Aleksandar's journey: From Youth Activist to Social Innovator and Young European Ambassador | WeBalkans | EU Projects in the Western Balkans

Aleksandar's journey: From Youth Activist to Social Innovator and Young European Ambassador

An interview with Aleksandar, co-founder of SmartUp, on his experiences with youth exchange activities, activism, and his mission to bring positive change to education, climate change, and public governance in North Macedonia.


Aleksandar Lazovski, the co-founder of SmartUp, a social innovation lab, has been managing various projects using innovative design processes and new technologies to tackle emerging social challenges in education, youth, climate change, and public governance. His focus since 2020 has been on developing and scaling EDUINO, North Macedonia’s national collective portal for digital educational resources and professional development. For its successful approach to co-create and rapidly provide free quality education to disadvantages students, the project was recognized with special mention in HundrED’s Global Collection 2022 which highlights 100 of the leading innovative solutions in education. In addition, he founded TEDxSkopje, MeetTheSkopjans, and the ‘A WORD OR TWO’ podcast to bring communities together through storytelling and new revolutionary ideas. As a Young European Ambassador and an aspiring Ed.M. student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, he hopes to inspire other young people to change the world for the better.

You have participated in youth exchange activities funded by the EU. Can you tell us more about how you got involved in them?

I was part of two specific activities, one of which was an ERASMUS+ and the other was a youth event supported by the Council of Europe. The first activity took place in a remote location called Oulu in Finland, near Lapland – a breathtakingly beautiful place. The project aimed to find ways to use digital applications to encourage more outdoor activities for children who lack outdoor experiences due to being overexposed to technology through their phones, computers, and games. For example, we used a digital application that captured bird noises and helped identify different types of birds. It was a fascinating project, and I learned about it through Salto-Youth, a training portal that lists youth exchanges throughout Europe – an incredible tool for any young person interested in joining a youth exchange and expanding their horizons.

The other activity took place in Paphos, Cyprus, and focused on climate change. This was also a fascinating project as we created interactive resource materials to help children learn more about the impact of climate change and prevention measures.

How did these experiences impact your professional life?

As someone working in education, my experience in Finland exposed me to numerous innovative opportunities and resources in the field. I was able to use this knowledge to design new digital resources for children in my country. In Cyprus, I became more aware of the work that needs to be done with younger generations to prevent climate change. In both experiences, I had the opportunity to meet fascinating people with different perspectives and life visions. I learned from them and integrated these new experiences into my work, which was incredibly beneficial.

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“One of the greatest benefits of being a YEA has been the opportunity to participate in various trainings and workshops, where I have been able to develop my skills in communication, project development and understanding of European values.”

Aleksandar Lazovski

What is your current professional occupation, and could you tell us more about your professional life?

Currently, I wear several hats. I am a co-founder of Smart Up, a social innovation lab that aims to address emerging social challenges in areas such as education, climate change, and within the public sector. At Smart Up, we develop innovative platforms and tools that improve access to services and increase the quality of life for citizens. One of our flagship projects is EDUINO, a digital platform of educational resources for children that is owned by the Bureau for Development of Education and is endorsed by the Ministry of Education as well as supported by various donors, including the EU. EDUINO is the largest educational digital library in our country, with over 4,000 video lessons viewed over seven million times. Although my background is in management, I am deeply interested in innovation. Last year, I applied to Harvard School of Education and was accepted to a program on Education Leadership, Organisations, and Entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, I was unable to finance my studies. This year, however, I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship, and I am currently waiting for reapplication results, with the hope of attending Harvard this year.

You have been involved in activism throughout your professional life. What sparked your interest in activism?

I have been and will always be an activist. Growing up in a low-income household, I witnessed firsthand the social injustices and systemic problems that plagued our society. However, I also noticed that many people who were experiencing similar injustices were not taking any action to change the situation. From a young age, I had a proactive mindset and at the age of 14, I joined the Red Cross to help vulnerable individuals and disadvantaged families. However, I soon realized that the root of these problems was systemic and there were very few organizations working to address these issues. This led me to take action at a higher level. I am deeply passionate about activism because I believe we need to overhaul the system to improve the quality of life for everyone. I am convinced that we can create meaningful change if we work together.

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You are also a Young European Ambassador (YEA). Why did you decide to become one, and how is it going?

While I am still relatively new to being a Young European Ambassador (YEA), having joined only a few months ago, I have already found it to be a highly rewarding experience. The network is filled with exceptional individuals and I have been fascinated to learn that there are many other people in the region who are pursuing similar goals to me. Being a YEA has allowed me to exchange ideas and perspectives with them and learn from their experiences, and also provide support and assistance to one another as we grow and develop together. One of the greatest benefits of being a YEA has been the opportunity to participate in various trainings and workshops, where I have been able to develop my skills in communication, project development and understanding of European values.

The reason I became a YEA is rooted in my own personal experiences growing up. I did not have many role models in terms of young people who were doing meaningful things such as entrepreneurship and activism, which is why I felt that it was important to use my own actions to inspire other young people to follow a similar path. By being more visible and exposed as a YEA, I hope to provide guidance, mentorship and support to other young people in the community who may be looking to make a positive impact. Ultimately, my goal is to help inspire more young people to get involved in community-based initiatives and make a difference in the world around them.

Photo: Aleksandar Lazovski

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