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Going Regional: Circular Growth in Western Balkans
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Going Regional: Circular Growth in Western Balkans

Helvetas, in partnership with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), has entered the implementation phase of its ambitious regional program known as RECONOMY. Aimed at facilitating inclusive and green economic development, RECONOMY operates in the Eastern Partnership and the Western Balkan countries.

RECONOMY encompasses several projects in the two regions. In the Western Balkan region, four projects are currently being implemented. Projects in the region are specifically designed to empower disadvantaged and vulnerable groups to actively participate in green and inclusive economic development. One of the projects aims to achieve this by enabling informal waste collectors to engage in higher-value sectors such as smart recycling, green energy generation, upcycling, and repair. Additionally, the project supports entrepreneurs in going digital and improving their access to finance for green and sustainable infrastructure.

A pivotal aspect of this project is its focus on regional collaboration and knowledge exchange. RECONOMY is set to launch an intervention in the Western Balkans, in partnership with the chambers of commerce of the region. This intervention aims to foster an understanding and implementation of waste management practices and circular business models, driving inclusive and sustainable economic growth for micro, small and female-led enterprises..

Promoting and implementing circular business models

The geographical positioning of the Western Balkans offers unique opportunities for cross-border cooperation in the circular economy. It facilitates trade connections with the European Union for reprocessing and exporting recycled materials. The intervention strategically leverages these opportunities to bolster the region’s transition towards a more sustainable and green economy.

Addressing the challenges faced by the private sector, particularly MSMEs, is a critical aspect of this intervention. These businesses often struggle with limited resources to monitor regulatory changes, access crucial information, and implement necessary upgrades. Enhancing the services of the chambers of commerce will better assist smaller and underrepresented entrepreneurs in countries like Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. This approach ensures that these enterprises are not only aware of but also capable of adapting to the evolving business landscape shaped by sustainability and circular economy principles.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia has established a successful Circular Economy HUB and digital platform. This platform serves as a nexus for B2B coordination, advocacy, investment attraction, and knowledge exchange on circular business models. It has significantly improved the readiness of the Serbian private sector for circular business practices. With RECONOMY’s support, this successful model will expand to Albania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia, facilitating cross-regional dialogues, enhancing knowledge exchange, and improving the capacities of the chambers of commerce to support small and underrepresented enterprises effectively.

At the heart of RECONOMY lies a commitment to utilize current knowledge and best practices while fostering learning and sharing between countries. This multidimensional approach involves a diverse array of stakeholders, including public institutions, nonprofits, academia, and businesses. The program is tailored to address common challenges faced by the countries in both regions and to identify shared actors who can contribute to systemic improvements.

Promoting and implementing better waste management practices

Furthermore, the project also works on waste management. The chambers are in a unique position to promote better waste management practices through the facilitation of linkages and providing more space for support. Fully unlocking all circular economy opportunities requires addressing current inequalities and limited or non-existent access to information. Empowering disadvantaged groups through green and digital transformations holds a special place in this project. It aims to enhance regional collaboration and knowledge exchange, nurturing a supportive business environment, especially for micro, small, and female-led enterprises. By focusing on sustainable and inclusive waste management practices, the project seeks to minimize waste generation, create economic opportunities, and facilitate green job creation, thereby supporting a holistic and equitable transition to a green economy.

Fostering regional knowledge exchange and collaboration

RECONOMY’s unique contribution lies in its focus on regional value addition, tackling common or shared problems, engaging common actors, and understanding in-country systems. This approach is evident in the upcoming regional event, which marks a significant milestone for the program in promoting effective waste management practices and circular business models in the Western Balkans.

The event, a convergence of strategic discussions, knowledge sharing, and regional cooperation, is designed to be a platform where stakeholders from the Western Balkans come together. This collaborative approach is essential for addressing the challenges of sustainable development and opening opportunities for cross-border cooperation in circular economy initiatives.

Join us on 31 January 2024 for the regional hybrid event organized by RECONOMY.

Authors

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Emilija Jovanova Stoilkova

Emilija Jovanova Stoilkova is the Regional Manager for the Western Balkans at RECONOMY. She previously served as the Knowledge Management and Learning Manager. Her previous experience includes work in skills development, lifelong learning, inclusive market development, labor market insertion, private sector engagement, and workforce development. Emilija is passionate about knowledge management and continuous learning and education.

Paulo Rodrigues

Paulo Rodrigues is the Program Manager of RECONOMY. He holds an MA degree in Business Administration and an MAS in Development and Cooperation. Paulo is a private sector development expert with several years of experience, including as an entrepreneur himself. He has worked and advised multiple projects, in multiple countries, that promote inclusive economic development. His key expertise lies in the design and implementation of the market systems development approach and on the nexus of humanitarian response and development.

Evgenija Krstevska

Evgenija Krstevska is the Program Officer for the Western Balkans at RECONOMY. She has experience in project management, focusing on environmental protection and climate change. She is passionate about working with private sector development while twinning green and digital transformation and creating job opportunities and skills.

Aleksandra Jagiello

Before joining Helvetas, Aleksandra, originally from Poland, has worked in different organizational roles as well as being involved in research and programmatic tasks. She is highly committed to social causes in her leisure time and believes in driving change towards more circular world through innovative and holistic systemic approach.

Anastasia Bekish

Anastasia Bekish is the Environment and Climate Change Manager at RECONOMY. She a professional in the field of climate policy, civil society development, and project management with 10-years’ experience in non-profit organizations in Belarus and Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia region.

Sabin Selimi

Sabin Selimi works for Helvetas as Knowledge Management, Learning, and Communications Manager at RECONOMY. His previous experience includes working in communication advisory roles for the government and various international development projects, with experience in the Balkans.

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