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You’ve taken on this role at a time of transition for Euclid Network, as well as a time of some pretty big challenges across Europe. How are you feeling about it?

I’m excited and honoured, maybe a bit nervous like the first day in a new job! These are big shoes to fill so I’m lucky to have a very strong new Board with me. My predecessor, John [Low] has huge experience and a completely different perspective from running a global charity, compared to me doing things on a national level, in a country outside but always connected with the EU. On the other hand, the different skills and fresh eyes that I bring could also be useful.

It’s a bold step for Euclid Network. We have had a President from a country that is soon no longer part of the EU stepping down, and one coming in from a country that is aspiring to join.

In a way that’s maybe not a logical move — if you think the majority of things should happen within the political limits of the EU, and that most of the funding comes from the EU. But it also shows that our work is not about the European Union as a political association — but about the values behind the EU. This is what’s unique and special about Europe: the civil society and its social market economy. How it operates, how it’s in a way fragile but also resilient, and how it’s able to innovate. This is what Euclid Network should be about.

Your own background is in social entrepreneurship — what do you think that perspective brings?

Scarcity of resources enables us to be innovative in managing limited resources. From a managerial perspective this is an important lesson that I could bring to EN —not only how to diversify funding, but how to do more with less.

A huge part of what we do at Smart Kolektiv is working with business and also running and managing networks, so I’m looking forward to helping the EN team to optimise membership management.

I’m not going to try develop new things just for the sake of it, but we should definitely look into opportunities and try to bridge the gaps where they exist.

You mentioned diversifying funding — is this a priority? How do you see the future relationship with EU institutional funders?

I think the EU should and probably will remain the main or the most stable source of funding. Maybe we can get more from membership fees by offering more to members, or get more from other services by delivering more and better services. So it would be diversifying not for the sake of it but for having a healthier, more resilient organisation.

The EU is the most stable source of funding available, and it’s natural for a European network to keep receiving funding from the EU. But it’s also important to have a two-way street — to keep demanding change when necessary, to gather voices from members and direct them towards the institutions — but also to get funding. I don’t see any problem in doing both.

I think we have more of a partnership by now. EN is recognised within the EU institutions, so say we want to invite someone from the Commission to participate in an event, people would already know what EN is and what it does. This is one of the achievements of the last decade’s work since 2007.

Do you think your role as President will lead to opportunities to do more work in and around Serbia? 

Not only Serbia — it wouldn’t make much sense that every President should guide the network to do more in his own Neighbourhood! But I will be able to show fresh opportunities to the Western Balkans region, which is a bit tired of the never-ending EU integration process, and plagued with instability and lack of democracy.

Most of the time changes need to be bottom-up, not top-down. Sometimes it seems easier to work with politicians, but that’s not how things happen. You need to work with citizens, mobilise them in order for change to happen. It’s very important for us to be there, to establish links between social entrepreneurs and civil society leaders and help them “drive positive change”, as we say in the vision statement.

Board and staff 2018

With EU institutions focused on Brexit and other big concerns, where does Euclid Network fit into the picture?

All of the things happening — Brexit, the migration crisis — show the fragility of communities and also that people are scared of change. That fuels right-wing movements and all these negative trends and this can only be addressed by strong civil society that is based on values and on the opposite to some kind of nationalistic isolationist ideology.

Democracy is a mere system. If it’s not based on values, if there’s not something happening on the grassroots level, then democracy becomes a vehicle that can be misused by anyone who has enough resources to misuse it.

This is where I think EN and indeed all civil and social movements have to step in, by bringing its resources and its vast network of people and saying to the politicians or the European institutions: we can’t just be focused on bureaucratic or political processes while our communities are experiencing this.

More than ever we need strong and entrepreneurial civil society and strong networks. I think, especially in western Europe, people have forgotten that societal challenges are immense and a crisis can unfold within a day — so we really need to really foster our communities and strengthen them.

Euclid Summit The Hague

We need to get different actors working in concert to do so including business, finance and the State – EN can rally social enterprises and CSOs right across the EU and its Neighbourhood and help them to help each other to be fit for the future. That’s what we’ll be doing next spring on 11-12 April in The Hague at the Euclid Summit. I’m looking forward to meeting all the EN Members there and everyone in the wider network.

Neven Marinovic will start his term as Euclid Network President on 1 January 2018. Neven is co-founder and executive director of Smart Kolektiv, a long-time EN Member, and director of the Responsible Business Forum in Serbia, which connects businesses and social sector organisations, so helping businesses to adopt social values and nonprofits to develop business skills.

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Euclid leadership group 2014 at CAF