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Skopje, 20 May 2021The Fund for Innovation and Technological Development {FITD) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) signed a new three year Memorandum of Understanding, to continue support for youth social entrepreneurship – through the UPSHIFT programme  – where young people will work on eco-solutions to challenges in environment and climate change.

Developed by UNICEF, the UPSHIFT programme engages young people aged 13 to 19 years to design an innovative solution to a social problem they have identified in their community. It aims to foster innovative and creative thinking among young people, to understand the challenges they face and help them design innovative solutions in the form of a product or service. Additionally, young people are given the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills, such as: project management, critical thinking, teamwork, successful communication, and to make new friendships.

“I am glad that our long-term cooperation with UNICEF continues, because through the mentoring and financial support we provide, many talented children are already future successful entrepreneurs. I believe that investing in youth is an investment in a generation that will create substantial and long-term change. The Fund implements various programs for the youngest because education, innovation and creativity are the main preconditions for the development of a prosperous future of the youth of our country,” said Kosta Petrov, director of the Fund for Innovation and Technological Development.

Over the next three years, the cooperation will focus on social innovation challenges to advance the implementation of the UN and EU environmental and climate commitments, as well as the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. This includes initiatives in areas like decarbonization, climate change, energy, renewal of ecosystems, sustainable food systems, circular economy and others.

“At its heart, climate change and environmental degradation is a child rights issue. It undermines children’s most basic rights to clean air, water and food. We have seen that this is an issue children and young people care deeply about. We are delighted to continue our cooperation with the Fund for Innovation and Technology Development and through UPSHIFT provide young people opportunities develop social innovation and entrepreneurship solutions to tackle climate change and protect the environment in their community,” said Patrizia Di Giovanni, UNICEF Representative. “When given the opportunity to work in a team, young people not only find solutions that benefit the entire community, they also develop growth mindset, integrity, and public service ethos.”

Through the renewed partnership, FITD and UNICEF will organize and lead several cycles of the UPSHIFT programme, provide support to the Ministry of Education and Science and the Bureau for Development of Education to introduce the UPSHIFT methodology into the education system and prepare teachers to use proven, practical teaching techniques to help each student acquire transferable skills.

The UPSHIFT programme combines social innovation workshops, with mentorship, materials and seed funding, equipping young people with skills. It starts with a local call for self–starting groups of 13-19-year olds to design an innovative solution to a social problem they have identified in their community.  A panel of private and public-sector representatives selects the best ideas and the teams are guided by a mentor and participate in a design thinking workshop to develop their ideas. The programme benefits young people, but also the wider community from solutions created.

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