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Brief Story of Mozaik Foundation

Mozaik was established in 2002, yet this story begins in retrospect, in the year 2012. By this time, a decade into our journey, Mozaik had secured stable funding and was actively nurturing local communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) through grants and advisory support. Our efforts focused on resolving community issues, fostering trust, and bolstering social cohesion. We empowered individuals to collaborate, mobilize local resources, and bridge ethnic divides. In that pivotal year, our YouthBanks Program supported 326 community-driven initiatives, increasingly drawing local partners and volunteers.

Throughout this journey, we encountered challenges and learned valuable lessons. Despite some difficult experiences, our integrity and exceptional dedication drew the attention of major international organizations. Notably, the World Economic Forum and its sister organization, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, honored Mozaik’s director as the Social Entrepreneur of the Year in Central and Eastern Europe.

Simultaneously, Mozaik’s teams diligently executed several significant multi-year projects, funded by prominent organizations like USAID, the EU, and the World Bank. Our work was well-structured across distinct, autonomous programs, supported centrally by our finance and administration team. This structure was partly influenced by donors, at that time mainly focused on individual project outcomes, with little or no interest in the bigger picture.

Reasons for (dis)satisfaction

Although highly appreciated by donors and peers, we were conscious of a growing concern. We feared succumbing to ‘projectitis,’ a common ailment in the non-profit world. This condition plagues organizations that excel in fundraising but become overly cautious, focusing primarily on contract acquisition and donor satisfaction. Such organizations often neglect to deeply root themselves in local communities or to pursue systemic changes—changes that transcend project funding, encourage genuine cross-sector collaboration, and yield measurable outcomes or broader impacts.

Emergence of Mozaik’s 10-Year Strategy

Like many non-profits, Mozaik strived to gain interest from donors while staying true to our mission. We began to notice early signs of ‘Projectitis’  – a condition that could transform Mozaik into an organization driven solely by donor agendas. Yet, as we delved deeper into the concept of systemic change, we realized the greater potential for impact beyond the constraints of donor funding cycles.

Throughout these challenges, the entrepreneurial spirit within Mozaik remained a simmering force. This energy ignited in October 2012, following our Director’s return from an executive program for Schwab social entrepreneurs at Harvard Business School. This sparked the first of many pivotal strategic meetings. At the outset, we were unsure of the eventual outcomes or the sacrifices required.

Our strategic journey began with a critical assessment of our impact on Bosnia and Herzegovina to date. We pondered fundamental questions: Why does Mozaik exist? What measurable, positive impact can we achieve in our country and region? How long will it take to effect systemic change, independent of donor funding cycles?

Thanks to a general-purpose grant from C.S. Mott, which afforded us the luxury of time for introspection, we, after several iterations, formulated our impact statement by the end of 2014. This statement became the cornerstone of Mozaik Foundation’s strategic direction: “Between 2016 and 2026 Mozaik Foundation will lead the development of a new generation of entrepreneurial and innovative youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina – a value-driven force that creates new social and economic value, creates new jobs and serves as role model to other youth.”

Once we were able to grasp both our purpose and the desired impact, we were truly able to methodically explore the ‘How.’ This involved the bold step of critically reassessing all ongoing projects and identifying any programmatic gaps.

Innovative Impact Management Matrix

After years of dedicated strategic planning, we finalized our Impact Management Matrix. This document, headed by our impact statement, concisely details our Mission (highlighted in orange) and Sustainability (in green) objectives, complete with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

[Click on the visual below for a full PPT version of the document. Please cite the Mozaik Foundation as the source, should you decide to use it]

Now, let’s delve into our programs, situated beneath the ‘Invisible Line of Control’ (highlighted in red dotted line in the top right corner of the matrix).

The YouthBanks Program, initiated in 2008, has been revitalized in our new strategy, emerging as a pivotal tool for youth empowerment and basic skills development (Mission Result 2). However, it has undergone several modifications and innovations aimed at enhancing transparency, enriching the user experience, building skills and attitudes, and shifting critical decision-making from Mozaik and partner local governments to the youth and local communities themselves.

Yet, the Mozaik YouthBanks Program alone wasn’t sufficient to fulfill our impact statement’s call for more systemic thinking. To bolster this program, we introduced new initiatives that work in concert to provide a diverse yet cohesively coordinated support system for young people. This led to the creation of the Startup Studio Program and later the Tech 4 Impact Fund. These strategic initiatives offer young individuals, whether empowered through YouthBanks or other means, avenues for personal development and assistance in impact business creation and startup ventures (Mission Result 3 on our Impact Matrix).

However, during its pilot phase in 2015, we recognized the need for further measures to encourage youth participation in community work and entrepreneurship. Given that the Global Entrepreneurship Index ranked Bosnia and Herzegovina as the least entrepreneurial country in Europe, we addressed this challenge by launching the first online community, This platform aimed to unify all youth and opportunities for youth entrepreneurs and activists in a single digital space, constituting our third strategic program (Mission Result 1). In February 2024, became Rolify, a leading regional community that focuses on youth skills, jobs and leaders of the future.

If these three programs were to be visualized as a flow, Rolify (1) would represent the largest pool of youth talent possible, where all young people are exposed to skills, job and attitude development opportunities. YouthBanks (2) forms a crucial part of this ecosystem, empowering youth through support for numerous youth-led community projects annually where youth acquire specific leadership and management skills. The Startup Studio Program and the Tech 4 Impact Fund extend these efforts (3), offering a range of opportunities for youth to develop market-relevant skills and competencies vital for success in the challenging BiH market, supplemented by mentorship, grant funding, equity investments, and more.

Successful outcomes from these programs are then showcased back into the Rolify community, serving as inspiration and motivation for more youth and partners to get involved.

For the latest updates on our achievements and progress, please refer to the ‘Results’ section, which details our current Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as outlined in the Impact Management Matrix.

The “Valley of Death” – A Surprise That Nearly Killed Us

As you peruse this narrative, it might seem as though our journey was seamless, almost effortless. However, the reality was far from this perception. Transitioning from a project-focused to an impact-driven approach, we encountered significant fundraising challenges. The task of securing financial partners willing to back this innovative, albeit risky, venture was daunting.

We enthusiastically engaged in writing innovative project proposals for funding opportunities that valued innovation. Unfortunately, these efforts often ended in failure. Large donors were hesitant to support our ambitious plans due to perceived high risks and a lack of evidence demonstrating our organizational capacity at the time.

(A side note: during this process, we learned that while donors often solicit innovative projects, they prefer funding what they know. This disconnect arises because their selection criteria and programmatic staff might not be equipped to recognize and handle high-impact, high-risk projects. But that’s a story for another day.)

Between 2015 and 2017, we remained dedicated to our new strategy, even if it meant closing down all non-strategic projects, including multi-million-dollar initiatives. This shift in focus, coupled with our fundraising challenges, quickly led to liquidity issues. The workload, uncertainty, and stress levels soared to unsustainable heights.

This situation took a toll on us. Several team members, particularly those with families, left Mozaik in search of more stable employment. Our CFO raised a red flag, urging the preparation of more proposals regardless of the Matrix’s guidelines, arguing that no impact could be achieved if the organization ran out of funding. And she was right.

We faced a crucial decision: revert to a project-focused mindset, which is more appealing to most donors, to secure funding but stray from our strategy, or remain committed to our strategic path and hope for a breakthrough.

Fortunately, our years of contributions and engagement in international networks like the Filea (formerly European Foundation Centre) and Impact Europe (formerly European Venture Philanthropy Association) garnered recognition from private donors. This led to genuine partnerships with private foundations and individuals, rescuing us from financial distress. Notable supporters included the C.S. Mott Foundation, Bosch Foundation, local municipalities, Unicredit and Zeit Foundations, Porticus, Medicore Foundation, the European Fund for Southeast Europe, US Deloitte D2i Program, and contributions from an American philanthropist who preferred anonymity.

These partners appreciated our systems thinking and commitment despite the risks. The Bosch Foundation, for instance, invited us to Stuttgart to present our innovative approach to their management and trustees. This validation reinforced our belief in our chosen path, notwithstanding the challenges.

As initial signs of success emerged, more organizations and institutions expressed interest. The Swiss government was the first to acknowledge our systemic approach, offering 4+4 years of support, soon followed by the Swedish government (interestingly, both countries are recognized for their innovation). Other donors eventually came on board, some aligning with our vision for systems change, while others funded our projects without a particular interest in the overarching strategy.

What we endured is akin to what startups call ‘the valley of death,’ best represented by the U curve in the visual below. Despite funding constraints, we had to meet our KPIs, essentially doing more with less. The journey was anything but smooth sailing.

Mozaikov grafički prikaz doline smrti

The Positive Outcomes of Years-Long Struggle

The challenges we faced to survive and adhere to our 10-year strategy have significantly shaped Mozaik’s identity today. These trials spurred innovation, transforming us into a more robust organization, deeply ingrained in the communities we serve, and fostering numerous collaborations across the private, public, and NGO sectors.

Our experience has led to a culture where lessons are rapidly integrated back into our strategy, and innovation is a cornerstone across the entire organization. We embraced digitalization and adopted a paperless approach even before the onset of the Coronavirus Pandemic, which enabled us to respond swiftly to its challenges.

A common saying among our team, especially when orienting newcomers, is that “the only constant in Mozaik is change.” This reflects our commitment to continual evolution, adopting new methodologies like Flow Efficiency by Niklas Modig, and fostering a culture of learning and collective thought both within and outside our organization.

As we passed the midpoint of our strategic timeline, all teams started successfully meeting their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and we started witnessing a growing number of partners joining our collective efforts. These collaborations are pivotal in supporting youth to reach their full potential and become role models for others in society.

Internationally, our engagement continues with the Deloitte D2i Project, World Economic Forum & Schwab Foundation, Filea and Impact Europe. Additionally, we’ve contributed to the founding of the Philanthropy Forum in BiH and Catalyst2030.

In closing, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has supported us on this journey. Your contribution has been indispensable in reaching this point.