In Interviews with Top 100 Women in Social Enterprise

Who is Ivana Stančić?

Ivana is a programme manager at Smart Kolektiv in Serbia, where she is originally from. She has been working at Smart Kolektiv for the past 11 years since finishing her studies in Sociology. Ivana considers herself fortunate – while it may take most people several attempts to find a job they love, she found hers on the first try. She is a passionate activist and has been actively engaged in social impact activities since the age of 14, when she started volunteering for youth organisations. With her team in Smart Kolektiv, Ivana gained first-hand experience of building a social enterprise from the ground up. She still applies the lessons she learnt during this process in her work with other social entrepreneurs. Ivana is driven by a desire to instigate social change and create positive social impact. The regional context of the Balkans and the national context of Serbia are important factors in influencing the direction of her work and define the specific challenges that face social enterprises she works with.

What does she do?

As a programme manager at Smart Kolektiv, Ivana is responsible for The Social Innovations Programme. She notes the development and roll-out of Smart Kolektiv’s Fund for the Development of a Sustainable Economy as an important personal accomplishment as well as being a significant achievement for the organisation and social economy sector in Serbia. The fund represents a notable achievement as it is the first social investment fund in Serbia. This fund addresses the lack of avenues for social financing in Serbia, which she perceives as a broader problem in the Balkan region. The Fund for the Development of a Sustainable Economy provides a financing opportunity for social enterprises in Serbia. The fund offers support for enterprises beyond their start-up phase by providing opportunities for social businesses to also scale-up and expand.

Ivana is keen to continue her work with the fund and scale-up its reach. She aims to address the lack of opportunities for financial support to social enterprises in the region, both at the initial start-up phase and in the later scale-up phase.

What is Ivana passionate about?

Ivana believes that social enterprise has tremendous potential to respond to social and environmental challenges. She notes that while the environment for social economy in Serbia can be challenging, she has seen a lot of progress. Ivana does not want to stop there. She is passionate about growing the social investment market, identifying it as a much broader issue for the social enterprise sector. Hand-in-hand with growing social enterprise’s investment opportunities is also raising awareness of social enterprises in general. Ivana works to unsure that the positive impact of social enterprises is no longer overlooked by other stakeholders in the region.

What is Ivana’s advice to aspiring impact-practitioners?

Ivana understands that the beginning stages of one’s impact journey can be difficult. She says:

“You never know where to start, you sometimes feel like you are alone. It is important to remember that there are number of organisations and people that are passionate about the same things. By building these partnerships, you can learn and you can grow individually but you can also create the impact you strive for.”

She continues to say not to give up because this kind work never stops. Importantly, she emphasises that everyone should be ready to challenge the way we do things and enhance the impact. “You can always ask yourself, how can I do better?”

What can we learn more broadly about social economy from Ivana’s interview?

From speaking to Ivana, there are some key issues and themes that are clearly pertinent to the social economy more generally. Paramount of these issues is the lack of social finance and financing possibilities that are (not) available to social enterprises throughout the set-up and, crucially, their scale-up phases. This is not only an area that should be considered in the Balkans but throughout Europe and the neighbourhood. This would contribute to the development of more hospitable ecosystems locally but also help to connect ecosystems into one single European social market. Social finance is not the only piece to address in the completion of this puzzle, but the illustration of the work being done by Ivana in Serbia illuminates its key importance. In the spreading, connecting and investing in ecosystems, sharing best practices is important and will require the utilisation of European and local networks of social economy stakeholders. While striving for one unified European social economy space, perhaps high-level policies must also take into account the current real-world differences in the state of social economy ecosystems across Europe.

See more interviews with changemakers from the Top 100 Women in Social Enterprise List HERE.

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