Young Minds Fund



The Republic of Northern Macedonia is facing a huge loss of human potential and creative energy. One of the biggest factors for this is the education system that does not fully meet the needs of students. In terms of learning outcomes, the PISA test in 2015 showed that Northern Macedonia is among the countries with the lowest results and is ranked second of all countries that participated in the survey. According to this research, more than half of the students lack basic competencies. An even greater cause for concern is the fact that the results are going downhill, which is contrary to the positive trend in other countries in the region. At the same time, the Republic of Northern Macedonia is facing an intense brain drain.

Globally, a rapidly changing economy requires increasingly specialized and transferable skills, while education systems face difficulties in keeping pace. It is no longer enough for children to just go through the school system. As they grow older, girls and boys need an education whose learning outcomes make sense, through which they gain broader skills, values, and experiences that will help them develop a growth-oriented mindset and improve their ability to innovate, collaborate. , employability and civic participation. Moreover, in a world of mass connectivity, young people need to be heard, involved in development processes designed to improve their lives, and have access to credible resources and information.

In this regard, encouraging starting points at the national level are the several youth programs in the country that have shown positive results. However, many of them are implemented at the project level, which is a challenge in terms of achieving significant impact that would encourage structural change. In terms of their well-being, young people face systemic obstacles and hence the Government, the private sector, civil society, as well as national and international agencies need to think strategically about their future and help them realize their potential. It is especially important to identify problems and shortcomings in the system in order to act and find solutions, but it is also equally important to recognize positive examples, best practices, and lessons learned.

In order to improve the results achieved through youth programs, such as UpShift, Junior Achievement and Challenge for Young Researchers, comprehensive systemic support is needed to ensure the consistency and sustainability of these existing programs.

The Fund for Innovation and Technological Development aims to combine the most proven successful programs that encourage creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship and skills of the 21st century under a comprehensive national program – “YOUNG MIND FUND”, to promote and support their implementation and , to enable young people to progress in the world of the future.


Creating a platform in which government, private sector, international organizations, AND CIVIL SOCIETY TOGETHER contribute to advancing the state for young people to realize their potential, sharing a common vision for progress.

The YOUNG MIND FUND (FMU) will support proven programs and expand support through new programs that have the potential to raise the level of innovation, creative and critical thinking, scientific and technological excellence, and to develop entrepreneurial skills. These programs will encourage young people to take an active part in social processes and will affect the quality of formal education. In addition, the FMU will be an open platform for dialogue between the private sector, donors, international organizations and civil society, enabling the start of partnerships, leveraging investments and opening up new opportunities for young people.

Building on national strategic priorities, grass-root initiatives, positive outcomes and international evidence-based practices, YOUNG MIND FUND will:

  • enable young people to participate in intellectually stimulating programs outside of formal education (Challenge for Young Researchers, UpShift, Junior Achievement, etc.)
  • equip young people with problem-solving skills in the context of a world of constant change
  • support international mobility and international youth initiatives
  • encourage synergies between different areas of education and training
  • provide a platform that will connect the education sector, the business sector and civil society organizations
  • strengthen the voice of young people.

Phase 1: Needs assessment and creation of a “Young Minds Fund”


  • Conduct a comprehensive needs assessment
  • Understanding the underlying problem and not just the symptoms of the problem
  • Focus on participatory action research – involving young people in all phases of research


  • Identify existing youth programs at the national level
  • Conduct an analysis of the feasibility, functionality and capacity of existing programs
  • Identify necessary changes in the existing legal framework in order to ensure sustainability
  • Development of evaluation criteria and selection process
  • Identify stakeholders, their role and ability to influence the program


  • Creating a model based on available information and piloting
  • Gather feedback in order to introduce changes and adapt the model to the needs

Phase 2: Ensuring sustainability, complementarity and upgrading of successful initiatives (attached to the document is a brief description of existing programs)

  • UpShift
  • “Challenge for young researchers”
  • “Junior Achievement”
  • Other programs that will be identified as successful practices

Phase 3: Expand support and create new programs based on needs analysis

  • Identify gaps and overlaps between existing programs
  • Ensuring continuity of programs that upgrade the skills and knowledge they provide
  • Bridging the gaps by introducing new initiatives

Stage 4: Strengthening the voice of young people

  • Creating a platform for connecting education, business sector and civic involvement
  • Conduct an awareness raising campaign

To ensure that the YOUNG MIND FUND meets the needs of young people in the country, it is important to have all the necessary information, to understand the essence of the problem and to involve them in creating the solution from the very beginning. The Human-Centered Design approach is a management framework that develops problem-solving by incorporating a human perspective into all steps in the problem-solving process. This approach is used in a number of industries and sectors, and among other things, can be used in the creation of services and systems.

The HCD methodology will help in:


Gathering available information for students and young people nationwide. Identification of patterns of behavior, needs and possible shortcomings.

Understand the essence of the problem and not just the symptoms.

Focus on participatory action research – not just to document the target group, but to engage young people in processes such as brainstorming, modeling and piloting.


Identification of youth programs at the national level. Conduct an analysis of the feasibility, functionality and capacity of existing programs in order to upgrade and use the potential of young people for innovation, creativity, excellence, entrepreneurship and civic involvement.

Understand why some programs are successful and what sets them apart from others. Can the programs be upgraded according to the needs of the users?

Development of evaluation criteria (for example: research shows that successful, financially viable programs use a combined approach to initial funding skills training – are such programs already being implemented?)

What changes need to be made to the existing legal framework to ensure the sustainability of initiatives under this national comprehensive program?


Identification of stakeholders, their role and ability to influence the program (Government, Fund for Innovation and Technological Development, UNICEF, Ministry of Education and Science, private sector and startup community, donors and youth agencies, etc.).

Creating measures using available data (national research, world best practices, proven successful existing programs, etc.).

Piloting and evaluating measures with users and stakeholders, and using data and results for further development.