Founded in 1994, SPARK is an independent, dynamic international development organisation with 80 staff members in offices in Amsterdam (Head Office), Southeast Europe, the Palestinian Territories and Africa.
SPARK field offices are established in regions that are grappling with the complex effects of recent conflicts, including high levels of unemployment and limited educational opportunities for their people. Many of these people do not have resources to contribute to effective and sustainable economic growth of their fragile societies. Out of work, idle, with little invested in the future, are common socio-economic conditions that risk pushing people toward criminal activity, and re-invoking social unrest.
SPARK is determined to increase the number of sustainable job opportunities and economic prospects for people in these societies, through development of higher education and the local private sector. With special attention to marginalised groups, including youth, women and returning refugees, SPARK works closely with local partners to equip these populations with knowledge, tools and motivation to lead their post-conflict societies into prosperity.
SPARK works closely with a range of local partners - including chambers of commerce, universities, vocational schools, governments (both local and foreign), business institutions and civil society organisations - to build cooperative, locally-sustainable networks of support for promising entrepreneurs.
In collaborating with local partners:
> SPARK listens directly to the demands of the community to pinpoint the needs and priorities of local beneficiaries;
>SPARK promotes local ownership of projects, which is essential for continuing support beyond SPARK's presence in that region;
> SPARK focuses on wide impact, linking local, regional and international partners to build strong networks of support, resources and services for members of various societies.
Education for Development
SPARK projects support the ongoing processes of transition and reconstruction in post-conflict societies, by strengthening educational and economic institutions.
Through their Educational Support Projects, they aim to contribute to the sustainable restructuring and reform of educational institutions in post-conflict societies in a way that is lasting and demands the pro-active participation of the local communities. Their main goal is the improvement of the quality of education system and the encouragement of long-term regional and international academic cooperation.
Education can serve as a neutral platform in (post) conflict societies. Through education, young people from different backgrounds have opportunities to not only gain new knowledge, but also to develop a greater understanding of other cultures, peoples and historical narratives.
SPARK's educational activities are increasingly linked with economic development. SPARK aims to improve the quality of education and the educational institutional capacity of universities, alongside increasing young people's employability. The organization believes that universities should produce job creators not jobseekers. their educational activities therefore aim to foster entrepreneurship.
Private Sector Development
SPARK concentrates on building local and regional networks of institutional and political support for young entrepreneurs - establishing and supporting Business Start-up Centres (BSCs), strengthening the capacity of local partners, organising trainings and conferences, and other local initiatives that help stimulate business development within fragile economies.
SPARK is currently supporting the following private sector development projects:
Small- and Medium-sized Enterprise Development (Kosovo, the Palestinian Territories, Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi)
Business Service Centres (Southeast Europe, the Palestinian Territories, Liberia)
Young Employed and Independent (Serbia)
Youth Entrepreneurship Civil-Public Partnership (Serbia)