What was the nature of your project?
For our Project Pyramid class, we partnered with a new social enterprise in Kosovo called Sapune which employs women from the marginalized communities (Roma, Egyptian and Ashkali) in Kosovo. Sapune women sell handmade products including soap, lavender bags, and tote bags. In addition, as a precondition for joining the program, the women must register their children to school. Considering that RAE community is one of the most discriminated groups in the Balkans, characterized by high unemployment and illiteracy rates, this project provided us with the real experience of change in the community level.
What were some of your key learning, both in class and during the trip?
In the beginning of March, we went to Prishtina, Kosovo. During the stay, we visited the work sites and were able to see first-hand, the products, equipment, and the setting where the work is done. We were also able to talk to the Roma women and their families about the work on the products, as well as the enrollment of children to school. Our main goal was to collect as much information as we could, thus we met with all stakeholders of Sapune as well as with other successful social enterprises in the country, to use them as model for succeeding.
During the Project Pyramid class, among other things, we talked about the importance of involving the communities affected by a project, in the decision-making process. We saw many brilliant ideas that did not make it due to a lack of communication with all the parties involved. Furthermore, we discussed about the notion of poverty, and how it changes the perspective on help. Thus, during our visit, we tried to talk to the Roma women and their children as well as be observant of the surrounding environment, in order to ensure our work will prioritize what the Roma community believe it’s best for Sapune.
What were some unexpected challenges and how did you overcome them?
Being a relatively new phenomenon, social enterprises in developing countries are a delicate topic and for these types of enterprises, moving towards sustainability can be a challenge. However, the impact they can have is immeasurable. For instance, by being the sole providers for their families, the women working at Sapune serve as a model to their children. Many of them said they look up to their mothers and would like to be able to work and earn their own living in the future.
What is some advice you would give to someone hoping to delve into the field of social entrepreneurship at an international level?
One of the best advice for anyone entering the social entrepreneurship field, would be to have a well-defined mission and vision of their organization. In other words, the organization should have a clear idea of the specific group they are targeting and the steps to be taken towards achieving their mission. Otherwise, social entrepreneurship is a new exciting field that allows to create social change by business activity, so young entrepreneurs should be encouraged to use their creative ideas into improving the world around us.