Employed, Empowered

Taking place in Serbia, this project aimed to reintegrate Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), refugees and returnees back into society. 

The project started by undertaking comprehensive primary research on both the target group and the labour market of the region. Next, a series of round-tables bringing together experts on the topic were organised at which the results of the research were used, in order to come up with realistic solutions to the issues that the research had uncovered.

The solutions included training sessions on computer literacy, entrepreneurial skills, job-seeking skills, finance etc., for IDPs looking to re-enter the workforce based on the current needs of the labour market. In addition, a network of 10 helpdesks was set up in 7 cities in order to educate, inform, and support the target groups on reintegrating into society. Throughout the course of the project, the helpdesks provided nearly 30,000 services to thousands of families across the Balkans, creating a lasting impact and contributing substantially to the stability, well-being and development of many communities and individuals. The project helped refugees, IDPs and returnees build up sustainable livelihoods for themselves, and, thus, supported the national strategy of the government of Serbia.


CPDD: The Center for Peace and Democracy Development in Belgrade was founded in July 1991 and formed the nucleus of the peace movement. Now, the long-term goals of the CPDD are, amongst others, the development of democratic institutions, a legal state and a civil society, as well as the study of human rights and humanitarian law. The CPDD was responsible for the socioeconomic research on Serbia and for facilitating the round-tables in the ‘Employed Empowered’ project.

NSHC: The Novi Sad Humanitarian Center was founded in 1998. NSHC's mission is to provide emergency aid in times of crisis to people in need, and to promote the development of local communities and the region of Vojvodina. NSHC focuses on the most vulnerable and marginalised groups of the population: refugees, IDPs, the elderly, Roma, the homeless, those deprived of their rights and the poor. The NSHC was responsible for the ’Target Group Survey’ and for running the helpdesks in the ‘Employed, Empowered’ project.


Vision: ‘Employed, Empowered’ was an innovative idea that combined labour market research and primary social reserach with a practical project to tackle the issues of unemployment among the most vulnerable members of society in Serbia. ‘Employed, Empowered’ worked towards integration of more people into the labour force, based on their own abilities and ideas, but equipped with a set of the most common transferable skills needed for modern societies. 

The aim of ’Employed, Empowered’ was to develop innovative ideas and to highlight possible potential in Serbia, rather than listing weaknesses. 


Overall objectives:

  • to develop solutions for refugees, IDPs, returnees and especially vulnerable groups in Serbia, facilitating their reintegration into society with a sustainable legal existence;

  • to build up a network of local and international actors to support feasible reintegration models and advocacy for past or future migrants;

  • to provide information and consultation to refugees, IDPs, returnees and especially vulnerable groups and to support local communities with expert advice and training activities

Specific objective: The specific objective of the project was to support the durable reintegration of refugees, IDPs and returnees into society by researching solutions enabling them to build up sustainable livelihoods for themselves

Target Group:

224,000 IDPs from Kosovo, 150,000 refugees, and an approximate number of 23,000 asylum seekers in EU countries per year as well as especially vulnerable persons in Serbia. (source: UNHCR)


  • to frame a very clear picture of the factors in Serbia determining access to sustainable income for the target group

  • to obtain an exact profile of the target group, their professional skills, future expectations and fears;

  • and combine both into a gap analysis, in order to build up  a concrete idea of useful training and support measures, which will also be of use to the whole donor community  


  • Survey of the target group and research on the economic factors and the labour market in Serbia

  • Organisation of 3 high-profile round tables to develop model solutions, based on the research results;

  • Set up and run helpdesks in seven cities providing active field support; (Belgrade, Novi Sad, Sid, Vrsac, Subotica, Nis, Kraljevo, Kragujevac, Valjevo)

  • Development of training materials, translating all the acquired knowledge into a practical tool 

  • Capacity building activities with the training materials, workshops and active support.


The EC award offered under the Aeneas Programme amounted to 80% of the total required for ‘Employed, Empowered’.  The EC Grant amounted to 559.867 EUR. For the full budget of 699.834 EUR, match funding of 139.967 EUR was needed.


‘Employed, Empowered’ was a very successful project due to its large impact in the region, positive and effective results, and encouraging feedback. The network of ten helpdesks provided 29,147 services to 8,292 individuals in 2008 and 7,155 individuals in 2009. Approximately 26% of the beneficiaries were refugees, 40% were IDPs, and 34% were former refugees with Serbian citizenship. The ratio of males and females accessing the help-desks was nearly equal, with 49.4% of beneficiaries being male and 50.6% being female.

The helpdesks offered a source of pertinent information for the target group concerning their options for the future, including legal advice, training materials and capacity building. In addition, the project created a set of model solutions to build up sustainable economic livelihoods and the creation of a social network to support reintegration.