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Hard times inspire good solutions

Dobrila Močević for UNICEF

Young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina possess persistence, commitment and strength and have ideas, which they want to use to change their local communities for the better, identifying problems in communities and working towards innovative solutions

UPSHIFT is a youth social innovation and social entrepreneurship programme, designed to build skills and opportunities for young people who are disadvantaged, due to poverty, gender, disability or ethnicity. The programme empowers young people with the skills and resources they need to identify problems in their own communities and design solutions for them.

Preparation for the first UPSHIFT in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) took five months, but instead of a three-day workshop on the Bjelasnica mountain, as the pandemic disrupted the plans, the first Bosnian UPSHIFT ended up as the first e-UPSHIFT. Laboratorium Tuzla, UNICEF's key implementing partner, successfully adapted the methodology and model of the event to become virtual.

“In the beginning, we were skeptical as eUPSHIFT is a completely new way of doing things and nobody is physically present throughout that time. Nevertheless, we are so happy that we got to know each other better and that we developed ideas,” says Nezir, one of the participants.

Mental health, discrimination, inclusion, critical thinking, career counseling, public transport, resolving the issue of stray dogs, were some of the problems identified and turned into solutions, by nine teams from Tuzla, Zenica, Tesanj, Visoko and Sarajevo.

“When we applied for UPSHIFT, we expected to spend one funny weekend working on the project, but instead we collaborated via Zoom and Miro Board tools and platforms. This week has been extremely intensive, but we look forward to implementing our idea,” says Murisa from Zenica.

The initial resistance to creating a virtual version of UPSHIFT was the first and most difficult step. “Once we stopped comparing offline UPSHIFT with an online version, we were ready to start. Within a short time, we created a model which was technically demanding but functioned almost perfectly, and the participants quickly mastered the new tool,” says Muris Halilovic of the Laboratorium.

Harun was a member of the team that created a solution to help young people receive information about public transport in a faster, cheaper and simpler way. “Our mentor’s support and advice meant a lot to us, and the workshop is unexpectedly efficient and well-organized,” he said.

There is no doubt that young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina possess persistence, commitment, strength and ideas with which they want to change their local communities for the better, identifying problems in the communities and working towards innovative solutions.

“I am happy that you have demonstrated that you understand and recognize problems in your local communities and that you are showing extraordinary energy, readiness, commitment and will to be the driving force which will change the country for the better, which is the core idea of UPSHIFT. eUPSHIFT confirms the saying that hard times inspire good solutions. I am proud of all nine teams because they have demonstrated their ability to adjust, to find ways to develop their ideas that they are attached to, to develop and find ways to design the implementation,” Dr Rownak Khan, the UNICEF Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said during the final ceremony.

The first eUPSHIFT BiH was supported by UNICEF Bosnia and Herzegovina and it took place as part of the Joint Regional Programme “Dialogue for the Future”, implemented by UNDP, UNICEF and UNESCO, in partnership with the state institutions in BiH, Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia, with the financial support of the UN Peacebuilding Fund.



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