Last Thursday, March 3rd, 2022, the Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN) led a regional workshop on CSO and private sector engagement in development partnerships, entitled Unusual Allyship for the Common Good: CSO – Private Sector Cooperation.
The event brought together a handful of speakers from across the Western Balkans; all with very different trajectories but who ultimately have the same goal: to engage the business sector in order to bring about meaningful social change in their communities.
Following opening remarks from BCSDN’s Acting Director General Anja Bosilkova-Antovska, the conversation was kicked off by Ana Zbona, head of the Civil Liberties and Human Rights Defenders Programme at the Business & Human Rights Resource Center. Through a human rights lens, Ana set the scene by providing an overview of the relationship between business, states and civil society. She highlighted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) as the normative standard for defining the duties of states and the responsibilities of business with respects to international human rights law.
Next up was Nikica Kusinikova, Executive Director of NGO Konekt in North Macedonia. Nikica relayed her CSO’s experience of engaging the banking sector to “stimulate and promote private donation and social responsibility aimed at effective and long-term development of Macedonia.” She explained how by connecting donors with the civil society sector, Konekt enables constituents to implement their vision of the changes they want to see in their communities.
Kostantina Keruti, Program Manager at Partners Albania followed with a very enlightening presentation on one of the organisation’s initiatives: Business Speed Dating. The event consists of meetings between non-profit sector representatives and private companies where NPOs are each given a few minutes to pitch their social project proposals to the companies in one-on-one meetings and then rotate when the time is up. It is an innovative way to connect non-profits to potential investors. She explained how it’s important for non-profits to speak the business language in order to attract them. This is why Partners Albania offers non-profits a series of training programs, consultancy and long-term mentoring on adopting appropriate business models.
Christina Forester, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Heartbeats Innovations and Communication, also underlined the importance of understanding each other’s unique contexts and language when it comes to engagements between business and civil society. Christina outlined her company’s carefully selected set of methodology and approaches starting with making sure non-profits have a well-thought-out content marketing strategy to attract the business sector and garner the resources they need .
The following presentation was given by Anamarija Velinovska Project Manager at Institute for Democracy “Societas Civilis” – Skopje (IDSCS). She shared her valuable experience in replicating research done on EU accession across different countries in the Western Balkans.
The last part of the event consisted of a lively discussion with audience questions and sharing of best practices.
Watch this space for more events supported by CPDE across its regions and sectors on how civil society can engage the private sector to advance effective development cooperation.#