Assisting recent graduates through a mentoring network helps Balkan countries become more prosperous and better equip them for the on-going Euro-Atlantic integration.
By Goran Trajkov for Southeast European Times in Skopje --14/08/13
Mentoring network members gather at a session in Skopje. [Macedonian Mentoring Network]
Networking is a more cost-effective method of generating new business than advertising or public relations, and the Balkan network of mentors Invest for the Future has engaged entrepreneurs, experts and government officials to do just that.
Invest for the Future is an attempt to unify the regional countries' individual networks and provide support largely to would-be and working entrepreneurs.
Mentoring networking initiatives can particularly assist women to connect more readily with counterparts across Europe and Eurasia, said Tina Lee Odinsky-Zec, director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre (ZSEM) in Zagreb.
"[They have] been able to get high-level support for creating a mentoring network that will aid in the development of female-led enterprises and also create cross-country clusters in key industries like food, fashion, education, technology and others," Odinsky-Zec told SETimes.
Assisting recent graduates through the mentoring network helps Balkan countries become more prosperous and better equip them for the on-going Euro-Atlantic integration, according to Suat Misini of the Civil Society Research Centre in Skopje.
"The mentoring network is of great importance for improving the capacity of those who are actively involved in the economic processes, regardless of whether they will be employed by a well-known employer or will be entrepreneurs that will offer their own products and services," Misini told SETimes.
The benefits of mentoring and networking are immediately implementable and should be expanded to benefit more people, Misini added.
The regional mentoring effort has organised three conferences -- in Istanbul and Zagreb in 2011 and in Warsaw last year -- where country networks formed local and regional alliances as well as enhanced understanding and practical skills to gain better access to markets, financial services and technologies.
The mentors also try to identify financial resources to match the needs of existing small and medium enterprises.
The Macedonian Mentoring Network, which consists of 60 members, companies, associations and NGOs, is organising a regional conference in Struga in October focusing on how to strengthen the existing regional network.
The mentoring network utilises models created by prominent business networking organisations that allow businesspeople to build new relationships and, at the same time, generate business opportunities, according to Slavica Nikolovska, president of the network.
Mentors make particular efforts to involve women who are recent university graduates but also others which have start-up enterprises. Women mentors reaching out to them are mostly from the fields of business, but also from politics and culture.
"Women have not reached their full potential in these areas. Besides being good mothers and partners, it is always up to us whether we will take forward our communities by showing leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, courage and sacrifice," Nikolovska told SETimes.
Mentors offer support, advise and provide a push in the right direction when and where necessary, according to Ljubinka Takashmanov, director of the Recruiting Centre of Excellence, an NGO based in Skopje.
"My goal is to promote the advancement of women as entrepreneurs worldwide, to encourage, [and] share knowledge, experience and opportunities globally in the business, commercial and social fields. Mentoring is investing for the future, globally," Takashmanov told SETimes.
How can civil society engage more graduates, particularly women, to embrace mentoring and networking?