France has actively supported RYCO (the Regional Youth Cooperation Office in the Western Balkans) since its creation in 2016. In 2019, it allocated €500,000 to launch a joint partnership to promote social entrepreneurship in the region.
RYCO (the Regional Youth Cooperation Office) was created in 2016 by the six Heads of Government of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia) and is one of the Berlin Process’s real success stories for the region. Committed to strengthening ties between young people in the region, its goal is to overcome the divisions resulting from recent conflicts and lay the foundations for reconciliation, trust, dialogue and cooperation by stepping up interaction between young people. The Franco-German Youth Office (FGYO) has made a decisive contribution to this project by sharing its best practices and feedback on intercultural exchanges between young people and the reconciliation process within civil society.
RYCO has been operating since August 2017. It is headquartered in Tirana and its core team of 10 people is comprised of nationals from throughout the region, with the assistance of local branch offices in each capital of the other five countries: Belgrade, Podgorica, Pristina, Sarajevo and Skopje.
Initiatives supported by RYCO
RYCO offers financial support and expertise to intra-regional projects, bringing together young people from the six countries. In this respect, it is mainly aimed at NGOs created by and for young people and secondary school pupils.
Each year, RYCO organizes an open call for projects from these two groups. So far, it has mobilized about €2 million to co-finance its projects.
The last two calls in 2018 and 2019 were a great success. Almost 700 projects were proposed during the first two calls, bringing together over 2,000 candidate NGOs and institutions. RYCO supported 33 projects by the end of the first call and should support about 45 following the second.
The “Western Balkans Youth Lab (WB6 Lab)” is a regional incubator for entrepreneurship and innovation designed for young leaders and change-makers. The AFD (Agence Française de Développement) has just allocated €500,000 to the project.
Over a three-year period (from October 2019 to September 2022), the project has two objectives:
- to create a regional ecosystem for social entrepreneurship and build its capacities: at least 216 young entrepreneurs from the region aged between 18 and 35 will receive support in their start-up projects’ design and incubation phases and will be supervised by mentors from the region and French professionals from Groupe SOS (e.g. Le Comptoir de l’Innovation in Montreuil).
- to promote and raise awareness of social entrepreneurship among young people and key public and private actors: at least 1,000 people aged 15 and above will be involved via design-thinking workshops.
This will take place entirely within the Western Balkans region, via regional events (Regional Boost Camp, Regional forum, etc.) in each of the six countries to ensure processes are well-linked both nationally and regionally for setting up and incubating these innovative projects. RYCO will be the main project manager.
For additional information, visit: http://www.rycowb.org/