April 2020 – “Plan for minimizing the COVID – 19 impact” on the Link Up! Serbia II project implementation, as well as new, integrated grant format for the RDAs and the basis for a roadmap for diaspora investors was created. A research on Austrian companies interested in entering or expanding work on the Serbian market, as well as on diaspora in leading companies was implemented. Mentorship program for small and medium enterprises was postponed for 2021.
May 2020 – In cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia (CCIS), full technical framework of the business online platform for the diaspora was defined. The platform will be developed in 2020. After the project ends, the online platform will become the ownership of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia. Communication and Media Strategy 2020/2021 for Link Up! Serbia II project, which refers to social networks, partners in the diaspora, as well as the national public service in Serbia was developed. The project will implement wide program of promotion to access business networks, high-quality products and services in Serbia, as well as diaspora with potential to support Serbian economy in internationalization.
June 2020 – The International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) office was opened in Belgrade at Topličin Venac for implementation of the Link Up! Serbia II project, and future development and implementation of other potential projects in Serbia and region.
More information about the opening of the office and the goals of ICMPD are published in the article on Diaspora TV portal (https://dijaspora.tv/link-up-serbia-srpska-dijaspora/) and in the printed edition of the daily newspaper Politika. Goals in mapping of investors, brokers, mentors, early stage entrepreneurs that will be contacted by the end of 2020 and 2021, were agreed with experts from diaspora in target countries.
July 2020 – ICMPD and CCIS initiated Memorandum on Cooperation on the Link Up! Serbia II project. ICMPD and RARIS (Regional Development Agency Eastern Serbia) organized a mission to four cities and municipalities (Zaječar, Knjaževac, Negotin and Kladovo). All four local self-governments (LSGs) joined the project, while partnership with RARIS in the implementation of technical assistance and long-term support was agreed. RARIS has started the implementation of the direct grant under the Link Up! Serbia II project on the topic Diaspora Engagement Framework – Technical Assistance for RDAs and LSGs. RARIS has already created the Guide for Setting up Institutional Framework for Cooperation with Diaspora and two types оf technical assistance packages, which will be used by six RDAs from August to December 2020 in their support to cities and municipalities. Project visibility activities via social media pages have started.
August 2020 – The first joint meeting of RDA partners participating in the Link Up! Serbia II project was held on 19.08.2020 in Zaječar, with the focus on three grant programs of RARIS, REDASP (Regional Agency for Development of Šumadija and Pomoravlje) and RDA BP (Regional Development Agency Braničevo Podunavlje), also taking in consideration the next steps of other three grants for RDAs from Leskovac, Belgrade and Niš. RARIS presented the draft of the Guide for Setting up Institutional Framework for Cooperation with Diaspora, as well as the draft of the Instructions for the Preparation of Guides for Investors for Local Self-Government Units. Director of RARIS discussed with other RDAs` directors the manner of implementation of the Guide and Instructions in 30 local governments.
Next steps related to three grants for RDAs from Leskovac, Belgrade and Niš were discussed. Supported by Link Up! Serbia II project, REDASP is implementing a grant project called Design a Pioneer Roadmap for Diaspora, Outsourcing Framework for RDAs, and Implement a Technical Assistance Package to LSGs , under which the Pioneer Roadmap – a Framework for Investors and Database of Diaspora Direct Investments has already been created. RDA BP submitted an application to ICMPD project team for the grant on the topic of Strategic and Methodological Framework for Local Potentials in Diaspora Engagement and Technical Assistance to LSGs.
First videos have been published on our YouTube channel as part of our special series of interviews with representatives of the diaspora, institutions and organizations from Serbia, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. First interview was organized with Mr. Vladan Jeremić, Director of RARIS, about the first phase of the project, technical assistance package for local self-governments and benefits of the package for cooperation with the diaspora. We talked about the challenges and opportunities that the project brings with Deputy Head of Mission at the Austrian Embassy in Belgrade Mrs. Sabine Kroissenbrunner, and with Mr. Boban Kostadinović, experienced Project Manager for the Diaspora in RARIS. Have a look at the interviews published so far on our YouTube channel called Link Up Serbia II.
Project team visited Niš on August 26. 2020 for more detailed elaboration of projects with RDA South and the Center for Development of Jablanica and Pčinja districts. Special emphasis was placed on the topic of development and implementation of technical assistance to local self-government units at the regional level in terms of development, presentation and promotion of investment opportunities. The RDAs stressed their interest in the topic of mentoring and presenting projects and business ideas to the diaspora by innovative entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises from the regions.
A meeting in Leskovac followed soon after. Director of the Center for Development of Jablanica and Pčinja Districts, Mrs. Dragana Belenzada, and Expert for Regional Development and Strategic Planning, Dobrila Sudimac Mratinković, presented the biggest potentials for investment in their region, and the challenges that the region is facing during the pandemic. As completely new practice is being implemented in cooperation with local self-governments, the process of learning and gradual opening of local self-government to work and cooperation with the diaspora was emphasized.
September 2020 – From September 1, interested companies from the diaspora, companies in Serbia, but also local entrepreneurs, have the possibility to receive direct information about investments in Serbia and potential partnerships. This was made possible by initiating the so-called Diaspora Business Hub, whose manager can be contacted at the ICMPD premises at Topličin Venac in Belgrade.
In September, the project team continued its support to RDAs through meeting in Požarevac, in the premises of the RDA BP. The meeting was held with the representatives of the local self-governments of Žagubica, Petrovac na Mlavi and Požarevac to confirm their participation in the project. Long-term and sustainable cooperation between RDA BP and LSGs has been agreed. The Advisor for Human Resources and Regional Marketing, Miloš Najčević, is conducting a very important research on the role of the church, minorities and umbrella organizations in cooperation with the business diaspora.
Based on this research and the support of the project team, a new practice of cooperation with the church, umbrella organizations and targeted minorities will be established.
At the very end of the month, on September 29, the First Regional Stakeholder Meeting was held in Kragujevac, which was organized by REDASP, with representatives of the host, the Regional Chamber of Commerce (RCC) Kragujevac, selected LSGs (Ćuprija, Despotovac, Paraćin) and representatives of small and medium enterprises (SME sector) as participants. The role of the Diaspora Business Hub and the future online platform was presented. A discussion was held on mentoring programs for SMEs with review of the needs of local companies.
The inputs for five measures for SMEs and LSGs envisaged to foster support cooperation with the diaspora that will be proposed to the state, as well as for solutions for long-term and inclusive cooperation between REDASP and local governments were discussed. During the second part of the meeting, representatives of five RDAs involved in the implementation of the technical assistance package to the selected LSGs took part in the discussion. After introductory presentation of methodology and questionnaires for mapping of direct diaspora investments and the framework for support of outsourcing of the diaspora to Serbia, developed by REDASP, a discussion was held related to the challenges of filling out questionnaires and investment opportunities mapping in each region. Further steps in the activities were agreed, as well as the need for the RDAs to work closely with the RCC. In beautifully decorated Wine and Rakija Hub, the result of REDASP’ work in the past ten years, a cocktail was held and inspiring interview was conducted with the director of REDASP, Mr. Nenad Popovic, on the topic of investment potential and cooperation with the diaspora. It was confirmed that Kick-Off event will take place until the end of 2020.
October 2020 – Regional Development Agencies intensified their work with local self-governments in order to create the best investment opportunities for the diaspora.
RARIS mapped a set of investment opportunities in Eastern Serbia including real estate in the city, tourist complexes, fruit and processing, chemical industry, production halls, and municipal waste management. Other four RDAs will present their projects with LSG project team in November for quality control and subsequent amendments.