SDC Project Implemented by Helvetas and MDA

Social Impact through Inclusive Services

Author: Vladimir Živković, Inclusive Development Advisor 

Example of pastry training available for all communities in Kosovo 

Many can state that systemic change has three main characteristics: impact, sustainability, and scale. However, we cannot talk about the second and third characteristics if we skip the first; or is impact likely to happen if we ignore constraints that different social groups have, for example: access to information and services, social norms or trust between training providers and potential trainees?

Enhancing Youth Employment project (EYE) has successfully facilitated the establishment of different non-formal training centers in Kosovo which are helping youths to improve their skills and more easily get employed. But most of the training and job matching providers in Kosovo do not reach young people from non-majority communities, or in other ways young women and men from these communities do not find the training and employment for themselves.

EYE has a specific approach for gender, for instance through sector selection in order to outreach more women to training opportunities, however through this article we focused on social inclusion. One of the reasons why non-majority communities in Kosovo do not access training opportunities is that non-formal training providers mainly operate in the Albanian language. So, young women and men from non-majority groups who do not speak Albanian are not aware of the trainings being offered, but is it only about language barrier? This article presents some insights from a recent experience with Korabi Innovation Center which provide pastry training. 

Analysis is a Foundation for Action

Action should be based on a deep understanding of the circumstances, and actions will inevitably vary depending on the situation. EYE’s first step in facilitating Korabi to offer a course in pastry to Serbian-language youths was to ask questions, to listen and to reflect. When we considered what stops people from enrolling in trainings, the first factor identified was that youths do not want to pay for this service. Although is that really the case and is it the only problem? Our recent research showed that there are other constraints that training providers need to consider. 

First Step: Improve Access to Information

EYE’s research found that most training providers believe if they are targeting everyone, they will reach everyone. But this is far from the truth. EYE helped Korabi to better promote its training not only in Albanian but in Serbian language as well. This was necessary, but still not enough for social impact before the next steps.

To improve access to information about employment and training opportunities in the Serbian language, EYE helped Korabi to connect with Media Center which shared the information in relevant media and through their job-matching portal

First time I heard about this pastry training through the portal “Posao na Kosovu”. It triggered my attention and raised awareness that something like that exist, but I never thought it was meant for me. Since I was already making cakes as my part-time business, I was invited for the training from the local businesswomen association ‘Avenue’ and I am so glad that I attended the training.” – said Dragana Marinkovic.

Encountering social norms

When I saw the call for this training, I was sure that it would be helpful to me and my business, but because of other obligations I was not sure if it was worth to spend time and my money investment. I tried to call the training provider for more information, but we could not understand each other well”. – said Goga Milosevic.

People from non-majority communities have experiences and live with social norms that reduce self-confidence, amplify doubts, and undermine trust. So, training providers need to find ways to counter this matter.

EYE’s research showed that youth and women from non-majority communities do not trust in the quality of trainings in Kosovo and are not aware that these opportunities can lead them to new or better jobs, EYE organized an info session in one of the training centers so that interested people can see how it looks in practice. Relevant youth and women-led NGOs were also invited to the info session. In this case Korabi training center was offering pastry training, and some of the young visitors were very skeptical: “This is so funny that somebody need to learn to make cakes – everyone knows it”. However, Ms. Gordana Djoric from NGO “Businesswomen Association Avenue” said “Even if the visitors do not decide to enroll in the trainings you have already made significant change, because now all these women who came here who are really interested in pastry business know where they can buy raw material for their cakes and other products. You brought us in the place that we needed to know about”. And exactly as she said, the training provider Korabi which organized the info session is one of the main suppliers of quality materials to the pastry and catering industry. 

People from non-majority communities do not trust the quality of trainings and they do not think it will lead to a job. Vesa Batali from our partner organization Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (VoRAE) said “For us it was hard at first to identify those who would participate. Then those from our target group had bad experiences in the past that they are tired and disappointed to try something new”. We heard a similar thought from our partner from the Gracanica Innovation Center that work mostly with Serbian youths: “Most of youth that we target to attend training are not so motivated for it because they do not have many opportunities to see other people who succeeded from it. Those successful cases are not visible; they are already abroad or mind their own business” – said Aleksandar Blagic from Gracanica Innovation Center. “We need more role models and success stories to be inspired from.”

When EYE’s assessment showed that there are young people who are willing but are doubting to pay for it or try at all, EYE decided to subsidize the cost of the first group. The training provider also agreed to offer a discount for the training which was a good sign of their commitment to this market opportunity. Regardless of the lowers cost of the training it was hard to attract participants for the first group, so how did we manage to identify interested trainees?

Start first with those who are motivated

EYE, with the involvement of NGOs such as ‘Avenue’ and others such as the Touristic Organization of Gracanica (TOG), selected women interested in pastry to attend the training. Sandra Djokic, Executive Director of TOG said: “Our mandate as touristic organization is to rise standard in the catering or hospitality sector in our municipality. This kind of opportunities where young people, including women, can benefit from training and then use their skills in own businesses or in local restaurants and businesses is big impact for our community, not only because of their employability but also us as a touristic potential”. 

Adaptation of services for target group

This experience with Korabi shows that adaptations to the training service are inevitable. It could be language, it could be other things; in each case, the training provider will need to find out. EYE helped Korabi to translate and adapt its own curriculum and other material for the Serbian-language group of trainees. Sometimes training providers do not see benefits to employ or engage a trainer or coordinator to test with a new target group. It is important to see if staff already employed have knowledge, skills, and willingness to engage with all types of trainees. In this case with Korabi it looked that it could find a good fit between the trainer and participants. “It was very easy and fun to work with this group because all of them already had some knowledge and skills, and in the same were keen to ask to learn more. Although I knew language, it was much easier and practical for me when I had recipes translated in Serbian.” said Rudina Qosja trainer in Korabi Innovation Center.  

Next steps: Moving Forward while being realistic on scale and pace of change

Korabi, with EYE’s facilitation, has developed a new form of training for a new segment of the market. It adapted the course materials, promoted the course through relevant media with the support of appropriate NGOs; it selected trainees that were motivated. This led to considerable success for the pilot group.

After the training finished, Elida Abdula’s motivation for self-education and marketing continued: “I was inspired and started looking for more work techniques on the internet. I also got the opportunity to be a guest on two radio stations to promote my business and products.”

The roots of social exclusion are old and deep and will not be easily removed. Change, of any scale, will only last if it is personally sincere and rooted in institutional change. During and after the training, EYE assisted Korabi to learn through a feedback survey which received a significant response. Participants liked the training and even requested to continue with more advanced training courses, at the same time looking to improve their business and services. 

Other participants invited me on this training, so now I invite and suggest to all women interested in pastry industry to do not miss so extraordinary experience.” – Ivanka Djorovic, who is helping her mother to run their family business.

Four months after the training, 75% of trainees said that they were fully satisfied with the quality of the training, since they had improved their existing business and increased sales. Half of them believe that they are contributing more to their employer and have increased their number of clients. 25% of respondents will open a new business, and another 25% have found a new job. All the respondents said that they diversified their services, like including new recipes or offered new products to customers.

With confidence we can say that the pilot had succeeded. Through this article, EYE intends that other training providers will learn how to reach more students from non-majority communities. It is worth mentioning the feedback EYE Project had during the “Skills for Growth” conference where over 50+ training providers and other market stakeholders exchanged knowledge and networked. 

Mr Riad Durguti from Dekoriti training provider, one of the leaders in the wood industry, stated that: “Your actions inspired us to do the same, to open our training for more communities. We already took steps to adapt and translate our curriculum in Serbian language, as we believe training providers need to show willingness and make the first step towards non-majority communities.” This is a good sign: that an established, reputable business, well-known for its leadership and innovations, has made changes to its training to make it more accessible to all communities.

Ms Gordana Djoric, from women association “Avenue” said: “After this training happened, not only did we have great satisfaction rate from the enrolled participants, but we also have a much higher demand by other people as well. Many women started to approach Avenue asking for more information as they did not know about these trainings and have now expressed interest to enroll in them.”

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