How can we fix ‘DIS’ system? Approaches to the Demand, Intermediation and Supply Nexus of Youth Employment Projects (Part 2)
Part 2: How to reach the masses: using mainstream media to inform young Albanians and their parents about the labour market
This is the second blog in a series of three concerning youth employment projects in Eastern Europe. We discuss the potential of HELVETAS’ application of Market System Development (MSD) approaches to strengthen the job markets in Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo. Each story focuses on a different, yet interconnected, aspect of the labour market system: today’s story focuses on interventions that can help to strengthen information and intermediation services.
Started in 2013, RisiAlbania is a youth employment project in Albania, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) that aims to improve access to employment opportunities for young women and men using an MSD approach.
As a development project you want to ensure your impact is as big as possible; scale is often a primary concern and you want to reach as many beneficiaries as possible. In a sustainable way of course! So, why not target the entire beneficiary group? This is exactly what the RisiAlbania project has done; stimulating the Albanian mainstream media to potentially reach all young Albanians and their parents and use innovative tv, radio and newspaper programmes to report attractively on the labour market.
What’s the challenge?
Young people, and their parents, need easy access to labour market information: they want to know what are in-demand skills and professions and what are realistic education and career choices. At the moment, this information is certainly not easily accessible. While in other countries the mainstream media may provide this type of information, until recently this was not happening in Albania as the national media are focused very narrowly on political news and entertainment.
Moreover, the media also has not fully appreciated how profitable it could be to report on labour market issues; it has a huge potential audience, since a fifth of the population are young people between 19 and 29 (plus their parents) whose primary concern is finding a decent job. Another barrier to labour market reporting is the fact that the media does not have the knowhow or skills to report on this topic in an attractive manner. While basic data about youth unemployment is to some extent available, developing an interesting radio or tv programme about young professionals requires resources and new reporting techniques.
What type of intervention did RisiAlbania develop?
With this in mind, RisiAlbania aimed to change the way mainstream media report on labour market for young people: from sporadic and unspecific reports to regular and tailored formats.
The first step was to raise awareness on the profitability of reporting on labour market issues through a national conference aimed not only at the media but also at potential sponsors and advertisers. By producing and disseminating attractive formats about the labour market, the media will take up an important and profitable role as an information provider for a large audience of young people who require accurate information about the job market. At the same time, private companies will become aware of the commercial potential of these new media formats and will decide to sponsor the programmes, turning the new formats into a profitable model for the media.
As a second step, an open call for proposals helped RisiAlbania partner with three mainstream media, covering TV, radio, print and online to develop specific labour market programmes. The reception of the new programmes has been hugely successful: the two tv programmes saw an increase of their audience of 23% and 85% during the season, while the audience of the radio programme increased with 56%. With such promising growth figures it is no surprise that an increasing number of private companies are willing to advertise or sponsor the programmes. This has motivated the media companies to continue with the formats and to plan for the second season. Actually, a good sign of ownership and sustainability is the fact that the three pioneering media have all made decisive changes to their formats for the second season, assuming that these changes will make the programmes even more attractive to young people. Moreover, several other media channels have expressed interest in developing programmes on the topic and are expected to start collaborating with RisiAlbania in the coming year.
Key to the success of the labour market media programmes is ensuring that the formats are also attractive to young people. In this respect, it is important that journalists continue to strengthen their skills and expertise, which is why RisiAlbania is not only collaborating with existing journalists, but is also targeting future journalists. An important dimension of the intervention has been the introduction of a module on Labour Market Reporting to the curricula of the Department of Journalism and Communication at University of Tirana. Other universities in the country are also approaching the project in order to introduce the module in their own curricula.
What can we learn from the media intervention?
This intervention of RisiAlbania has shown that the media can be an excellent partner to reach scale – in this case, potentially the entire target population! In working with the media however, there are key points to keep in mind. 1) Focus on the business message. The media do not choose to start reporting on labour market issues because youth unemployment is one of the top social problems in the country, but because it’s profitable! Convincing the media and potential sponsors goes hand in hand. And 2) make it attractive! This may require some new skills and therefore training, that should be available not just for working journalists but for future journalists too. A new generation of journalists is being trained and will further contribute to the transformation of the Albanian media landscape.
 HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation is a politically and denominationally neutral development organisation, which is supported by around 100,000 members and patrons, as well as 12 regional volunteer groups.
 Market System Development: Improving the lives of the poor or disadvantaged requires a transformation of the systems (including rules and functions) around them. Market systems development recognises this reality and provides a coherent, rigorous approach to understanding and intervening in market systems so that they function more beneficially and sustainably for poor or disadvantaged women and men. Adapted from the Operational Guide for the Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) Approach, 2014