Friday, March 29, 2013

Creative power of local communities

March the 21st was a wonderful day. It marked the beginning of spring. But the beginning of the spring was not the only beautiful event that marked this day. There were many wonderful events sparkling all over the world at the same time. In Slovenia, as well. In the village of Krka, to be precise. The podium was given to the projects, people, and teams that connect people, raise awareness in local environments, and reveal new dimensions of creating social prosperity. They were powered by professionalism, courage, systemic approaches and mass involvement. It is wonderful to be able to cooperate, co-create and live in the time and space that is inspiring us so profoundly and opening up new dimensions. This is a story about the creative power of local communities. A story of modern communities.

A summary of topics and a glimpse at the atmosphere

Innovative Local Communities (InLoCom) are an important part of the innovation ecosystem and we are proud to report that a growing number of good practices are being developed in Slovenia, as well. These practices prove the importance of mutual cooperation and open dialogue among all stakeholders through sustainable innovation. Local community projects are the key driving force of regional development and play an important role in implementing strategic guidelines of the international community.

The 3rd InLoCom conference highlighted the following key topics: the role and importance of innovative local communities, cross-generational cooperation, tourism, innovative entrepreneurship, local self-sufficiency, energy production, spatial development and responsible innovation. However, all participants also felt something else. Something beyond the usual experience of a formal event. The entire gathering was imbued with the dedication of the participants, with the dimension of natural and cultural heritage of the local environment and original insights pointing in the direction modern society should develop. We appreciate the privilege of being able to share this moment.

Source: Boštjan Pucelj

The conference was opened by Dušan Strnad, Mayor of the Ivančna Gorica Municipality with the following words: "Welcome to the Ivančna Gorica Municipality, to Krka, one of its twelve pearls. Firstly, I would like to thank the Development Centre Litija and all mayors participating in the Development Partnership for welcoming us in their midst two years ago and enabling us equal participation. We will strive to contribute to our best ability. I would also like to thank the organisers for choosing Krka as the venue for this event for it is abundant with cultural, natural and historic beauty. This is an excellent opportunity for all of us, not only for the Municipality but for the entire region as well. With the "Prijetno domače" (Pleasant & Homely) brand we are jointly creating a story of twelve pearls, twelve local communities – each with its own identity – that form a very important whole."

Source: Boštjan Pucelj
Opening speech, Dušan Strnad, Mayor of Ivančna Gorica Municipality

The opening was followed by the award ceremony for the most innovative local community projects in 2012/2013, a programme aimed at establishing good practices, supporting original solutions and stimulating new successful projects.

Recipients of the awards for best local community innovation projects in 2013:

•    BTC d.d. Ljubljana for "BTC City in ženski smučarski skoki" (BTC City and Ski Jumping For Women), Ljubno Local Community
•    KUD Fran Maselj Podlimbarski Krašnja, Lukovica for "Sprehod skozi preteklost vasi ob vodni učni poti" (A History Walk Through a Village Along a Water Learning Path), Krašnja Local Community
•    Šentrupert Municipality for "Dežela kozolcev" (Land of Hayracks), Šentrupert Local Community
•    Polšnik Tourism Association for "Abrahamov ključ Srca Slovenije" (Abraham's Key to the Heart of Slovenia), Polšnik Local Community
•    Miroslav Brinovec for "Oglarjenje v Oglarski deželi" (Charcoal Making in Charcoal Country), Dole pri Litiji Local Community
•    HIŠA! Association for "Živa dvorišča Maribora" (Maribor's Living Courtyards), Maribor Local Community

Recipients of the awards
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

In his closing of the ceremony, Franci Rokavec, Mayor of Litija Municipality, said: "With these six examples, which are not isolated, we are able to appreciate the possibilities and opportunities we have before us and which we often fail to transfer to others. Nevertheless, this occasion is very encouraging for these good practices reveal the wealth we have among us and all we need is to be able to establish the paths to it."

Franci Rokavec, Mayor of Litija Municipality
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

In the introductory part of the conference, Violeta Bulc, General Manager of Vibacom, initiator of the InCo movement, ne of the organizers of the event, presented The role and the importance of Innovative Local Communities (InLoCom) today: "This project began in 2006, when the Development Centre of Litija, then still a rather small organisation, was bold and courageous enough to pick up on the vibrations and significance of the local community. This led to the first conference, which incited a strongly positive response, particularly by the media. We instantly knew we were on the right path. From that point on, everything kept growing naturally – we expanded our knowledge, experience and the awareness of the importance of the role of local communities for the development of an region or a state. Thus, we developed the first drafts that led us to the initial model of the Innovative Local Community. In 2006, the initial model was relatively simple and their scope very limited. Over the next few years, they kept becoming clearer, and with every new realisation and new experience we upgraded our approaches and developed a more systemic solutions and models. From Litija, to San Francisco, from Šentrupert to Brussels, and this summer, from Krka to Vietnam. Good stories are always where they are supposed to be."

Violeta Bulc
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

This was followed by Aleksandra Gradišek, Director of the Development Centre Litija, initiator of the Heart of Slovenia brand with her presentation of the Heart of Slovenia as an example of a systemic approach in developing local communities: "From Litija, we transferred our knowledge and hope for integration to the broader central region of Slovenia. Each story, each project must have a vision. Thus, when we organised the first conference of 7 central Slovenian municipalities we defined our vision with the symbol of a tree. We expressed an intent to develop the central Slovenia region into an environment supporting entrepreneurship, tradition and courage. Now we are planning for the next 7 years and we have formulated  a new vision:  the Heart of Slovenia is a door to development and opportunity, for it enables every individual to find self-realisation and improve the quality of life in their environment."

Aleksandra Gradišek
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

Tomaž Smole, Vice Mayor of the Ivančna Gorica Municipality presented The participatory approach to drafting municipal development strategies with examples of innovative local projects. He opened his presentation with a relaxation: "This room and everybody in it have a very special energy today so I would like to ask you to participate in an experiment: please, close your eyes to shut off your rational mind, ignore all noise and try to feel the atmosphere. I hope you have felt the pleasant embrace of the quiet and the slowing down of the heartbeat, the state in which we are open to realisations otherwise suffocated by the daily hustle and bustle. [...] We tried to formulate a development programme that would address the needs of our residents. Our local development programme is built on 5 pillars: intergenerational cooperation, entrepreneurship and tourism, local self-sufficiency, energy production, and spatial development."

Tomaž Smole, Vice Mayor of the Ivančna Gorica Municipality
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

Topics, presentations, highlights: InLoCom 2013

The conference continued with lectures on the topic of personal development in the local community.

Jože Ramovš, PhD
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

Jože Ramovš, PhD, Director of the Anton Trstenjak Institute, the "Healthy Ageing and Good Cohabitation” research as the basis for the development of the Ivančna Gorica Municipality: "The topic of my presentation is the issue of ageing in Europe, Slovenia and Ivančna Gorica in the coming 40 years; what we can do today to prevent it becoming a story of anxiety and develop a vibrating one for years to come, not only for today. Modern Europe is facing historic demographic changes in terms of scope and difficulty. 25 years from now, the population aged over 60 in Slovenia and Europe will almost double compared to today. The middle-aged population will be smaller by a third, or perhaps a quarter.

Amalija Kuder
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

Amalija Kuder, Municipal Council member from the Zagorje ob Savi Municipality, Chairwoman of the Intergenerational Cohabitation Board, "Example of intergenerational cohabitation": "As mentioned earlier, I am from the Zagorje ob Savi Municipality. We have much to be proud of, but I have to say we are most proud of our people. We often say that our advantage over big cities is in our people; we appreciate them and want to offer them as much as possible. We want to offer all generations all in our power to support their development. Therefore, we allocate annual budget funds to programmes not prescribed by any laws."

Mojca Štepic
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

Mojca Štepic, Head of Development at the Development Centre Litija, "Education model at the Heart of Slovenia": "Heart of Slovenia implements a systemic model of education. Systemic meaning that the programme is very comprehensive and broad and works well in practice. The model comprises many stakeholders, locations and topics. It is based on an overall strategy and fundamental strategic documents developed for the Heart of Slovenia region. Underlining all these documents is a fundamental mission, a fundamental goal that is also written in the mission of the Heart of Slovenia project, i.e. that all our systems and education programmes implemented in the region are aimed at raising the creative potential of the region and improving the quality of life for the population living and working in the region. All of our education programmes and topics are aimed at building the confidence of the region as well as that of individuals and encourage them to be more market-oriented, recognise development opportunities and possibilities offered by the region, and promote active involvement of every resident in the joint development of the region's identity, and thereby the Heart of Slovenia brand."

The conference was added another dimension with Lado Jakša's original music and multimedia show which added an additional charge to the event's energies and helped the participants accept, understand and see beyond the topics presented.

Lado Jakša
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

Under the guidance of Andrej A. Chiaiutta and Vesna Klemenčič the participants invigorated their bodies and restored their energy in order to be able to attentively follow the conference to its closing.

Source: Boštjan Pucelj

Matej Zupančič, Director of the Medianova design studio: "Significance of symbolism in the development of local identity"
"When we speak of symbols we are actually speaking about communication. Communication is one of the greatest modern challenges. We are living in a world that knows where we are supposed to go, but we somehow cannot find common ground. A symbol is an intersection of different types of communication. [...] The symbol of the Heart of Slovenia brand should actually be a door knocker to represent the symbolic level of knocking on the doors of people's consciousness, courage, the local community and all its stakeholders. The project is actually trying to motivate the local community and individuals to work to improve their quality of life and participation. A symbol is not merely a sign we create, it is a very relative and broad term. A stroll through the local community may be symbolic for some people, for example. Thus, such endeavours often come down to building a local environment in which people have a sense of well-being, which in turn motivates them to participate in shaping it."

Matej Zupančič
Source: Boštjan Pucelj
"The InLoCom symbol represents the innovative local community. When we were creating it, we wanted to emphasize the letter 'I' for innovation by depicting a beacon (innovation as a beacon leading us to the harbour of our life – ideas, synergies and cohabitation in correlation with innovation), while the name itself – InLoCom – could also stand for innovative local communication.”

Simbol of InLoCom
Source: Matej Zupančič
The conference was concluded with presentations of innovative projects in various local communities.

Presentations of innovative projects

Andrej Janko
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

Andrej Janko, BTC d.d., the "BTC City and Ski Jumping For Women" project: "The aim of the project was to implement a successful programme with our partners, but especially to find a successful way to present it to the public, both locally and abroad, in order for the sport to receive the deserved respect and to support the local community in their attempt to revive a tradition and find new sources of income.

Vera Beguš

Vera Beguš, the "A History Walk Through a Village Along a Water Learning Path" project: "The idea was to restore a trough in our village. However, funds for restoration of water wells were only available based on the local school's participation. This led to an activity where children with the help of their parents, grandparents and neighbours started recording their water sources, based on which a water learning path was developed, including the village’s history and tradition. Thus, the project expanded, becoming much more colourful, and finally turned into a project of sustainable revitalisation of the village."

Rupert Gole
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

Rupert Gole, Mayor of the Šentrupert Municipality, the "Land of Hayracks – First Outdoor Hayrack Museum in the World" project: "The 'Land of Hayracks' project exceeded all my expectations. Initially, when I presented the idea within the municipal management, our goals were much more modest than its current actual results, resonating both in Slovenia and abroad. This project won us an award for one of the three best practices in Slovenia within the Zlati kamen (Golden stone) programme and is inspiring us and becoming a potential for developing business opportunities in our town."

Jože Kos
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

Jože Kos, the "Abraham's Key to the Heart of Slovenia" project: "The idea of Abraham's Key came up when my wife and I were discussing how to celebrate our 50th birthdays. We involved several associations and committees to develop the idea into a project. Through this process we acquired new knowledge and met many new people from all over Slovenia. We also received a European award. It was a welcome change for our village, for its promotion... so that people could see that we can do some good. However, the most valuable aspect of this project is that it is continued and further developed with each new generation."

Miroslav Brinovec
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

Miroslav Brinovec, the "Charcoal Making in Charcoal Country" project: "The project was implemented at our farm with the aim of connecting the whole neighbouring area where we have a 85 years old charcoal making tradition passed on from generation to generation. The original idea was to develop coal making beyond mere production and sales to find an added and still untapped value. Thus we started a project that has become the link between all local activities and attracts many visitors."

Katja Beck Kos and the team
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

Katja Beck Kos, the "Maribor's Living Courtyards" project: "Three years ago we started opening gates to courtyards in the city centre and found various spaces that were mostly occupied by cars or neglected and calling for work, content, events and gatherings. We initiated small events in cooperation with the residents – from picnics to concerts, exhibitions, theatrical performances – all in close cooperation with the local community, residents and entrepreneurs. The project continues and keeps developing."

The conference also had a strong international component for it was attended by innovation experts from Germany, France, Italy, Lithuania, Ireland, Romania and Malta, hosted in Slovenia within the IN-EUR project by the Heart of Slovenia Development Centre, as well as our colleagues from Croatian Istria. The conference laid important groundwork for successful future cooperation. Thus, the conference's original vibration (integration, cooperation, co-creation) will expand beyond Slovenian borders to the broader European region.

Vesna Rusijan
Source: Boštjan Pucelj

Vesna Rusijan, headmaster of a kindergarten in Pazin: "Let me greet you in the name of the heart of Istria – Pazin. Events at today's conference are an important experience for me and my colleagues from Pazin. I have attended many conferences, but this one was special. At other conferences there were many discussions, lectures, many coffee and smoking breaks, long meals, etc. This conference also presented us with a lot of important information and discussions, but we also enjoyed artistic performances and relaxation and I am truly surprised how energising it was. Each presentation offered new knowledge I intend to transfer to my colleagues when I return home. Until today, I experienced the Heart of Slovenia symbol as a human heart – an emotional place – but now I realise that it is a place that is removing boundaries and opening doors to new information.

Impressions from the conference – GALLERY.

Let us add at the end few comments from the conference participants: 

Mojca Štepic, RCL d.o.o., organiser of the InLoCom contest: »This year's InLoCom conference is exciting from several aspects: the number of excellent innovation projects received, the participants and their diversity, interesting topics, colourful cultural programme and the number of international guests. However, the reactions to our work are what counts most for they indicate that we will be meeting again in two years."

Andrej Janko, BTC d.d., award recipient: "The 2013 conference on innovative local communities, titled 'From Our Hearts to the World', offered a pleasant atmosphere and presentations of interesting innovative practices and potentials from across Slovenia. To us, the awards presented to innovation projects represent an additional confirmation of our path, but most of all give us new drive and motivation to continue developing innovative ideas in the future."

Gašper Kleč, RCL d.o.o., event participant: "I am enthusiastic because of the diversity of break-through and innovation stories. I believe they are key for further development of our society, while at the same time they inspire the local population, their ideas and visions, as well as prove that much can be achieved with joint efforts. I believe that there is still plenty of work in terms of projects – there are many across Slovenia – but we also need to work on presenting them to the public through event such as this conference."

Katja Beck Kos, award recipient: "We were very surprised to receive an award and with how quickly the committee responded. I came to this conference with great expectations and seeking new information and experience. I appreciate all such organisations for I believe the Heart of Slovenia project has the soul that this kind of work requires."

Ivana Davidović, Agens Engineering, event participant: "The conference was very interesting for it offered a fresh view on things. You can see shifts in our environment. It appears that many breakthrough projects have already been completed, while others are still in the development phase and provide us with a vision of a promising future for Slovenia."

The co-organisers of the conference (Heart of Slovenia Development Centre, Vibacom, Ivančna Gorica Municipality, InCo movement, InLoCom Awards Jury) are aware of the importance of such conferences, and are proud to be able to support its manifestation. We would like to thank everyone who offered us a support, especially the local people. Their energy is ingrained in all new insights, thoughts and inspiration which will develop, grow and be enriched in the coming years, on the wings of the energy created by the event. We hope to see you again at the 'InLoCom 2015' conference on innovative local communities.

We can only truly speak about a sustainable development of a country or a region, when local communities start vibrating with a new spirit. Let it sparkle!

Violeta and Kaja 

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