The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin

Saturday, July 11

Macedonian Collaboration and Social Entrepreneurship

Coming together is a beginning,
keeping together is progress,
working together is success.
                           ...Henry Ford

Our office is buzzing with activity.  Tonight at a cafe, we'll launch another issue of Лице в Лице, our street magazine. 

Lice v Lice means “face to face” in Macedonian.  The name is based on the way the magazine is distributed.  Instead of selling on-line or by subscription, it’s sold on the street “face to face” by vendors.

Our vendors are the homeless, Roma, disabled and others living on the margins.  They go to office buildings, street corners and other public places selling Lice v Lice. For their efforts, they collect half of the cover price - about a dollar.   It’s a form of social entrepreneurship. 

Social Entrepreneurship is an idea that has been expanding among NGOs. Business practices are used to sustain NGOs while achieving social good. For my organization, the business need of selling the magazine also achieves income and opportunities for those who have little of both. 

Street papers are a movement that has been spreading across the globe. Recently leaders from 115 papers in 36 countries gathered in Seattle, Washington to share best practices and be inspired by achievements of one another. 

Together the street papers boast 6 million readers for each edition. Learn more. 

Lice v Lice participated in the conference and presented a workshop. Others were impressed with the depth of our magazine's content. Every issue is over 65 pages and focuses on a major social issue.

To give you an idea in English, here is a link.  Read more about this social issue called Embrace Rarity.

I like the mix of data with human story and policy suggestions. People say they buy the magazine to support the marginalized but then discover it's a good read on issues that rarely are heard in mainstream media. What do you think?

The launch event starts.  We're filling the Rakia Bar, a trendy place in the heart of Skopje. The event is part of an emerging marketing strategy. It draws attention of the media and brings together a growing number of supporters. 

Tonight 200 will eventually spill onto the streets.  It's exciting.

Bundles of the magazine are carried in. I leave the heavy lifting for the younger ones. This month’s issue focuses on social responsibility and collaboration between business and NGOs. 

According to Klimentina, Director of my organization, “It’s an area that is not well developed in Macedonia. We want to encourage more.”

Underwriting tonight's event and publication costs is Knauf, an international building supply company. 

It's a first for them in Macedonia and demonstrates corporate leadership. Robert, our liaison, tells me he admires the work of Lice v Lice and is glad Knauf can help.

Robert and Klimentina
Actually, his involvement sparked a creative idea. In transporting their products, Knauf uses industrial bags. Could these bags be re-purposed?

I'm not sure how, but together Klimentina's and Robert's creativity went into over-drive. They caught an idea that these old bags could be transformed and made into something beautifully unique.

Klimentina contacted a designer friend, Irina. Soon she came up with a pattern and created a prototype for a tote bag. Other designers got involved with original art work to decorate the bags. From industrial bags emerge totally unique totes. Collaboration works.

At the event, the bags, a la totes, are on display for sale. People crowd in to take a look. It feels a little like bargain day at Filene's basement. Before long, actually less than 30 minutes, all the bags are sold. 

Cory, the Peace Corps Director in Macedonia, beams as she snags one of the last ones.

I think it adds excitement and an urban edge to the evening.  And I can’t help making an analogy. If these industrial bags can be transformed, then maybe urban societies can be too. People on the margins included and valued face to face.  Read more about the bags

But there’s more to the evening. I had assumed that the proceeds would go to Lice v Lice. Budgets are always a challenge. But no, Klimentina informs me that there's a special purpose.

We decided to organize a collaboration with the Center for Street Children,” she says. She goes on explaining how they helped them before, but nothing sustainable. The Center tries to offer a lunch program, but sometimes there's not enough food.

Staff: Aneta, Zarmena, Alexsandra, a vendor, Klimentina, Maja
Nebojsa missed this picture.  He is off doing something important
Unknown to me, Zarmena on our staff makes many calls until she finds 4 food companies ready to donate. Tonight's money will provide the missing link.

We'll rent a van and every week the driver will collect and deliver the food,” says Klimentina as she turns to me and asks, “What do you think?”

I’m amazed. Food for street children. 

 Lice v Lice not only writes about collaboration, publish a magazine about collaboration and gets Knauf and designers involved, but they also manage to create collaboration where street children are fed. And to make it even more amazing, it's sustainable – food from re-purposed industrial bags.

I'm thinking...

“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success.” 

Henry Ford said it first and now I see it in Macedonia.  Collaboration and social entrepreneurship working together.