Center for the development of non-formal education: Empowering young people to become leaders of positive changes in society

CRNO believes that every young person can contribute to the development of society through innovative and interesting approaches that attract attention and focus their work

SARAJEVO – The Center for the Development of Informal Education (CRNO) was founded on December 26, 2021 with the aim of creating a dynamic environment that supports informal education.

The organization strives to increase awareness of the importance of informal education and the active involvement of young people in social processes. Focusing on the development of skills and knowledge, CRNO wants to empower young people to become leaders of positive changes in society, promoting a healthy lifestyle, gender justice, and tolerance.

“The Center for the Development of Informal Education (CRNO) currently has around 35 active members. CRNO works through three main departments: the Department for Informal Education and Innovation, the Department for International Cooperation and Partnerships and the Department for Community Support and Development,” said Adi Zahirović, chief executive officer at CRNO.

Some of their current projects include: the Tiket na ZIS initiative, the mentoring program, MREZA, HUB hub – a space 0/24 available to young people, find a solution to your problems and the program of strengthening interpersonal skills among young people (PJIVM).

“CRNO projects focus on creating a supportive environment for the development of young people and their ideas. In addition, certain activities are aimed at protecting young people and promoting healthy lifestyles. The goal is to draw out the potential of the youth generation, which is often considered sluggish and passive,” explained Zahirović.

In contrast, CRNO believes that every young person can contribute to the development of society through innovative and interesting approaches that attract attention and focus their work.

“For this reason, we encourage young people to contact us with their ideas, be they project-oriented or general ideas about what a young person would like to see in their community. In addition to ideas, we are here to hear the problems of young people, and we encourage everyone to call our WhatsApp line: 067 104 8000”, said Zahirović.

Like most non-governmental organizations, CRNO is mainly financed by project funds.

“In addition, we are actively working to establish sustainable funding models to ensure the long-term stability and independence of the organization. Our sources of funding include donations, membership fees, sponsorships, as well as income from various project activities. We are also developing partnerships with domestic and international organizations in order to expand our funding opportunities and secure funds for the implementation of our programs and initiatives,” Zahirović pointed out.

The focus of the team at CRNO is to enable everyone to do what they do best, especially supporting the youth.

“Through various projects and initiatives, we strive to create an environment that encourages creativity, innovation and active participation in society. We support the development of non-formal education, we empower young people to get involved in decision-making processes and to develop their ideas that can contribute to the community. We believe that every young person has the potential to bring about positive changes, and we encourage them to join us and share their ideas and challenges”, emphasized Zahirović.

He believes that informal education is crucial for the development of society, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the formal education system often cannot keep up with rapid technological progress and changes in the habits of young people.

“Through its flexibility, informal education enables young people to acquire practical skills and knowledge that are directly applicable in the labor market. It plays the role of an extended arm of formal education, filling gaps and enabling continuous professional and personal development”, explained Zahirović.

He believes that technological development has contributed to the creation of new learning styles, and non-formal education can effectively respond to these changes thanks to its ability to quickly adapt.

“For people dedicated to professional development, the combination of formal and informal education is crucial. Unfortunately, non-formal education is often mistakenly identified only with free activities such as hobbies, while it actually plays a significant role in professional development. Every person who wants to advance in his field should use the opportunities provided by informal education in order to acquire relevant knowledge and skills”, Zahirović believes.

CRNO works to raise awareness of the importance of non-formal education and its role in the development of young people, encouraging them to actively engage in learning and development processes that are crucial for their future and the future of society.

“It often happens that the non-governmental sector and people who work with young people try to impose their vision of society, instead of enabling young people to create their own. At CRNO, we believe that it is important to give young people the opportunity to shape their vision of society and actively participate in its development. Instead of teaching them how to live in our world, we should try to understand their world. We are creating for future generations, therefore it is crucial to create something that they will want to inherit and improve”, said Zahirović.

Unfortunately, according to him, many organizations operate in systems that are distant from young people, and often appeal to their inactivity and disinterest without investigating what young people really want. “We need to research and understand their needs and desires, and provide them with opportunities and platforms to express and implement their ideas. This is the only way we can ensure the active participation of young people in social life and the development of the community that they will continue to build,” said Zahirović.

He believes that we should start doing concrete things. Unfortunately, as he said, we often hear statements like “we are doing this so that it is not an end in itself”, but in the end it turns out that every activity or event is an end in itself.

“We should not try to keep people without real reasons because we will never be able to create an environment that suits everyone. The detention model is not effective if the young person has no reason to stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Zahirović.

According to him, people of all populations, not only the young, leave the state system due to insecurity, injustice in all areas of activity (economy, business, state, legal system) and the impossibility of a decent life for over 50 percent of the population who work jobs with minimal compensation.

“Our problem is that, as a society, we don’t ‘turn on the high beams’, but look at our every move in the short term. Politicians are especially professionals in this. The strategy of staying young is much more than the answer of me as an individual, it is a strategy and a series of decisions that have been built up over the years. Unfortunately, hardly anyone is ready to invest in long-term things because they often lose their mandates”, explained Zahirović.

He believes that staying young should start at the local level.

“It is wrong to expect that our most ineffective levels of government solve the problems of young people while we ignore the local community as a key element in the structure of life for young people. “Local communities often do not have any strategies or plans for working with young people, often neither sessions nor meetings are organized with them to consider possible ways of retaining young people”, emphasized Zahirović.

He is of the opinion that a bigger problem than the departure of young people from the state is the disappearance of young people from certain local communities.

“There will always be young people in Sarajevo, while some local communities should already think about mechanisms for young people to stay, including incentives such as land allocation or monthly financial assistance, as certain communities in European countries do,” Zahirović pointed out.

At CRNO, they are ready to support communities in real and direct work with young people in order to start creating a system and environment in which young people will really want to stay and continue to build it.

Written by: Vesna Bešić

This story was written thanks to the generous support of the American people through the “Local Works” program of the United States Agency for International Development in Bosnia and Herzegovina (USAID). The content of the story is solely the responsibility of the author and the “Network for Building Peace”. The views expressed in the story do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.