Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Innovative local communities – a potential with the power to awaken Slovenia (and perhaps, the world)

A healthy community is the core of social development. It is the cradle of social values; a space of transgenerational cooperation; a bond between the past, the present and the future. It is a core that can provide us with a field of security, trust and respect – the basic preconditions for the full realisation of our talents. It allows us to create, develop abilities and add our contribution to the common welfare.
However, just as with any other group, the community needs leaders, active members and appropriate activities. It needs to understand its mission and its inner strength. The significance of community has been neglected and degraded in Slovenia. Innovation ecosystems endeavour to raise awareness about the significance and role of community in the shaping of an open society. Only solid, confident and dynamic local communities can establish successful cooperation with others and act proactively in regional and global networks.
The Conference on the Innovative Local Community (InLoCom 2011), held on March 11, 2011 at the Šentrupert Primary School and organised by the Development Centre Litija, the Šentrupert Municipality, the Dobrovnik Municipality and the InCo Movement for an Innovative Breakthrough, was exceptional in every way. Furthermore, it proved the need for a more systematic and thoughtful development of (innovative) local communities. The participants, organisers, co-creators of its focus established a field of trust, respect and security for all participants. The presenters of its topics shared their experiences, beliefs and visions passionately, professionally, and sincerely. The room was infused with an energy of joy and an awareness that the right projects and the right needs can always develop into success stories. Simultaneously, the participants regained understanding that only expert knowledge, a professional approach and a high level of involvement can create the conditions for sustainable welfare. This is the story of InLoCom.

A summary of topics and a glimpse at the atmosphere

Innovative local communities are an important, yet neglected part of the innovation ecosystem. In these times of uncertainty, the search for a sound foundation and a vision for life, more and more people are turning to their roots – the community. Thus, a broad spectrum of good practice is being formed, re-establishing trust in cooperation, opportunities and long-term goals. The results of the projects implemented at a local level prove how vital a role they have in regional development and the implementation of EU’s strategic guidelines. The Conference opened with insightful, outspoken and visionary lectures, providing us with fresh views on the importance of local communities and new approaches to the development of an innovative environment.
They highlighted the following key issues: self-sufficiency in food and energy, entrepreneurship, destination management, heritage, social capital focused on social entrepreneurship and management, as well as the role of innovation in education.

Participants of InLoCom Conference
Source: Petra Krnc

Violeta Bulc, MSc: “…genuine needs of the social environment and projects that address them are a precondition of sustainable development… An innovative local community encourages open and constructive debate and establishes the conditions for sustainable development… It is the source of social welfare; it includes natural and cultural heritage, personal development and social welbeing… Everything we do, all our activities are important and influence the broader community we all are a part of… Time as a component that always presses us must be substituted with concentrated awareness and understanding that things happen only when we are ready."

Blaž Kavčič, MSc: “…We need fundamental social change and a new perspective on how we work and create, and our attitude towards the environment and ourselves… A change for the better can only be achieved if we work together... Innovation does not allow hierarchy; it arises from the autonomous visions and ideas of individuals and should be listened to… A local community draws ideas from various sources; it is innovative and eager to learn, which is a precondition for development – change and innovation are more likely to develop in environments where people are ready and enthusiastic to engage themselves; a motivating environment is of key importance – it must be open to new ideas, new quality and new products… Local idiosyncrasies are a growing challenge of those planning the future as they need to integrate the old in the new to shape new identities (archaism and the future)… Innovation with a focus on sustainable development is a key component of the business frame of thought and we should follow examples from abroad by giving regions a more active role..."

Aleksandra Gradišek, Rupert Gole, Violeta Bulc
Source: Bojan Brecelj

Aleksandra Gradišek: “… Srce Slovenije – Heart of Slovenia, is a methodical and effective gambit by the Development Centre Litija, it is a practical example of taking the innovation path. The project merges natural and cultural heritage. Their logo is in the shape of a door knocker representing the act of knocking on the individual's awareness, which is the basis of all progress and work in any environment. The roots of the Srce Slovenije – Heart of Slovenia project are in Litija, from where the initial idea of promoting business initiatives grew into a broader regional concept that now involves 12 municipalities.”

Rupert Gole, PhD: “What I am hearing [here] are thoughts and ideas that daily race through my head and this tells me that we have taken the right path and have started [implementing our vision] early enough to serve as a beacon to others… We built a kindergarten with a wood biomass heating and power plant system and a charging station for electric cars. Thus, we have proven our intentions are serious and have set an example for our residents…They can use the electrical power produced by solar cells on the sloped southern roof of the kindergarten, while our charging station for electric cars is a step towards the future.”

Marjan Kardinar: “… It is important to have the right ideas and to secure support of the local community… We should think innovatively and independently. Our community was able to identify its key advantages and resources and defined the three key pillars of our development: entrepreneurship, tourism and social development based on social capital.”

Welcome by Mayor of Šentrupert Municipality
Source: Petra Krnc

Topics, presentations, excerpts: InLoCom 2011

Violeta Bulc, MSc, InCo movement initiator, General Manager of Vibacom d.o.o.: The InCo movement and innovative local communities

Blaž Kavčič, MSc, President of the National Council of the Republic of Slovenia: The role of innovative local communities in the development of the modern society

Aleksandra Gradišek, General Manager of RCL d.o.o., Srce Slovenije – Heart of Slovenia project: Srce Slovenije – Heart of Slovenia as a model of development of an innovative local community

Agata Kopač, Msc, Igor Glavan, Msc, Vibacom Holistic Business Centre: Importance of promoting micro and small businesses in the development of a local community
Igor Glavan, MSc: “The market of today is a global, which is both advantageous and challenging; it provides with us access to a significantly broader range of products and services… Small business remain loyal to their local environments and endeavour to maintain good relationships with them, because they depend on them… Small businesses are agile, they can grow quickly and are the most important employers; they are an incubator, they have the potential to become large companies and are very innovative (they have the advantage of not competing with large corporations), yet they establish competition… The role of the local community: Small business are at a disadvantage compared to large companies, particularly when it comes to financing; therefore, they need help. Local communities must provide the infrastructure (industrial zones, business incubators) and encourage innovation in children, entrepreneurs, farmers and the civil society in general.”

Dejan Podgoršek, General Manager of PortoAlpe d.o.o.: Destination management and innovative approaches in local communities:

Dejan Podgoršek: “Innovation and tourism have a lot in common, but they both require funding... A change in mentality contributed to innovation – people differ in their attitudes towards themselves and the society... Tourism is a selfish industry, because it maintains cultural and natural heritage out of its own selfish interest – we must stop selling heritage and start selling experiences… The Šentrupert Municipality is innovative – it focuses on the people living here…
The shift in mentality is evident in the building of an identity of the local population... tourists see the product/destination as a whole and pay for services available in the market, because they believe you know what you're doing; they are buying an experience and are willing to pay more for a better one.

Sara Horžen, Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Development and European Affairs: The “cradle to cradle” concept of promoting the development of local communities

Rupert Gole, Mayor of the Šentrupert Municipality: Self-sufficient energy production and the development of local communities

Marjan Kardinar, Mayor of the Dobrovnik Municipality: Development guidelines for self-sufficient energy production in the Dobrovnik Municipality

Franci Dovč, Project Manager of Eco-school projects and projects organised by Moj Dom (weekly insert of the Dnevnik daily newspaper): Mayor as a promoter of an innovative breakthrough towards a low-carbon society

Nataša Smrekar, Jarina Rural Development Co-operative: Self-sufficiency in food and the development of local communities

Nataša Smrekar, Jarina Rural Development Co-operative: “At the beginning of 2010, we established a mobile supply service – at first, farmers themselves were supplying schools, kindergartens and catering establishments. We have now established a delivery service with a rental van, which means that farmers no longer need to deal with distribution and can focus on production… The situation as of February 2011: we are supplying 7 kindergartens, 1 secondary school, 26 primary schools, several catering businesses and – as of the beginning of this year – residents as well. We have established local fairs. The first fairs are taking place in Šmartno pri Litiji today and in Ivančna Gorica tomorrow.

Domen Zupan, Zavod Ekovas: How to reduce consumption of natural resources by half and secure a sustainable future

Prof. Živa Deu, PhD, Faculty of Architecture: The role and the importance of the local community in integrated protection of cultural heritage
Prof. Živa Deu, PhD: “We must build modern, environmentally friendly buildings … this includes their appearance … we need more responsibility and understanding of aesthetics – local communities should be more aware of these aspects.”

Lili Mahne, Director Notranjska Ecological Centre: An innovative local community and the cultural and natural heritage
Natalija Komljanc, PhD, National Education Institute of The Republic of Slovenia, Quality and Research Centre: Open learning methods for the development of the local community
Cveto Fendre, consultant of U4energy: The pan-European U4energy competition and its role in local communities and education

Jasna Baloh Dominko, Director, Doba Faculty: Social management and its role in the development of an innovative local community
Simona Krebs, Nova NEGA, Simona Krebs s.p.: About Laughter Yoga

Photogalery from Conference

For the first time, the Conference also included awards for innovative local community projects. The main aim of the awards is to establish good practices, support original solutions and encourage development of successful projects. List of InLoCom 2011 Awardees.

Awarded projects
Source: Petra Krnc

For the fourth year in a row, the InCo movement presented an award for young people's contributions in the field of innovation communication. The youngsters also attended a morning workshop of Laughter Yoga, which brought great joy to them and others.

More photographs from Conference

We conclude with a short statement by Simona Krebs, Laughter Yoga workshop mentor: “Firstly, I would like to say that this is the first time I have attended such a creative and innovative conference and I am very pleased, because it has made me realise how closely connected we all are. I sincerely congratulate you for the initiatives and actions of this movement and I realise that I have only become acquainted with a small part of it. The workshop for children was marvellous and proved, despite the very different ages of the attendees, how laughter can bond people regardless of their age or title. The presentation at the conference has shown how a few minutes of laughing exercises can alleviate the atmosphere and group energy, as well as how willing we all are to laugh. This is truly wonderful. I hope I have managed to transfer at least a little bit of knowledge about laughter to all participants and that everyone has felt how serious, simple and important laughter is for the individual and the society as a whole.

Workshop of Laughter Yoga
Source: Petra Krnc

I don’t think I need to say more. May the vibrations spread further!