Youth center BIT is located in the town of Črnomelj in the southeast of Slovenia, in the region of Bela krajina. The municipality of Črnomelj has around 7000 inhabitants.
Youth center BIT was established in 2005 by two most active organizations in the municipality – Youth cultural club of Bela krajina and Student's association of Bela krajina. Since 2016 Youth center BIT operates as a social enterprise because they want to solve social issues in an entrepreneurial way. On this occasion, we talked with the President of Youth center BIT, Mr. Klemen Vitkovič.
How would you describe the development of Youth center BIT?
Youth center BIT was established as an NGO by two youth organizations in the municipality with desire to upgrade their cooperation and action in the local society. Their idea was to create a common bigger projects which are in interest of all society, not just and only youth. At the very beginning the aim was to increase the supply of leisure activities and with time and experiences these needs become bigger and bigger. Youth center BIT had also some problems during its development. Due to austerity policies of the country, we lost most financial resources and we almost closed down the youth center. At that point we have redirected ourselves to European projects and Erasmus+ program. Today, we are one of the most successful organizations in Slovenia regarding E+ program. So, let's say that we solved our financial problem and get opportunity to continuously provide our services to local community, because we opened ourselves to the world.
What is the most important achievement of Youth center BIT?
In recent years, we have carried out more than 15 projects in Erasmus+ program. Together with the founders we achieved that Črnomelj is important point on the map of alternative culture and in summertime we are co-organizing two weeks long festival Črnfest that revives the old town. With voluntary work we created jobs for young people and the organization can and is influencing the development of our region. The most important achievement of Youth center BIT is definitely young people's acquirement of new knowledge and skills on projects and that through that our volunteers become more employable and successful in their lives.
Why have you changed from NGO into social enterprise?
In 2005, upon the establishment of organization, the municipality of Črnomelj had 5300 workplaces, today in 2017 it has only 3900. At this point we felt that we need to address the social problems also in an entrepreneurial way. Two years ago, the state closed boarding school and transferred ownership to the municipality of Črnomelj. In this building we carried out the Erasmus+ projects in the past and now it was threatened with closure. It was in the municipality interest to give us this space and that also they could have inexpensive accommodations for important municipal projects. So the municipality decided to give as without rent 16 rooms and 2 suites with 54 beds and a working room for lectures. We also applied a project »Developing tourism for organized groups« on a national call and received start-up subsidy for the development of social entrepreneurship in our region, as the state recognized the potential for creating new jobs for young people in our organization.
How do you evaluate your cooperation with SEEYN?
Membership in SEEYN network gave us insight in the project of SEEYN members and has opened us the door to the world. Our small town from the edge of Slovenia is now recognizable also because of SEEYN. Together we have also developed and successfully implemented a number of projects (eg. Advanced volunteer management) and we are still developing new ones. Above all due to our membership in SEEYN, we got a lot of contacts and friends with who we complement in the development of our projects. In the future, we expect that SEEYN network will connect members with the aim of improving the situation of young people in South East Europe.