The BIRN effect

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So BIRN is ten years old, and I have been asked to write a few lines about what it has meant to me. I have so many memories of my time with this unique organisation, of fascinating people, hard lessons, and incredible experiences, that it’s difficult to know where to start.

I remember the first nervous decisions we took in an out-of-season hotel on Bjelasnica mountain to set up our own organisation; how we descended on Dragana’s summer house in Boka Kotorska to thrash out plans for a documentary on Kosovo’s future, something that may not seem so ambitious now, but when you remember how little infrastructure we had then, was really quite audacious; and how I seemed to be constantly on the road, going from capital to capital, and embassy to embassy, looking for funding to get us up and running.

In those first few years, we all did anything and everything we could to realise our ambition to set up an outlet for quality journalism that would inform both locally and internationally on the most important issues facing the Balkan region. It was hard, hard work, and there was little room for anything else.

After three years, first as director of BIRN’s regional hub, and latterly in charge of getting the Fellowship up and running, I decided to move on.

Although my aim then was to achieve better balance in my life, somehow to this day I still find myself regularly deep in excel spreadsheets and funding applications at ungodly hours. Maybe that’s the BIRN effect: once you have realised how hard you can push yourself, and what this can achieve, it is difficult to stop stepping up to the plate and striving for the best.