Association Progres: Living Up to Our Name!

Recognizing their potential and the opportunity to foster a supportive internal environment, the Association for Psychosocial Support and Better Future “Progres” has joined the organizational capacity-building program led by the Institute for Youth Development KULT. Seeking to integrate their values into the existing work system, the dedicated team from this Association took advantage of the numerous growth opportunities provided by the program. Their commitment to progress paid off.

The association’s staff were well aware that the process was demanding but ultimately necessary: “We realized that staying where we are was not an option, and we need something to propel us forward. Learning about the experiences of other organizations, we realized that this would be a big time commitment, but it was very clear to us that it would be worth it. We didn’t approach it lightly, just out of curiosity – we very consciously embraced the opportunity.”

The Institute’s first Job Shadowing guests in 2024 were employees of the “Progres” Association.  Today, looking back on the experience, they say: “The job shadowing experience was very interesting and it was the first time that someone let us in to such an extent. We got more than we expected and we had a clearer picture about what we want to do next. After that, we had some internal discussions on which aspects we could implement in our organization. It is very difficult to bring about change within the entire team; it’s quite a challenge. But it’s important that the entire team be involved in the change. It makes a big difference when someone passes on information to you compared to when you attend a training session. Job shadowing was great at showing us the different ways another organization operates. After that, we realized the need for some change, and working with the Institute made it easier to accept change. In this case, the Institute was like a bridge – we crossed it and realized how such organizations are supposed to function.”

They also stress the importance of people adjusting their work to meet the Association’s needs: “Initially, new tasks may seem overwhelming, but as time goes on and you engage in the process, you eventually grasp the purpose behind these efforts.”

They found the training sessions very useful: “We benefitted a lot from the training sessions, and some of them really came at the right time, like the financial management training. At that time, we were already in the process of building our organizational capacities and we needed help. Each training session introduced new insights. It’s so important to hear from others who share their practices and challenges. This helps you realize you’re not alone if you haven’t fully developed something yet. Then you realize there’s room for you to develop, to prepare everything you need, and make your work more professional. Meetings with representatives of other organizations helped a lot. We now have strong relationships with organizations introduced to us by the Institute, as well as organizations that approached us on their own due to our increased visibility,” said representatives from the Association “Progres.”

Progres has had very positive experiences in collaborating with other organizations, with frequent communication aimed at mutual support, assistance, and dialogue, all of which are crucial for the capacity-building program. When asked about their relationship with users, they note that it has always been stable but has strengthened over time: “This process has made us more visible. We try to take our users’ feedback on board, especially when it comes to project proposals and planning. The visibility we achieved benefits our users as well, so when they say they’re taking part in one of our projects, it resonates differently with people and is taken more seriously. We don’t mean in terms of experience, because that hasn’t changed, we mean the community. It is easier for our users to advocate for something if we are more visible, and government institutions are more likely to see us as more credible stakeholders”.

When asked what motivated them to start this process, they said: “We wanted to make sure we’re not stagnating. We have now created an environment where we are happy and proud, because you can’t work somewhere where you’re unhappy and on something you don’t value.”

“We wanted to live up to our name and make some progress of our own.

“I always remember being told: “You can do it!” I distinctly remember the tone of one of the Institute’s employees when they said that to us. During this process, the message for everyone was: “You can do it, you have potential, you can grow.” We felt very supported. I believe that saying “No” is okay and should always be an option, but we were never at the receiving end of it. The Institute’s staff based their approach to us not on criticism over something being late or not good enough – they focused on supporting us instead. A process like this one cannot be managed by someone who is not deeply immersed in the civil sector and familiar with our daily realities. That balance of credibility and a friendly approach was the most memorable for me,” says Azra Frlj, president of the Association.

What particularly stuck with them was the word “reflection”: “The staff at the Institute used that word a lot and it was something that really motivated us. Now, whenever we have a framework for something, we take time to reflect on it and make it even better. The word and the concept behind it have since become part of our process”, says Sanja Čović, deputy president of the Association.

In addition to the wealth of new knowledge, experiences, and procedures they have adopted, they emphasize the importance of having written policies. While previously overlooked, written policies are now making their work easier.

Finally, here is what they had to say about the benefits of going through this program: “It’s hard to explain all the benefits briefly, but they primarily involve growth and strengthening of our organization. If you realize the real purpose behind growth and the underlying processes, you will better appreciate how valuable it is. That’s been our experience. We believe that if an organization really commits to this, results will follow. Everything provided in this process is an advantage—from the training we undergo to the support of the Institute’s staff. We’re sure there isn’t a single organization that hasn’t experienced change through this program. However, there are different levels to success – it’s all individual. Some will excel in one area, others in another, and it’s all a very positive thing,” says “Progres.”

You can read more about the organizational capacity building program HERE, and if you have additional questions, you can reach out via email to

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