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An Innovative and Impactful Way of Supporting Public Institutions

In 2021 Swiss EP team member Nina Nikolkj was in a unique position—besides her job as Swiss EP Project Officer, she was also a Strategic Advisor of FITD. Nina shared her experience and the knowledge she gained.

On the invitation of Acting Director of FITD, Kosta Petrov, Swiss EP team member Nina Nikolikj has supported the Fund for Innovation and Technology Development (FITD) in North Macedonia for over a year. We are sharing her reflection on this incredible journey.

A little over a year ago, I was invited by Kosta to advise on ecosystem development and policy initiatives in support of startups within FITD. I was aware that state agencies thrive on being more involved with the startup communities in the country. Still, I was surprised to see that FITD was intent on engaging someone from the very core of the community.

With a personal mission to influence and improve the startup environment in the country, and as advocate of our #MKstartups community I became the 1st Startup Ecosystem Lead within FITD. As a strategic advisor, I shared my insights from the ecosystem and its key actors. In turn, such up-to-date and relevant information ensures that FITD strategies and interventions will be better anchored in the local startup context and benefit entrepreneurs even more.

Reflecting on the past year, I am satisfied with all the accomplishments. It is the mission of both Swiss EP and FITD to strengthen the startup ecosystem in the country and support founders with innovative and scalable businesses. That the two organizations’ missions aligned made my balancing the two roles quite straightforward. My entire work aimed in the same direction, making it very purposeful and satisfying.

As Swiss EP Program Officer, I helped establish Swiss EP as the leading knowhow and support provider for the startup ecosystem in the country. Dozens of active partner organizations, numerous supported startups and entrepreneurs are the best evidence of our work's impact on the local startup community.

As an advisor to FITD management, I actively participated in different activities and impacted results, such as:

  • Establishment and coordination of the 1st National Startup Council, that produced the 1st Policy Change Paper;
  • The strategic review and improvement of specific instruments and programs tailored for startups;
  • Development of annual and mid-term strategies of FITD;
  • Creation of a digital nomad/remote work visa and program;
  • Organization of the 1st National Startup Summit.

Supporting local organizations, such as FITD, to improve their performance falls within the mandate of Swiss EP. As a team, we have always been creative in finding innovative and appropriate ways to support our partners. However, this time we went one step further—we embedded the knowledge and experience of one of our team members into the beneficiary organization.

By investing a few hours per week to support FITD on top of my engagement with Swiss EP, I leverage my knowledge, skills, and network to the benefit of everyone. FITD obtained access to a result-oriented advisor from the core of the startup ecosystem with extensive expertise and a global network. Swiss EP had an opportunity to directly influence policy processes in North Macedonia and benefit the startup ecosystem in the country in an organic way. And I had a fantastic opportunity to build up my capacities and participate in the processes and procedures of a crucial public institution.