In Macedonia, the Ulica magazine is a social venture for tackling poverty, with unemployed and homeless people selling the magazine on the streets. Ulica magazine primarily represents ideas of an open society at a relatively wide scope, and addresses issues of human rights, social issues, health and culture.
It is a social magazine that combines various genres and forms in order to provide valuable information, as well as to entertain the reader. Such a general approach is designed to secure its marketability, which is necessary for the sales to realistically assist the vendors selling it.
It also aims to maintain an aura of serious journalism and specific content, in line with the mission statement of the magazine and social venture.
For the vendors, it provides a legal source of income, strengthens their capacities and skills, and raises awareness of the community of the recipients of social welfare.
Whereas the original INSP members are aimed primarily at homeless people, and the marginalised, Ulica is more in the vein of a true social venture, in that it addresses all unemployed people, not just the homeless.
The program works at the core of the problem of unemployment in the Republic of Macedonia. It aims to change people’s perceptions of themselves and their situations. The underlying principle is that the vendors should stop looking at themselves as victims who have to be taken care, and start seeing themselves as active citizens who must take their own destinies into their own hands.
While the major role of Ulica is that the vendors have an additional, legal income through the selling of the paper, there are other important roles that the paper plays. Perhaps even more important, according to Ulica management, is that the vendors start to do something about their situation, they become active, and they try to resolve their problems for themselves.
Ulica stresses that the importance of the socialisation program is essential, and is perhaps the core part of the entire Ulica program.
Unemployment in Macedonia is officially 30%. Over 40% of unemployed wait more than 5 years to find a job, and 75% of unemployed are looking for their first job. Young people, unqualified workers and those lacking work experience dominate the unemployed sub-group of Macedonian society.
Many jobs were lost in the restructuring of Macedonia following it’s independence from Yugoslavia on September 8th 1991. However, official World Bank figure put only 20% of unemployment in Macedonia down to the actual restructuring.
Ulica concludes that the problem f unemployment is not just about the jobs that were lost, but most importantly to the obstacles getting into the labor market. Ulica also cites the inflexibility of the labor market as the major obstacle facing the unemployed.
The poverty level has risen sharply in Macedonia since figures were first kept in 1997. In that year, the poverty level was about 19% of the population. In 2004, the last year that accurate figures can be attributed, the poverty level was almost 30%.
The national government has recognised the need for action, and has two main plans in place. First is an action plan for employment, implemented in 2001, and incorporating European regulations, a government syndicate, specialist managers, and emphasised cooperation with non-government organisations (NGOs), such as Ulica magazine.
Second is a national strategy for decreasing poverty, implemented in 2002, which incorporates consultations with representatives of citizens living in poverty, service providers and policy makers.
Ulica offers a solution in line with these strategies through human development activities. They aim to strengthen people’s capacities to sell their skills and knowledge on the labor market, or to open small and family businesses. Ulica also seeks to encourage citizens to become active to improve their socio-economic situation, rather than relying on the government to do this for them.
Ulica’s target groups are members of families that are receive social financial help; unemployed receiving less than 6,000 denars (100 euros) total family income; and those aged 18-35 years (though not limited to this age range) and interested in becoming active in the program and it’s activities
Ulica expects participants to be interested in sharing experiences, able to attend for the full duration of activities and programs it runs, and to sign a “Distributor’s Statement” and “Distributor’s Rules”.
Some of the other activities of the socialisation programs run by, and in conjunction with, Ulica are: vendor workshops; street work and counselling; vendor’s Club; vendor’s vocational training.