In Members, New Member Interview, Recent News

EN interviewed Jan Peloza (co-founder and former Director at SLOAM), to learn more about the organisation, its members and social entrepreneurs, international licenses for programs and methodologies at the European level, social enterprise/social entrepreneurship support, the Slovenian social enterprise ecosystem, vision for the future, and motivation to join our network.

Slovenian Youth Agency (SLOAM) was created 15 years ago (at that time name Mobin – Institute for Mobility and Information) with the purpose of encouraging young people into active citizenship, social and environmental responsibility and enabling their personal growth.

Through the development and implementation of programs and regular communication, SLOAM became the “juncture between young people, non-governmental organizations, public institutions, and responsible companies”.  

SLOAM is a non-profit organization in the public interest in the youth sector in Slovenia aimed at bringing together different stakeholders for the overall well-being of young people. Currently, the organization brings together over 100 thousand members from all across Slovenia. SLOAM is physically present in Ljubljana and will open a new office on the Slovenian coast in the near future.

To achieve these goals, SLOAM co-holds some well-known and international licenses for programs and methodologies at the European level, such as the Social Impact Award, the European Youth Card, and Impact Hub.

Acquiring these licenses felt like a reward after many years of working toward youth support and engagement.

As he explained, before being involved in the European Youth Card project, SLOAM had established the Slovenian Youth Card also providing young people with discounts on accommodation, travel, culture, education, services, and products as well as volunteering, learning, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities. Now, by joining the EYCA, SLOAM reaches 46% of Slovenian youths, making it the social enterprise organisation in Slovenia with the biggest impact among young people. The Social Impact Award aligns with SLOAM – he clarified – as they are an organization, network, and community of young entrepreneurs, working at the pre-incubation and incubation level to aid young people realize their dreams and make the world a better place, in a working environment where they can feel happy and fulfilled.

In the last year, SLOAM became an Impact Hub license co-holder together with three other organisations. According to Jan, this collaboration started with their desire of bringing together their large community of young entrepreneurs. He added that the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to strengthening this partnership and consolidating SLOAM’s role in the European social enterprise ecosystem.

Jan highlighted that SLOAM has also been extremely successful in developing its own licenses. They are currently building the Youth Friendly Company – he informed us – a network with the goal of engaging companies to better understand youth’s needs and how they should be supporting young people to lead their businesses.

SLOAM is also creating the Young Makers Society – a Southeastern European network of young change makers. The organisation is also building up some other spin-offs from their existing international licenses with the main purpose of bringing social entrepreneurship closer to young people – he concluded.

What is in the pipeline for SLOAM in 2023?

In the second semester of 2023, SLOAM will be involved in the information campaign Stand for More in 2024, regarding the European elections. In addition, a new incoming Director will join the SLOAM team in the development of a new app for the European Youth Card in Slovenia, and possibly the creation of a “card for young families” – Peloza declared.

Regarding events, SLOAM is finishing a Growth Youth Potential Program, an EU-funded project that will most likely become an ongoing pre-incubation program for social impact work. He underlined that SLOAM’s priority is to remain flexible to the community’s needs.

It is important to listen to your community and their needs in order to build trust, particularly during times of uncertainty like the COVID-19 pandemic or the financial crisis that followed.

According to SLOAM’s co-founder, SLOAM created its community by reinforcing that the value of the organisation is only as great as the community they support and that the purpose of social entrepreneurship is not profit but impact, however the enterprise needs to find a way to stay afloat. He added that a characteristic that distinguishes SLOAM from other organisation is the fact that they never look into a project through a profit-driven lens, even if there are no funds available, SLOAM will invest in the projects they believe will create necessary impact because that’s why the organisation and social entrepreneurship as a movement exist. Data has shown that the enterprises supported by SLOAM experience more longevity than the classic startups – he explained – because the people behind them believe in their purpose, share their values and goals. Peloza further reinforced the need for a green transition that cannot only be realized by non-profits and the social enterprise sector but by all the actors in the traditional economy.

Slovenia, as a former socialist republic – described by Jan – there is still a strong national culture of helping others and a concern for the common societal and environmental well-being. On the other hand – he explained – in many cases social enterprises are perceived as ‘socialist ones’, something that is common to all post-soviet nations and needs to be addressed. There is also a corporate perception that social enterprises are not real enterprises, while NGOs see them as corporates – he explained. Peloza also added that SLOAM is rewriting the definition of social enterprises in Slovenian to better represent these national organisations and their work.

In the next five years, SLOAM intends to scale out. Scaling out entails growing in outreach to better represent and bring the spotlight to their supported organizations. They also intend to find a balance between the Eastern and Western definitions of social entrepreneurship. According to him, from a more Western perspective profit is perceived as important in order to create more impact, while an Eastern lens on the subject understands that making a profit out of a societal issue is morally incorrect.

Joining Euclid Network…

As stated by Peloza, joining EN was something that seemed inevitable to the organisation as EN and SLOAM share so many common values and goals. EN was first brought to SOAM’s radar by positive feedback from other EN members.

Interview conducted by Inês de Barros Macieira, EN Communication Officer

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