IBNA / Interview: JasnaJašarević, Executive Director of Tuzla Community Foundation: Promoting Culture of Giving and Volunteering to Improve Living Conditions

IBNA / Interview: JasnaJašarević, Executive Director of Tuzla Community Foundation: Promoting Culture of Giving and Volunteering to Improve Living Conditions


By MajaTuljkovic – Sarajevo

For a decade, Tuzla Community Foundation has been continuously supporting citizen participation, empowerment and involvement of young people in projects, informal education, volunteerism and philanthropy.

In May, Tuzla Community Foundation will mark 11 years of its existence. Can you first tell us when and in what way was the Foundation established?

The Foundation was officially registered on 01 July 2003, and as a Foundation of citizens Simin Han. In March 2005, it changed its name to the present one, with the intention for it to become a Foundation for the development of the Tuzla region that would provide an opportunity for all local residents to permanently invest in a community through such civic foundations. In 2003 we had a really beautiful vision of the neighborhood Simin Han and for all of Tuzla. We first shared our dream with the inhabitants of this neighborhood: women representatives, representatives of schools, other nonprofit organizations, local governments and some companies. We went from door to door, from meeting to meeting, looking for people who would want to become the founders of the Foundation.

On 18 February 2003 in the elementary school Simin Han, we gathered over 60 citizens, representatives of schools, parents, local communities, private companies and other citizens of Tuzla, with the idea to speak about what could be done so that our local community could become prosperous now and for the future.

We presented then, how the establishment of a foundation for the development of a local community can help in that. We calculated that if in the future all citizens of Tuzla, us 170.000 donated only 1 BAM a year, we would easily gather the necessary funds for the support of various local projects. This simple, but realistic vision gave all of us the motive start the establishment. The required initial capital was 2000 BAM, and in order to help start the local foundation, the German foundation ‘Freudenberg’ offered to increase every donated BAM from a local citizen from 1 to 2 BAM.

The first dream came true last year, when we celebrated the decade of wise investment in the community-A decade of specific projects and support in the development of the local community. Now the dream continues.

You are the first and only foundation for community development in B&H. What does this actually entail? 

We are developing according to a unique model to the Foundation, which is known in the world according to the English title as ‘Community’ Foundation. The term is used to help identify foundations that operate on a selected geographical level, city, region, and even the state, if it is regarding small or underdeveloped countries. Unlike private foundations, we advocate pooling donations from donors of different profiles, meaning not only wealthy citizens, but also al those who wish to develop the area in which they live in this way. According to this, in the whole world, such foundations promote local philanthropy, accepting and consolidating donations from various local sources: individuals, businesses, foundations, governmental organizations and other organizations.

The primary goal is to over time build a permanent asset for the community (something like a ‘collective endowment’), organized as joint and private civic funds that would now and in the future be used to co-finance local projects of general social significance.

What is the main mission of the Tuzla Community Foundation?

Tuzla Community Foundation supports the participation of all citizens in the democratic development of the community through networking and partnership, inclusion and empowerment of citizens, and co-financing citizens’ initiatives and projects for sustainable community development. Promoting a culture of giving and volunteerism, we are pooling donations and uniting them to focus on activities to improve living conditions in Tuzla.

How many projects have you initiated and implemented until now? Can you single some of them out?

There are really a large number of concrete projects and initiatives from the community, and which the Foundation realized and supported throughout this decade. Last year, the Civil Commission approved over 200.000 BAM for the realization of more than 130 projects for the good of the community. Active citizens of Tuzla community arranged public spaces, implemented infrastructure projects in local communities, organized a number of sports and cultural events, action planning in communities, cleaning up neighborhoods, and had educational and creative workshops with youth, women, children and blind people.

Activities were supported for children in Tuzla nurseries, as well as home visits to the elderly in remote areas. In that year for the first time, we expanded our activities in targeted areas of other municipalities of Tuzla Canton. In addition to Tuzla, we support activists gathered in various associations or informal groups in Kalesija, Živinici, Lukavac and Srebrenik, with the aim of continuous involvement and networking a larger number of citizens from the local community with the concrete support of the development of their community.

We are proud of each one of our projects and the projects of our applicants. Maybe some projects that could be singled out in the next period are:

The project ‘Agora Center’, a Center for open education and lifelong learning, and which has now grown into an independent organization. There are regular noncommercial courses and seminars for all generations.

Then there is the project ‘Children in Action’, which offers young people from 15 to 26 years old a nonformal education from the area of leadership. These young leaders are trained to independently lead interactive workshops with children and their peers in the area of democracy, equality and tolerance. The project has grown since 2011 into an independent organization and a very inspirational organization for youth called ‘Smile for Smile’.

What further distinguishes the work with young people is a special program for youth, called the Youth Bank, which includes young people in the life of the community. Participants are young people from 15 to 26 who go through a set of trainings and and educational workshops from the area of project management, testing needs and then in the Board of Youth Banks in Tuzla, Živinici, Kalesija, Lukavac and Srebrenik make decisions on support to local projects of youth from these cities.

Community organizing of a project that develops in semi-urban and rural communities of the Tuzla Canton, where we support citizens in targeted communities to improve conditions of their environment, and to independently see the opportunities that exist in their communities, to prioritize the needs and priorities of citizens and to launch projects that would help in the development of targeted areas.

‘Fight Against Youth Poverty’ is an equally interesting project that was launched in 2013, which we are implementing it in cooperation with Rotary Foundation from Germany and KulturKontakt from Austria. This is a project of educational cooperation that aims to reduce unemployment and poverty of youth in B&H. Within the project, 15 schools in B&H received equipment that allows the establishment of multifunctional centers that will accommodate 15 companies for training in the areas of tourism and hospitality, allowing students of these tourism and hospitality and mixed schools to strengthen their social and entrepreneurial skills, creativity and flexibility.

Your Foundation is the first local Foundation founded in B&H with the goal of the development of local philanthropy and the culture of giving. How do you impact the citizens, or in what way do you benefit them?

In the conditions of B&H society today, it is not easy to be a philanthropist. However, it is said that every person individually nurtures philanthropy and somehow carries a sense of giving from their home. It is up to us to ensure that every donation makes lasting efforts in the community.

Our role is that every donation, no matter how small, we connect with other donations for the good of the community and to make real and positive change in the community. In the last five years, the Foundation created mechanisms for mobilizing local capital, offering services to local donors for investing in community development. We offer citizens to direct small and bigger donations in existing funds or to set up independent funds in the Tuzla Community Foundation. For those who love their city and their community, we are offering donations of 10 BAM a year in order to contribute to its development.

With a donation of 50 BAM, they can independently direct donations in concrete projects or existing affiliated funds: Youth Fund, I Love Tuzla Fund, Active Community Fund, Fund for Open School and Memorial Fund Osman Hasić for School Sports Clubs. The opening of a private fund by individuals, citizen groups, families and companies is possible with a minimum amount of 2000 BAM.

Last year, the first private fund opened. Vitalis Scholarship Fund is intended for young athletes in the city of Tuzla for the next three years. With all of this, we are striving to promote culture of giving in an innovative way.

There is currently a campaign called ‘Come Under Our Umbrella! to enlarge our Youth Fund that we collect funds through the first Crowdfunding Platform in B&H, called www.katapult.ba.

Last year, we launched a campaign 1% for our community. If everyone in Tuzla Canton gave only 1% of their annual income, through the Tuzla Community Foundation, we could invest over 7 million BAM every year in our local projects and our nonprofit organizations. The promotion of philanthropy the culture of giving is a huge challenge and this is why we believe that through our work in the community our message will become known: Give to the Community, And You Give to Yourself!

A large number of volunteers are actively involved in the Foundation. How many citizens are willing to contribute to the work of the Foundation?

The Foundation would not be what it is now without its valuable volunteers. Community activities, youth programs and a series of other social and creative activities implemented by the Foundation means a great deal of volunteer engagement. The Board of Directors and members of our Commission who adopt decisions on the allocation of small and medium grants work on a voluntary basis. We are happy that we have the trust and support of a large number of citizens who made the Foundation into what it is today with their engagement. Our experience suggests that citizens, when you show them respect and when they recognize actual values that you advocate, are ready to give their contribution. And this time we thank them.

Is the Tuzla Community Foundation Planning New Projects?

The Foundation is always involved in new projects that empower local communities. We target to explore and listen to the needs of citizens and then on the basis of that, we focus our programs with the support of all the new initiatives from the community. Of course, we do this to the extent to which it is possible.

Something on which we are already working intensively and what is interesting this year is the project ‘My Own Boss’, and in plan are some other projects that would help in employment and the development of entrepreneurship.

‘My Own Boss’ is a project that seeks to strengthen the capacity of students, teachers and management of the Tourism-Hospitality School of Tuzla to successfully start the school for cuisine for the practical training of cooks and waiters, and establishing a leading management of student cooperatives based on production and sale of culinary/food products and services and services in 2014.

In this way, 300 students of this school will receive better conditions for professional practice, and acquiring the skills to be able to find a job easier. After realization of the project the student enterprise plans to offer affordable services of catering to local companies, organizations and public institutions.

This project is supported as part of our calls for projects that were published in July 2013 called ‘Vital Project for Tuzla 2013/2014’ with the goal to lend support to strategically important projects for the development of Tuzla in the areas of labor and employment, economy and entrepreneurship. As part of the study of Vital Signs of Tuzla 2012, citizens assessed these areas as a priority for improving the quality of life in Tuzla.

Tuzla Community Foundation provided co-financing of 15.000 BAM, while additional funds in the amount of 15.000.000 BAM that are necessary to be provided by the developer of the project, local government, companies and individuals.

At this stage we are training students, management and teachers of these schools and additional animation companies and individuals who will contribute to this concrete project with their donations. This is probably a good chance to call on all individuals or companies who would join us in another successful story of the Tuzla Community Foundation.