Simoon Fransen
Aug 1 · 5 min read

This is the story of what started to grow after the Public team — a social enterprise in Skopje, North Macedonia — participated in the 2018 cycle of u.lab.

During the course, the group formed a hub involving members and entities from business and the civic sector. On December 3rd, they facilitated the third annual Companies Doing Good Forum in Skopje — a regional event that gathers 120 delegates, among which social entrepreneurs and stakehholders from the business sector and various institutions. After having experienced the power of the U framework, and in the hope of inspiring others, Nebojsa and Klimentina Ilijevski (who run Public together) reached out to the Presencing Institute to invite a keynote speaker on Theory U.

Visual Harvest of Day 1 — by Nuala Burns

Kenneth Hogg, Director in Scottish Government, represented the Presencing Institute at the event and shared his own first-hand experience of applying Theory U in the Scottish government and how the framework was integrated as part of the government’s approach to public service reform since 2016. In sharing his story, Kenneth gave participants a taste of what it can feel like to work with Theory U.

His contribution to the event resonated with the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, the UNDP and other organizations. It sparked a sense of curiosity about how Theory U might be used to activate the Macedonian ecosystem, through collaboration around social enterprises. How might it be possible to co-create a better future for North Macedonia, a country facing many challenges on economic, social and ecological fronts?

At the end of the event: exhausted, inspired and surrendered to the U

With the guidance of Simoon Fransen, the Public team continued their transformation journey by participating in the Societal Transformation Lab (u.lab-S). The desire for more local, offline and in-depth capacity building kept on growing. The team wished to expand the boundaries of the collaboration team, sharing the same language, principles, and methods, to start reinventing the future of North Macedonia. And so it happened that in June 2019 a delegation from the Presencing Institute team took themselves over. Kenneth Hogg, Simoon Fransen and Nuala Burns flew to Skopje to help facilitate an Ecosystem Development Event.

Simoon teaching Theory U

With 40 stakeholders coming from a variety of organizations and sectors, we worked and learned together against the background of the beautiful Macedonian countryside. The program was a blend of capacity building and application: learning while doing. While we shared new approaches to change, a common language and various practices, we also applied them immediately to the themes that Public and other participants were focusing on, with particular attention to community building.

Despite the diversity in participant backgrounds and disciplines, the connection through similarity of intention strenghtened old and new connections. We shared stories, encountered the desired collective future, and started to co-create from there the first steps towards bringing to life that vision. Just a few days spent intensively being together helped created a shift in the collective. This foundation is now being used to develop further steps, including using u.lab 1x in September as a platform for the continuation of the journey. We look forward to possibly a next event at the end of 2019, involving more participants and organizations, as well as the intention to increase the impact.

Qigong: Awareness Practice in the beautiful garden of Popova Kula

In Nebojsa’s words:

“What if institutions, businesses, and civil society could play in concert around a similar theme?! That was the question we in Public (association for research, communication, and development from Skopje, North Macedonia) asked ourselves for a couple of last years.

When a small geography — and an even smaller economy — hit the road toward recovering from two decades of socio-economic challenges, the many players involved have many of their own scenarios around how to do it in the best possible way.

The Presencing Institute Team and the Public Team

Through the possibility of working with PI, Public was able to convene a multi-stakeholder team of individuals to attend the four-day Ecosystem Development Event.

GIZ, UNDP and Ministry of Labor and Social Policy got together to convene a group through projects led by them: creating strategy for social enterprises and providing the conditions for vulnerable groups to enter the labour market.

The intention of the event was to activate the system we are all part of, find common ground and common intention in our work. Academia, Institutions, Government and Civil society looked deeply into ‘what their work is’ and re-assessed the fact that we play on the same side.

The convenience of the U process design enabled participants to put aside their strict institutional positions and roles, and step into the shoes of experienced professionals that were now working on the same team. The feeling of togetherness was harvested in the evaluations and from the exercises.

The courage manifested by individuals from the development agencies that enabled the process, helped us at Public achieve the intention and initiate the process of traveling the same road with our partners in other institutions. Things seem easier now. People who we have ‘met through the U’ are now just one phone call away from each other, in a very new sort of quality of relationship. Thank you, PI.”

3D sculpting: building the future of social enterprises in North Macedonia

Haven you also grown curious about what your own U journey could look like? Sign up now for u.lab 1x 2019 edition, which opens on 12th September 2019 and will run until December 2019.

Some testimonials from past u.lab participants:

Field of the Future Blog

We believe it’s possible to create results that serve the wellbeing of all

Simoon Fransen

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Field of the Future Blog

We believe it’s possible to create results that serve the wellbeing of all

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