In 2016, Danijel Bertovic of Croatia traveled to Chicago to participate in WorldChicago’s Professional Fellows Program. Danijel works for a Croatian development agency called PINS, which supports entrepreneurial growth in the largely rural, mountainous region of Croatia known as Gorski Kotar. In Chicago, Danijel completed a four-week fellowship with the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago (ICNC), which has a similar mission to PINS—namely, to strengthen economic and community development in Chicago’s Kinzie Industrial Corridor. ICNC achieves its goals through various means, including operating the Make City Incubator, one of the largest and oldest manufacturing-focused incubators in the United States.
Through working at ICNC, Danijel had the opportunity to observe the positive impact of incubators firsthand—and he was so taken with the concept that he created his own back home in Gorski Kotar. As a testament to his experiences at ICNC, Danijel also applied for a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Croatia, which enabled Steve DeBretto, his ICNC supervisor, to attend the incubator’s inauguration in early 2020. While there, Steve led a workshop on startup funding and ecosystem development, and he looks forward to watching the Gorski Kotar entrepreneurship ecosystem grow with the new incubator’s help.
Steve has also learned new things from Danijel. He commented: “When we hosted Danijel through a WorldChicago program in 2016, we couldn’t have imagined that we’d be continuing to benefit from it four years later. But by keeping in touch and this reciprocal visit we’ve been able to compare notes on what works and what doesn’t and learn from each other.”
Steve and Danijel embody all the values of citizen diplomacy, and we are so proud that we could be a part of their journey. Thank you to Steve and Danijel for sharing!