KLARA, FOUNDER OF BE INTERNATIONAL: FROM ART TOOLS FOR CAUCASUS TO SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL AGENCY
Klara is an energetic young Czech lady, founder of Be International organization and keen traveller with passion for public spaces. She found her 'second home' in Caucasus, where she started by supporting a community and now expands her plans to the socially responsible tourist agency.
Follow Klara and Be International on Facebook.
1) Could you introduce us a bit your organization Be International? What is your role?
Be International was founded in 2009 and since then has become a stretching exercise for young peoples’ comfort zones. We encourage them to travel to the East and participate in short term and long term international trainings. While using the methods of non-formal education during our trainings, dreams and hidden potential are being revealed. Youth learn how to live outside their social context and to overcome the fear of following path which could be different from their friends and parents paths. Active participation in charity campaigns, cultural events and civic society itself belong to organic outcomes of the trainings.
Last year we sent more than 35 Czech participants to our trainings. We love Caucasus and we focus mainly on this region.
I am a founder of the organization and my friends and colleagues call me “the ideological leader” of the civic association :-)
2) What is your motivation? Why have you decided to do something like this, to help other people you barely know?
I believe that my experience with highly hospitable and open society from Caucasus opened door to my work in public sector. When you encounter with this natural way of living based on the power of culture of giving, you feel very inspired to do something. I have been passionate about sharing everything. Lately I started to call myself a public space fan - I cannot stand it to stay just at home, I prefer to work in cafés, discuss my decisions with wide range of people and spend my free time on the bench in front of our flat.
3) Why Caucasus, do you have some special connection with that place?
As I have already stated above, I appreciate the culture of sharing in Caucasus – firstly, a wide family circle supports each other in order to provide children with education, secondly they don’t spend their lives in front of TVs, they are more socially oriented. Furthermore, I love the way people are able to speak up and defend their opinion. Even though I don’t agree with them, I really like this determination to express what they think. Probably it is type of a temperament, which is very close to my own.
4) How do you make your decision to do for example a collection for art tools? How do you communicate with a community and with whom exactly?
My Czech friend lives in the valley of Pankisi which is not very developed and where the collection of art tools was delivered. She knows the needs of the local society. She asked us to help one local girl with university tuition fees. We did and in return we were invited this summer to visit my friend and the locals in Pankisi during our trip to Georgia last August and September. As we were already heading to the place – why not to bring some gifts? The charity collection seems to be a nice technique for involving the others and rising awareness about that region in Georgia. So we decided to ask our fans and ex-participants of our projects to bring some art tools to our office. Website and facebook event, combined with face to face communication and a promise of a postcard which would be send from Georgia to each contributor, worked quite well.
5) When it gets to funding, what works best for you? Do you organize fundraising events or do you rely more on social media? Have you considered crowdfunding?
We mainly operate within the EU Youth in Action funding program. Our international trainings would be hard to crowdfund for because they don’t have geographically defined community to target, we work more on European and international level, but we definitely could consider a crowdfunding campaign for our local events. Thanks for your advice:-)
6) What are the plans of Be International in 2014?
This year seems to be big for us! Four new colleagues joined our international team and we are starting with re-branding - the need analysis has been recently conducted, right now we focus on vision and strategy redesign. For sure we continue with our international projects, in January I was training a peace-building project in Azerbaijan and our team is taking part in ‘training of trainers’ projects. We would like to be sustainable and don’t rely only on grants and funding; that’s why we started to work as trainers for members of Czech non parliamentary political party and why we would like to run a social-responsible tourist agency in Caucasus. We would like to open our tourist company this year!
7) Would you recommend us some social entrepreneurs events, websites, readings, groups… ?
To be honest, I am not very oriented on the theoretical aspects of social entrepreneurship. I have one good example of social entrepreneurship - I am a big fan of Frank Bold, a law firm using the power of business and non-profit approaches to solve social and environmental problems.
8) What is your dream (as a social entrepreneur)?
I wish I could develop a community living place that would combine an open space neighborhood with a small space just for my family. Something like a co-living platform for the free time activities of our neighborhood where we would organize our time together, develop plans for public events and share our dreams and fears.
9) You’ve been recently to Panama, was it just a holiday or have you gone there with some business intentions, too? What was the highlight of your trip?
Actually, my trip to Panama was my first strictly tourist-oriented holiday ever! Furthermore I was with a group of five friends, I usually travel alone or in a couple. Even I was a bit surprised that there was no direct socially oriented motivation in my journey.
The highlight seems to be that moment when I realized that there really is something magical on the observing aspect of traveling. When I watched two young Panamanian girls laughing and chatting on the boat, I realized that this kind of museum-like approach carries something adorably imaginative too - you don’t have to always ask, you can leave your fantasy to bring lots of ideas about the stories of these two laughing girlfriends. You don’t have to intervene into society every time. That was something for me.
On the other hand I realized that I couldn't only travel the world without being part of the local societies. So fingers crossed for our Be International tourist agency :-)
10) Is there anything else you would like to add?
If you really want to change something, you should start with yourself. Don’t wait for others to change.