Neven Marinović, director of Smart Kolektiv, took a prominent role as both a panelist and moderator at the EVPA’s “Impact in the Neighbourhood” conference, held in Tbilisi, Georgia, from June 28th to 29th. 

On the opening day, Marinović actively participated in a discussion on impact investment funds, specifically presenting the Smart Impact Fund. Silke Horák from Tilia Impact Ventures (Czech Republic), Ioana Samoil from Nesst, and Luciano Balbo from Oltre Impact (Italy) also delivered concise presentations, sharing their valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities they encountered while establishing impact investment funds. The presentations were followed by an interactive session, where the audience engaged with the speakers, posing questions about fund structure, financial products, fundraising sources, and more. The room was filled with representatives from various organizations and countries, including Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunis, Algeria, and Morocco. 

On the same day, director of Smart Kolektiv moderated the panel session titled “Do it or leave it? Impact investment in a volatile context.” During the discussion, Gevorg Poghosyan (Impact Hub Yerevan) emphasized a significant conclusion: “Social enterprises cannot just give up. They have a community that depends on them. And indeed, social enterprises tend to become stronger and bolder in volatile situations. And they become more visible. Crisis situations show and prove the importance of social enterprises.” The panel also featured notable speakers such as Besan Abu-Joudeh (BuildPalestine), Anna Gulevska-Chernysh (Ukrainian Social Venture Fund), and Ana Akhlouri (MMRH). One of the key conclusions emphasized the significant role of social entrepreneurship in turbulent societies, underscoring that it should not be disregarded while awaiting improvements in the situation. 

On the second day of the conference, Marinović offered an in-depth perspective on the activities and ideas driving the Smart Impact Fund during the session “Impact Investing: boosting the pioneers!” This engaging discussion provided a platform for pioneers of impact investment in their respective countries to share valuable lessons learned and exchange insights with the audience. The distinguished panel also included Alena Kalibaba (Ukrainian Social Venture Fund), Kristine Kandelaki (Actio Impact Fund Georgia), Olga Maksimova (VIA Fund Armenia), and Lia Tabatadze (Social Enterprise Babale), with moderation expertly handled by Martijn Blom (EVPA). 

The event brought together 150 of the world’s most determined impact individuals to share their journeys. It provided a platform for diverse perspectives, with a program that included impactful businesses, public authorities, Impact Together! partners, and experienced European players in impact ecosystems.  They also presented best practices and lessons learned from over 25 countries, including Ukraine, Palestine, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt, Serbia, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and many more. 

Over the course of two days focused on building social entrepreneurship through impact investing, event participants had the opportunity to learn, connect, and scale impact with pioneers and leaders of impact entrepreneurship in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions. The event exemplified the collaborative potential between Europe and its partners in advancing social development, not only within the EU but also in these countries, MENA region, and with hopeful prospects for future engagement in the Balkans.