For the beginning, would you be able to explain us in short what Stablo znanja is and how did it come to that idea?
Marko: The whole story started during the realization of a commercial projekt for a firm in the Student Center’s cinema. The project was very successful and focused on new trends so several of SC’s employees noticed that similar activities lack in Student Center, as well as the young people with fresh ideas. I have been wanting to start socially contributing projects, the ones that will help the society to move forward, for a very long time. I had a great luck of managing „Advent on Zrinjevac“ and „Ice park“ on Tomislav’s square, which achieved a great success and because of which Zagreb was recongnized as an advent destination. However, I thought that it was necessary to to undertake a more significant step for a society thanks to which the youth and the society would have a benefit from right now, as well as in the future. I tried to put this in one and thus developed the idea of Stablo znanja. The Student Cente was chosen as an ideal location for a socially contributing project because of the symbolics, because it remains in the past and could in many ways be related to the state apparatus; therefore, if anything could be changed in the SC and among the youth, it can be done on the state level as well.The message that the project was meant to send was „It can be done!“. We are all a part of the society and each and every of us can, and should have an important role in creating the society, and if all of us decide to go in one direction, no one can stop us. We must not complain without doing our best; we are creating our lives and our future and hence we cannot expect someone will do it instead of us, or that everything will be served and we would be able to blame someone else. The important part is to take on the responsibility.
While developing the idea, I was thinking about what would young people need and what did I miss when I was starting my projects or establishing my company. The idea of the project is based on the excellence and encouraging excellence on all levels, and for this it is necessary to have conditions and tools. After having shaped the idea and written the project, I presented it to my dearest persons and to all of those I thing could contribute to the project and its development with their ideas.
Actually, I got very positive reactions and very little additional ideas. This was the sign I can go to the realization phase of the project. In the beginning I was alone, but I should note the support of my family which encouraged me and a big help from my brother Danko. Alongwith him, I would like to point out a big engagement of my friend Leon Grdić. The two of them have definitely spent the most time in developing and realizing the project. We have been working together on the project for over a year now. Also, I would like to note a support from a friend of mine, Antun Paradžik, an alumni of ZSEM, who moved to Taiwan, and with whom I spent a loto f time discussing about the right steps for a better society.
How come that the Student Center was chosen as the location? Were there any obstacles in accomplishing the project?
Marko: In the last question I have partially answered this one too, but there are other reasons as well. In addition to the above mentioned reasons, there are practical reasons such as excellent location and a large number of students who come to the Student Center on a daily basis. However, students who come to SC do not stay there, it is more of a passageway where they come primarily for student work or lunch and dinner. The Student Center should be the source of knowledge and development of the whole city, even the state, and it is important to work on that. On both sides of the complex there are railroad tracks, which should be symbols of arrival and not leaving, as it has been lately. On the south side of the complex there is AKD – Agency for Commercial Activities which performs important tasks such as printing of personal documents, cards, state exams, coins and the like. It is undisputed that these tasks are important and should be well supervised and guarded as they are, but I believe that knowledge is even more important, that the young people are even more important and that the reflection of SC infrastructure should also be an indicator of this. It would be smart to protect and preserve people and knowledge and that is something we should work on. The project and the starting point of the project are selected for practical reasons, but also symbolic, however, the project is focused on people and their activities, not on location and space, and that is what is essential to emphasize. The obstacle and problem are numerous, but I do not want to talk about tis, I have learned from that. We need to focus on the challenges and obstacles that are now ahead of us. This is just the beginning and I expect other people to join in the goal of creating a better and more successful society.
Marko, can you explain to us what you main motivation was when you decided to start the project?
Marko: We live in a globalized world where everything is changing faster than ever before, at the time of the fourth industrial revolution, which is why we need to prepare for the challenges ahead and waiting for us in the future. There are a lot of information and opportunities in front of us and sometimes it is difficult to decide for the right direction. I believe it is the right direction and work to help the society and the community we live in, no matter where we are. Only in this way can we help and ensure progress to ourselves, to others and to all mankind.
Croatia is a young country whose population had been through for twenty seven years and had to undergo all the suffering and sorrow of the war; it resisted the aggressor, opening a new chapter, which we are all writting now. The defense of Croatia and the creation of a sovereign state is only the first step in the development of state and society and we must be aware of it. Croatia is a country in which I was born, raised, taught and in which I live today.
I had the opportunity to go and live in other, more developed states, have material, but I think it is not right or fair. I think I can and I have to return to Croatia a lot and it would be very selfish for me to go somewhere else without even trying do to the same in Croatia. It’s not easy, I’m aware of it, but it’s not hard either. Too many people gave their lives and created this state on the move so we could have a chance in peace to create a better state and a better society, to throw it all away and leave it. This is my main motivation for everything I do because I believe in knowledge and work-based progress.
It’s hard to fight and not lose hope. I would like the Stablo znanja project to show that this can be enough to begin with. I would like people to take advantage of the opportunity to work, develop their own projects and create a better society. There are many opportunities ahead and we can do a lot of things together, make better living conditions for us and for our descendants.
What is the attitude of our students toward the project like and is there a space for connecting them with the activities of Stablo znanja?
Tomislav: Although we have organized the first gathering of the ZSEM’s Student association of this academic year in Stablo znanja, for the time being most of our students are not familiar with the activities we are performing. There is a trend in which our students associate mostly with one another, and less or even do not associatate with students from other educational institutions at all. There is definitely this possibility of our students organizing projects in Stablo znanja that will be in their favor. It is primarily the creation of better relations with students from other faculties who will certainly be their colleagues today or tomorrow. By this I mean building relationships that allow constructive conversations to occur and a chance for self-development. This is an opportunity for students and us to make a better connection between the student scene in Zagreb with the aim of creating better quality work teams, as the exchange of experiences will benefit both sides. Secondly, we always look for students who want to join the project and hereby we invite all those interested to come and choose their ideal place in the project. Within this project there are other projects to which Stablo znanja is the root, and among them is for the first time the University eSports league. The teams from ZSEM played this year in the League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive where our team entered the match for the third place with TVZ. Also, we have successfully held a programming workshop with the students from ZSEM and exchange students at ZSEM within the elective course of programming, and our goal is to have more of such events. The students enjoyed the cozy atmosphere and wished spending more time here. The potential here definitely exists. Particular contributions can be given by those who have seen similar initiatives during student exchanges because they have seen how in those places students initiate ideas and how they put them in practise. In my opinion, this is one of the fundamental goals of the student exchange, that the person refreshes his/his thinking there and moves more enthusiastically through the life.
How does Stablo znanja function of a daily basis and are you satisfied with the results so far?
Tomislav: We are open for students every working day from 9 am to 5 pm. After 5 pm we usually organize lectures, although we try to organize them after the official working hours so students can have as much time as possible for their own use of space. For now, we are more than happy about how the project is developing. We have had numerous successful projects in cooperation with student associations, organizations and in this 3 months since we started we have a lot to show. Students are still a bit skeptical to the existence of such a space in which they can spend time and are not obliged to pay anything in return. It’s not something they’re used to. However, people’s consciousness is changing and should not be observed as something fixed. From the slightly pessimistic atmosphere of students coming to the Student Center, there is now more optimism and hope for the future. From the projects that we consider as being more successful we could distinguish AIBG Battleground, the largest student competition in the programming of artificial intelligence and numerous education programs for students focused on writing resumes and preparations for entering the business world. I believe that as a society we can move faster when we focus more on the technologies that are currently attractive; in this particular moment they are development of intellingent devices and alternative energy sources.
Which were the greatest obstacles in the project realization?
Marko: As I mentioned, there were obstacle, but those are behind us and I would not want to talk about them. We should focus on the present and the future. The important one are the obstacles and challenges ahead of us, and there are so many of them. That’s what we need to prepare for. But at the same time, there are a lot of opportunities open to us every day and which we can use.
And how about the plans for the future, what would you point out?
Marko: There are a lot of plans for the future and they are all aimed at achieving ambitious goals for individuals and for society. One of the plans is to encourage as many entrepreneurial ventures that will have a positive impact on the economy and creating more jobs as possible. These are short-term plans that we would like to achieve through the formation of an investment fund that will invest in young entrepreneurs. In addition, we would like to provide them with counseling support in their initial phase and thus try to maximize the chances of their success. A success is building another success and we are focused on that. We have some direction in which we want to go, which is good, and this direction can change depending on the environment and opportunities that are ahead of us. For now, our main plan is to continue the project with the same enthusiasm, effort, work and dedication that we have shown so far. We hope that other people of similar thinking will join and create additional value for the project and for themselves. We will continue to build on this and try to create even more.