Wednesday, October 6, 2010

From vision to measurable results – 10 years of growth of the Centre of Development of Litija

Organisations are living organisms that are born and develop; they enrich the world they live in and integrate into it. The Centre of Development of Litija (RCL) is a wonderful organism. Unique. With an impulse that inspires many around it. It connects the different, the similar and those who are searching for something. Those who want to go forward. In this disoriented age, when we are searching for new foundations, RCL provides the Litija Municipality and the entire development partnership of "Srce Slovenije (Heart of Slovenia)" with an unifying power, vision, boldness and professionalism. It interweaves the stories of various individuals, entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, young people and politicians, always for the benefit of the local community and the region. For the benefit of people and the entire ecosystem. For the benefit of future generations and for the joy and fulfilment of the present ones. The RCL team has been led by Aleksandra Gradišek since the beginning. Ten years. Thus, this is also her story.
Don't miss the event at the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia on 18 October, 2010, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., where we will exchange best practices of creating an innovation ecosystem and the preconditions for sustainable development. We will host guests from Austria and hold an electronic conference with speakers from India, Israel and Hungary. Together, we will correlate the key experiences of civil initiatives for promotion and development of an open space.Meet the "InCo Movement", "ChangeTheGame Initiative", "Stanford after Stanford" and other Slovenian initiatives that co-create an open society. Join us and participate in its creation!
VB: Where are RCL's roots? What the impulse for its foundation?
AG: The groundwork was laid in 2000 in Litija, together with the then mayor, Mirko Kaplja. At the time, we were one of many support institutions for the development and acceleration of entrepreneurship that were established across Slovenia. Today we can only confirm that that was a very wise decision.
We are very pleased that the current mayor is also able to recognize the potential and the results of our work, so that we are able to continue developing our story boldly. We have become an established coordinator of development projects in the "Heart of Slovenia" region, which comprises ten municipalities from central Slovenia and stays open for additional new partners. Through our work, we are developing an environment that will be able to face the challenges of today’s societies.
Photo: Aleksandra Gradišek

VB: What are the key achievements of this ten-year long path?

AG: Our key achievement is the breakthrough from being a local development centre to becoming a regional support subject, which currently formally connects 10 municipalities from 3 geographical regions and also shares its wealth of experience abroad. We are proud of the "All in One Place" service point for entrepreneurs that we manage for 2 additional territories (Litija, Grosuplje and Domžale). Another important step in our development was the establishment of the “Srce Slovenije Local Action Group”, which is a public-private partnership that draws funds from the Leader Programme. We use these funds to help locals in development and implementation of business ideas. For example, the "Jarina" rural development cooperative is successfully implementing a local programme of self-sufficiency in food with our help. We are also proud of successful implementation of regional projects for integration of tourism with cultural and natural heritage and of the growing number of successful entrepreneurs in our region.
10 years of Development Centre Litija (RCL). The initial mission of the Centre was to support entrepreneurship, education and promotion and help secure subsidies for development projects of the local businesses. "Initially, we only organised training. But I've always been eager to learn more and thus I persuaded the mayor to support me in doing something more for Litija," says Aleksandra. Through systematic work and balanced promotion of development of the broader community, the initial idea grew into a regional partnership, now called "Srce Slovenije".

VB: How many people have been involved and have participated during this period?
AG: Our development centre successfully launches programmes that are co-funded with European, national and local funding. We have implemented over 50 reference projects, which involved several thousand individuals, including young people, various associations, businesses, primary schools, municipalities and other local institutions.

Photo: RCL team

VB: Which are the key factors of your success?

AG: I believe the most important thing is to enjoy your work, but you also have to have an ability to establish relationships and a desire for change. The focus has to be on benefiting the community. In my opinion, the key factors are persistence, courage, cooperation with the right people and being one step ahead of everyone. I am very pleased that during our initial steps I was bold enough to seek cooperation of top external experts who brought us their profound knowledge that at the time was not available in our region.

VB: Where is the source of your strength and vision?
AG: I've always welcomed the challenge of creating something new and proving that the seemingly impossible can be achieved. I continue to be successful with this approach for I believe that the good begets the good.

VB: You were the first Innovative Local Community in Slovenia and also the first development centre to have joined the InCo Movement. How did that contribute to your success story?
AG: Since our beginning, we have been introducing new programmes to the local community with the aim of presenting opportunities for all our residents. This is why we were bold enough to launch and promote, perhaps even too soon, the programme, called Innovative Local Community. Our participation in the InCo Movement in the broader sense is an opportunity to meet similarly oriented people and to get a confirmation that we are on the right path. Simultaneously, it was an opportunity for promotion and social innovation as the InCo Movement thought us about the innovation and innovative model and presented our story to the world.
Important results: 2740 directly or indirectly involved in projects; EUR 4 million of acquired development funds, 450 jobs, growing visibility of the tourist destination, 3800 units of promotional activity.

VB: Why did you decide for the "Srce Slovenije" development partnership? What does it bring and how does it influence your work?
AG: At a meeting at the geometric centre of Slovenia (GEOSS) in 2006, we signed an agreement on the Development Partnership of the geographical centre of Slovenia. This opened the door for a project that is unique in Slovenia and the broader region by being based on an actual need for creating a critical mass of people interested in development projects with the aim of improving our possibilities for acquiring public funds for their realisation. We could say that the "Srce Slovenije" development partnership is a true social innovation with very tangible results both for the residents and for the target publics.

VB: Where is your development path leading you next?
AG: In the future, we wish to improve the substance of the "Srce Slovenije" brand name and place our region on the map of Europe as a space that promotes creativity, self-realisation and a quality of living. "Srce Slovenije" serves as an example of the power of integration and cooperation and is unique from the aspect of branding since it includes the broadest variety of areas of activity and interest groups.

VB: The broadening scope of operations and influence of the RCL must have been a management challenge? How did you and your colleagues respond to it?
AG: The key challenge of this process was to secure well-timed recruiting and development of new personnel from various backgrounds and professional fields. In managing an organisation that is active in such a variety of fields the key importance lies in appropriate and timely organisation. As a manager I try to be as open as possible. I believe in my colleagues and I trust and encourage them to take responsibility and authority in their projects. Simultaneously, we've had to remain open to constant fluctuation and new comers.
The growth of our region and related activities increased the need for fresh knowledge and wisdom. To develop and strengthen this will be our primary focus for the next strategic cycle.

VB: What is the future role of development centres?
AG: Development centres have been set-up with various purposes and their current activities reflect that. Their future shape and content depend on their managers and on European, national and regional policies. In my opinion, development centres should create and support safe environment for generating, financing and implementing development initiatives. They should be responsible for motivating people, transferring knowledge and experience, development of regional competences and effective promotion of their regions. Development centres are possibly the key catalysts for enriching of social capital and sustainable development.

Photo: Aleksandra Gradišek, mayors of RPSS and
minister for
Local Self-Government and Regional Development

I hope more support structures are set up for better functioning of the society. To be so convincingly aware of their missions. To be implemented with such a clear long-term visions and with such a high level of sensibility for their environments. RCL's story proves that “where is a will there is a way”. With systematic work. With integration. With courage and strong heart connection I know there are more and more such stories. Help them to be heard.

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