Climathon Skopje: Catalyzing youth-led climate innovation

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Recently in Skopje, CEED Hub Skopje spearheaded the city’s inaugural Climathon (climate change hackathon). Hosted through the USAID Youth Actively Create Opportunities Activity in North Macedonia, implemented by IESC in collaboration with CEED Hub Skopje and Youth Educational Forum, this initiative brought together over 50 young enthusiasts, startups, and students to collaboratively devise solutions for pressing local environmental challenges.

The winning team ECO Quest presented an innovative concept: a mobile application which will leverage gamification to motivate citizens to actively participate in city cleanup efforts.

Jana Velichkova, a member of the winning team and a student at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Skopje, conveyed their motivation to participate in the Climathon, stating, “We saw the Climathon as an opportunity to put our diverse skills to work, combining technology and design, all driven by our passion to make a difference in our hometown.”

The Climathon not only equipped participants with practical skills, but also deepened their understanding of climate change issues in Skopje.

“We gained a lot of skills from participating in the Climathon, such as how to work effectively in a team, how to do rapid research and make an effective plan as well as a business canvas model within a given time frame and also how to pitch our idea and prototype,” Jana noted. “We also gained insights into the environmental and social issues and opportunities in our city. It wasn’t just about solving sustainability issues, it was about teamwork, quick decisions, and turning student brainpower into a real solution that might actually make a change.”

Reflecting on specific learning moments, Jana shared, “One of the specific challenges that we faced was how to balance the fun and the impact of our application, as we wanted to make sure that it was not only entertaining and rewarding for the users, but also effective and meaningful for the environment and the society. A key learning moment was realizing the potential of combining technology, gamification, and community engagement to achieve our goal. We realized that turning cleaning into a game with rewards could be the game-changer for a lasting impact.”

Recognizing the potential of the idea, Sparkasse Bank AD Skopje, a prominent bank in North Macedonia and a partner of the Climathon, has awarded the winning team a prize of 3,000 USD.  This financial support will provide the necessary boost for the team to transform their idea into a tangible product, showcasing how grassroots initiatives can lead to impactful environmental change. It also exemplifies the crucial role of private sector engagement in driving sustainable solutions.

In addition to the funding, the winning team will participate in CEED Hub’s acceleration program to refine their business model and successfully launch the application.

Through initiatives like this one, YACO helps connect young people to the training opportunities they need to complete in today’s economy and to help pave the way for North Macedonia’s future. This commitment is grounded in the strategic connection between empowering the youth of North Macedonia and advancing key regional objectives such as EU-Atlantic integration and fostering regional stability.

Every year, Climathon events take place simultaneously in major cities around the world, under the umbrella of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s Climate Knowledge and Innovation Community (EIT Climate-KIC). EIT Climate-KIC is the European Union’s largest public-private partnership addressing climate change through innovation to build a zero-carbon economy.

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