The third annual NGO Fair took place on the 6th December 2017 at the Youth Cultural Centre (YCC) in Skopje. From eleven in the morning until four in the afternoon, dozens of volunteers and organizers were busy facilitating the work of 200 participants working for the 66 NGO ‘s represented there, all under the supervision of Gjoko Vukanovski, coordinator at the Volunteers Centre Skopje (VCS) and at the NGO Fair. The event, free of charge and held in Macedonian, was relayed through various medium such as social networks, posters, flyers and the national media. If the estimations are confirmed, the all-time high number of NGO ‘s represented might have attracted up to 500 visitors, which would make it match the record total 700 participants of last year’s edition.
Before the advent of the internet and subsequent online search portals, finding opportunities to get involved or networking across wide webs of organizations were daunting tasks. Fairs were invented for the exact purpose of providing an efficient and useful platform to undertake these ventures. As the number of NGO’s in Skopje and Macedonia alike are on the rise, the NGO Fair—this year organized by VCS for the third time in a row—remains a valuable portal for various NGO ‘s operating from near and far Skopje to gather together.
Indeed, one of the main drive for NGO ‘s to take part in the fair is to develop ties between one another. As was the case for the Ms. Zaklina Dimovska, a Skopje-based representative of the American Holistic Institute Education, who applied for the fair in the hope of initiating new partnerships with fellow organisations. However, the motives to participate sometimes does not limit itself to networking between other associations. Some, such as the Sutka Daycare Centre for Roma kids, were aiming for more visibility to the public, promoting their work and raising funds through the sale of Christmas cards. Others might have plainly sought to attract new, motivated, volunteers.
The NGO Fair is genuinely open to everyone. To be eligible to apply for participation, an NGO would simply either need to be from Skopje, or to be able to demonstrate that their deeds and actions have, one way or another, benefited the citizens of Skopje. Hence, all kinds of organizations are mingling together, from social work to environmental awareness association, from the European Law Students’ Association or the human trafficking watchdog La Strada. The diversity of NGO ‘s represented at the fair as pushed the organizers to put three so-called “Citizen Forum” in place. The aim of the latter was to gather representatives of various associations in one room, to encourage discussion, debate, and —if possible— draft a proposal on a given issue, e.g. active citizenship and sustainability. Although sources that took part in one of those fora expressed frustration for deliberations leaning more towards promotion of past deeds rather than potential collective action, the fora have, nevertheless, produced fruitful and fervent discussions on issues affecting the daily lives of citizens of Skopje.
The event did not only attract visitors and NGO ‘s though. The expected high number of attendance and record representation of Macedonian associations makes the NGO Fair a truly special event. Hence, its distinctiveness even appealed to some media outlets. A couple of camera crew were, indeed, roaming through the buzzing crowd for the official opening of the event. Lovren Markic, head of the international representation of the city of Skopje, took the chance to promote the cultural budget after welcoming and congratulating the international and local volunteers alike. Nikola Stankoski, director of VCS, stated while declaring the third annual NGO Fair open that “This NGO Fair, held for the third time, is a good opportunity for many organizations, associations and foundations to promote their activities and to involve young people in their activities, in their communities and as well to build networking between organizations for more successful realization of their goals “.
This event was financially supported by the City of Skopje.