European countries.

During three days of training, participants were discussing on the current challenges their NGOs are facing to, improved their skills in intercultural dialogue and laid the groundwork for future cooperation. Main topics covered migrant issue and cultural diversities by defining strengths and weaknesses of different social environments, as well as external opportunities and threats which are recognizable through activism of represented organizations. Participant also had the opportunity to share good practices with colleagues from other organizations and to improve skills in the field of promotion of their work through using modern social media approach.

Among the participants, the training was attended by representatives of IRIS Network from Serbia and Albania.




Who are we?

What IRIS network accomplished?

Who are our members?

What is our aim?

If you have trouble in answering any of these question, click on this PRESENTATION to find out.

Personal assistance service for students with disabilities in Montenegro


The long-standing use of the medical model in the approach towards persons with disabilities (PWDs) in which they are passive observers of their lives, people in need of protection, care and concern has led to a large number of problems that these people encounter, as well as with high level of discrimination toward them. This kind of comprehensive protection usually means that these persons are constantly in isolation depending on others, or in some special institutions.

IRIS network member Association of Youth with Disabilities of Montenegro is dedicated to providing support, opportunities and programs to strengthen the personal, educational and professional development of young people with disabilities. Their mission is to provide these young people a chance to become independent members of the society. Throughout the received grant form IRIS and in cooperation with Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. they developed practical policy for implementation, financing and improvement of personal assistance service. This will be used in future as a tool for addressing the needs of students and persons with disability and their quality support through the PA service in Montenegro.

First National helpline for victims of domestic violence in Montenegro


Statistic information on domestic violence in Montenegro remains inaccurate. There is still no national strategy or data, and each of the responsible institutions addresses this problem differently. Woman and children, vicims of violence, are forced to seek help from different, mainly non-governmental organization and services. Female service assistance and support in Montenegro have a key role in empowering victims and providing intensive care and support. SOS hotlines proved to be the ost effective initial support to these victims, having over 30 000 phone calls annually. There is still no national SOS hotline, even though this is envisaged in all relevant UN and EU documents.

SOS telephone Niksic, member of the IRIS network, received funds to advocate for a free National helpline for domestic violence and violence against women in order to influence much needed reforms in this field. SOS telephone Niksic, with three more partners from towns of Ulcinj, Bjelo Polje and Berane and in close collaboration with all relevant ministries in Montenegro, developed and adopted a Rule book on operation of the first national helpline in Montenegro. Additionally, the, work group of these organizations became partner of the Government in all future decision-making processes considering reforms in this field.

Supporting Social Investment – the Enlargement Perspective

Supporting Social Investment – the Enlargement Perspective

ROUND TABLE Organised by IRIS Network and SOLIDAR

At the beginning of the new parliamentary term when enlargement process is still ongoing, it is undoubtedly relevant to emphasize the importance of the socio-economic development of the Western Balkan region. Cutting the unemployment rate, social services enhancement, empowering the social investments and job creation in this sector are the priorities in the forthcoming times. In order to achieve aforementioned goals and to give a new impulse to the integration process, it is essential to include and to highlight social dimension of the enlargement in the policies shaped by the EU decision makers.

This round table will offer the possibility to discuss services of general interests, active inclusion and the role of social service providers in the Western Balkans in promoting quality jobs, economic growth and social investments. Members of the “IRIS Network – Improving social services in SEE” will present their daily work in the context of the EU Enlargement policies and will give good practices examples on combating poverty and promoting social cohesion. In addition, SOLIDAR’s Annual Monitoring report on the EU enlargement will be launched.