Our Action26 August 2021
Our Action: building a youth network in Kotor.
Youth organisation Our Action provides young people in the town of Kotor and all over Montenegro with opportunities to develop useful skills for their personal, academic, and working lives.
Based in the coastal town of Kotor, Montenegro, Our Action (“Naša Akcija”) is an NGO focused on providing local youth with volunteering opportunities for personal and professional growth. Established in 2012, the organisation has more than 130 registered volunteers, 40 to 50 of whom are active at any given time.
A central focus of Our Action is nature and the outdoors, and it regularly organises hiking and educational camping trips, cleaning actions and other outdoor activities for young people.
“We consider them crucial for the physical and mental wellness of youth,” explains Our Action's director Dejan Bešović. “Nowadays young people spend too much time online; even more so now as the lockdowns imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic forced people inside their homes.”
This year, Our Action has organised an average of two outdoors activities per month, including one where the participants learned how to build greenhouses and grow their own food. Bešović and his team give great importance to teaching youth both hard and soft skills for their self-development.
These skills range from car and bike repair, gardening and cooking to public speaking and learning about issues such as human rights and democracy, helping young people grow into well-rounded and independent adults.
“These activities all fall under the umbrella of what we call ‘life skills education’,” explains Patricia Pobrić, former director and now special advisor for the NGO. “They are crucial skills, but schools neglect teaching them. That’s why we are taking care of it.”
Our Action also helps young people with professional development, using its network to help them find them jobs and organising workshops on how to write a CV or apply for universities both inside and outside the country. Volunteering activities also help participants get a taste of what it is like to work at certain jobs and develop a better understanding of what they want to do as a career.
A ‘magical triangle’ to keep youth engaged
The NGO organises an average of 120 activities per year for youth from 12 to 30 years old, many of whom continue to be involved with the organisation throughout their young adulthood. A good number of the older volunteers who leave the city for university come back every summer and take part in activities. Our Action tries to cater to the needs of each age group. “A 12-year-old is not going to be interested in professional development; but they might be interested in being part of a community,” explains Pobrić.
To attract volunteers, the organisation uses a method they call ‘magical triangle’. “It’s a perfect balance of working, learning and having fun,” explains Bešović “When all three components are present, we know that the project has been successful.” Successful projects mean that participants come back the next time, and that they also bring friends and siblings with them. Indeed, word of mouth has been a powerful tool in building Our Action's reputation in Kotor and all over Montenegro.
The NGO came up with the ‘magical triangle’ concept at the very beginning of their operations, when they needed to figure out how to attract and retain volunteers. They realised that they needed to offer them something as a reward for participating. “It is a myth that young people don’t want to work hard,” states Pobrić. “They do, but they also don’t want to be seen as cheap labour to exploit. They need to feel valued and rewarded. They have to get something out of their service to the community.”
Our Action’s team also fully understands the importance of creating a bond between them and the volunteers: “Our NGO becomes their second home,” explains operations manager Vuk Koljenšić. “We grow together, them and us, and we are happy to encourage young people to create new activities and even their own organisations.”
Helping the local community and other NGOs
In fact, one of Our Action's core objectives is helping newly founded and existing organisations grow and thrive, often lending them facilities and volunteers and helping them write and apply for projects. They recently helped revive the youth club in the nearby city of Tivat, which had been inactive for years, by including them in their projects and activities.
Another recent success story is the renovation of an elementary school in the small town of Radanovici. “After we were done with the works, the schoolchildren sent us dozens of thank you messages, which was really rewarding,” recalls Bešović “They were extremely happy that someone was caring about them and the state of their school.”
EED support has been crucial for Our Action, as this is the first time they have received a grant that is not tied to a specific project, but can be used to support the organisation as a whole. It has allowed the NGO to rent office space and to purchase a vehicle to transport volunteers during activities. This not only reduced operating costs; it has also allowed Our Action to lend its facilities and vehicle to other organisations.
This summer, Our Action and its volunteers have had a full calendar of activities. In June, they supported the Kotor Children Theatre, as they do every year. They have helped with renovations of the lapidarium in the Museum of Kotor, which was heavily damaged by an earthquake in the 1980s. And they are carrying out several other projects focused on English learning, youth and culture, and digital education.
OUr Action is now the go-to organisation to call when support is needed for almost every big event in Montenegro, from sport competitions to cultural festivals, all the while helping a generation of young people with their self-confidence, self-development and with finding their place in the world.