On 21 July 2022, the project “EU4Youth – Unlocking the potential of young social entrepreneurs in Moldova and Ukraine” (EUnlocking), funded by the European Union, held its closing event. The closing conference served as a good opportunity to present the results of the project, the stories of young social entrepreneurs who launched social businesses with EU support, as well as to discuss the prospects for the development of social entrepreneurship in the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

During the implementation of the project, between February 2020 – July 2022, the project team fostered the social entrepreneurial potential of young people in the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine by establishing an ecosystem for social enterprises, as well as by supporting young social entrepreneurs to develop and sustain their innovative solutions for the promotion of social inclusion and environmental sustainability across both countries.

For 2,5 years, the EUnlocking project supported 13 young people in launching their own social enterprises, which have created new jobs, including for vulnerable people, and contributed to solving community problems. In addition, four awareness-raising campaigns and communication activities were conducted on social entrepreneurship and its positive impact on society. Subsequently, social entrepreneurship has become a popular trend in the two targeted countries.

“This project is part of a wider regional initiative that demonstrates our efforts to create and provide opportunities and a stronger voice for young people in the Eastern Partnership countries. We have had a challenging time, the project started only a few months before the pandemic, with all the restrictions that were imposed. All these restrictions were also challenges for the young people in this project, who had to adapt to find ways of working together. The pandemic caused by Covid-19 intensified issues such as employment and the creation of decent jobs for vulnerable groups, which are also priorities for us.”,

stated Jochen Schmidt, Directorate- General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, European Commission.

Moreover, the project supported young people in launching social start-ups; encouraged access to information and exchange of best practices on social entrepreneurship; strengthened the capacities of young social entrepreneurs through online training courses on related topics such as business modelling, fundraising, market analysis, financial management, marketing and promotion, etc. In addition, the best social start-up initiatives focused on promotion of social inclusion and environmental sustainability benefitted of funding and mentoring.

“The development of social entrepreneurship is very important for local communities, as their main goal is to have a social impact and create opportunities and services for the community in which they live. The European Union has provided continuous support to social enterprises and will continue to support this sector by developing additional tools to provide advice and support to enterprises to expand and develop, new funding opportunities will also be launched for the creation of new enterprises and the development of existing ones.”,

noted Aurica Butnari, Programme manager, Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Moldova.

To create sustainable impacts and long-lasting knowledge, the EUnlocking project has recently launched 10 online training courses, with the support of the European Union, on various topics of social entrepreneurship in both countries. These courses will be still available after the project ends.

In the Republic of Moldova, the EUnlocking project has contributed to attracting government funding for social enterprises in Moldova, focusing on job creation, especially for people with special needs and other disadvantaged groups. As a result, vulnerable people had access to state subsidies since the beginning of 2021.

In Ukraine, the parliament confirmed social entrepreneurship would be one of their top priorities, thanks to the project’s continuous efforts with various advocacy campaigns.

Furthermore, the project has established the first regional network of social entrepreneurs, following a resolution at the International Networking Forum organised in Kyiv on 27-28 January 2022. Altogether, 12 Ukrainian educational institutions have integrated various courses on social entrepreneurship topics into their curricula. The Eco-Hub and 6 Labs provided support and assistance to more than 2,500 young people from vulnerable groups in Ukraine, delivered during the war, as well.

The closing conference hosted the representatives of the European Union- DG NEAR, the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Moldova, as well as stakeholders and partners, including Members of Parliament, governmental officials, NGOs, experts, journalists and bloggers, business mentors, and the project’s beneficiaries – young social entrepreneurs in Moldova and Ukraine.

Despite the challenging operational environment due to COVID-19 pandemic and then Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the project implementation in the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine was implemented to the best extend possible and achieved a series of tangible results.

Some of the results achieved by the partners in the Republic of Moldova, may be viewed in the following video: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=BZavi35o-To, whereas a glimpse into the results produced by the partners in Ukraine is available on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07YxL_ OwenI.

The project “EU4Youth – Unlocking the potential of young social entrepreneurs in Moldova and Ukraine” was co-funded by the European Union under its EU4Youth Programme. The EUnlocking project was implemented by the Gustav Stresemann Institute e.V. (GSI) (Germany)- the lead organisation, Egalite International (Ukraine), AXA Management Consulting organisation (Moldova), ECO-RAZENI Association (Moldova), the National Assistance and Information Centre for NGOs in Moldova “CONTACT” (Moldova), and “Pro NGO! e.V” (Germany).