This week Aljaž Brodnjak from Prizma Foundation (Slovenia) speaks about one of the good practices identified by HOPE project the SocioLab.
What is SocioLab? What are SocioLab’s main objectives?
The project "Active and connected for new jobs and inclusive society - SocioLab"
is developing and establishing a comprehensive ecosystem to strengthen the potential of individuals, initiatives and communities in order to expand the social economy (social enterprises and cooperatives) and related creation and maintenance of quality and sustainable jobs in the social economy sector and expanding the offer of accessible socially innovative products (services and products) that will ensure greater social inclusion of vulnerable groups, contribute to poverty reduction and increase the quality of life and economic and social development in the Podravje region
What are the current main challenges and barriers in Podravje Region?
• Lack of collaboration in region
• Emigration of highly educated persons abroad
• Lack of quality jobs
• Poor exploitation of excellent geostrategic position
• Lower rates of entrepreneurial activity
• Lack of sustainable mobility
• Food self-sufficiency potential is not exploited enough
All the above and especially the fragmented support environment and lack of collaboration and communication of key stakeholders are the main reasons the social economy sector is still underdeveloped in Slovenia.
What is SocioLab doing to overcome the main challenges identified in your region?
Based on the experience gained in the project, past experience and synergies from other projects, we have come to the following conclusion: The supporting environment for the social economy, comprehensive support ecosystem, must not be fragmented, so we will formalise it in the form of a network of support partners, SocioLab partners and other key stakeholders. The network has been developing since the beginning of the project (2018) and is in its final phase. This network will operate in the Podravje region for now.
The project also contributes to addressing some of the key challenges identified in the Regional Development Programme for the Podravje Development Region 2014-2020, since the project started in 2018, which we faced in the region in terms of job shortages, unemployment (vulnerable groups of young people, the elderly and the long-term unemployed), low productivity, lower rates of entrepreneurial activity, low share of innovation enterprises. The Covid-19 pandemic contributed further to the tightening of the situation in society, in the labour market and thus to the need to promote the development of new socially innovative products (services and products) and jobs in the social economy sector. Within the framework of the project, we identified great potential and opportunities for the development of the sector in the following areas: Care for older people at home, Accommodation facilities for the elderly, Social inclusion, New services and technologies, Sustainable tourism, Food self-sufficiency, Sustainable mobility, Housing issues and premises. We organised several focus groups regarding this areas and furthermore organised workshops to develop socially innovative ideas in response to the potential and opportunities that we identified.
What local good practices could SocioLab share with Derry & Seinäjoki?
SocioLab can share with Derry (Northern Ireland) and Seinäjoki (Finland) our path to building a comprehensive support ecosystem. Additionally, we can share the concept of our support scheme for social enterprises and cooperatives. From the first step (analysis of the local environment), through activation phase, idea generation and at the end developing, testing, and scaling up phase (Social Innovation Accelerator). Because 40 initiatives/social enterprises/cooperatives went through our mentoring support we could present good practice examples of successful mentees, which developed their socially innovative ideas into their own businesses. Finally, we can organise a tour of social enterprises and cooperatives in the region, where social entrepreneurs and social innovators present themselves.
In the future, what impact do you think SocioLab will leave to your region?
Our vision is to extend the comprehensive support ecosystem to the Eastern cohesion region and after that to whole Slovenia. Because we are going to establish a model that is transferable to other regions in Slovenia.
The Committee on Social Economy and Social Innovation at the Podravje Regional Development Council is one of the important advocacy achievements of the SocioLab project, since in this way we have achieved integration into the regional development of Podravje in the future. Within the framework of the regional development programme, we have also proposed a new project, Podravje center of social innovation and social economy, where we want to build on the results, synergies with other projects in the region, whose primary occupation is Social Economy and Social Innovation and experience so far and, through a formal network, further develop Social Economy and Social Innovation in the region. The project focuses on Social Economy and Social Innovation for schooling youth and the establishment of online tools for the operation of social innovation interfaces in local environments, i.e. in all municipalities of Podravje, because we also want stronger cooperation and possibly additional funding from local communities.
We have registered the new draft project to continue our work and develop a (financially) sustainable model after SocioLab will end (April 2022) and to continue to produce top results and support the sectors of social economy and social innovation. Moreover, the vision of the formal SocioLab network is that operationality is financed not only from public funds, but also from sponsorships and donations from socially responsible companies and others. The final step is to be autonomous and finance the network through our own services, which includes mentoring, consulting, workshops, organisation of fairs and conferences, socially innovative team buildings, generation of socially innovative ideas etc..