While interning at The Young Foundation in London, I have learnt about many inspiring ideas and projects tackling various social problems. My chats usually end with the same question for me: “And what is the situation in Slovakia like?” Although social innovation is not a well-known term in my country, I would argue that it is happening in practice. The various examples I picked for my blog speak for themselves.
The ideal of local, alternative currency is increasingly popular globally. It has recently been put into practice in Slovakia in the village of Široké. For the occasion of the village’s 690th anniversary the mayor issued special mintage – “širocký sokol”, a currency interchangeable with the euro at a one to one ratio. Even though the mintage was meant mainly as a commemoration of the anniversary, at present it is accepted in local stores, inspiring people to buy locally and so increasing local pride and loyalty. In addition, the village came with another innovative idea and founded a small insurance company. The assigned fund – called the local treasure – was established in order to provide immediate assistance for residents affected by unexpected events. The fund is financed by the inhabitants’ donations, is managed by the local government. They are only permitted to use half of the money over a year, ensuring the fund’s longevity. However the fund managers also have the option to invest the fund in gold, which is felt to give a reliable return. This is a nice example of how municipalities can help themselves even in the times of overall austerity.
Christ the High Priest Institute in Žakovce
Innovative, but often perceived as a controversial project by the residents, this institute was founded by the priest Marian Kuffa in Žakovce. The institute doesn’t focus just on one disadvantaged group, but provides help for various groups at the same time – homeless, ex-prisoners, drugs addicts, prostitutes, people with disabilities or single mothers. Already more than 250 people live together in the institute. There they have dismantled the old buildings and built new ones to extend the accommodation capacity. They are self-sufficient in terms of food thanks to the large kitchen garden they tend to, as well as maintaining their own bakery on site. They also produce various types of toys, which are sold on the internet. The main conditions for staying in the institute are strictly no alcohol consumption, no crime and the obligation to work.
Roma integration remains one of the biggest social challenges in Slovakia as it has been for decades. Several projects are simultaneously managed by the association Divé maky (Wild Poppies). Within the scholarship programme the association supports talent development of young Roma people from Jarovnice, the biggest Roma settlement in Central Europe. Donors have the option to provide financial support to a particular child on a long term basis, and some of the backers are well-known personalities. Divé maky organizes Roma festivals, summer schools and manages extracurricular activities. Children are given the opportunity for development and a helping hand to overcome the challenges of poverty. Through their work, the organization is trying to change the perception of the Roma community in the majority’s eyes.
Social Impact Award Winners
To conclude, I would like to present more projects submitted for the first year of Social Impact Award in Slovakia. The competition was organized in order to present and appraise socially useful projects. The winner was Farmama – “farming guide in the town” – an information portal to encourage people in cites and towns to farm on their balconies. The project published a manual and tips for growing, storing and using of herbs, fruits and vegetables grown on the balcony. The second place was shared by the Eyeblink Project, which involved frequency analysis of blinking at computer workstations to protect people’s eyes and Quirect – a “YouTube” for job interviews. The winner of the public vote was the getFarmer Project – a web application showing where you could purchase produce directly from farmers in your local area. Thirty projects applied, showing that the world of social innovation in Slovakia is lively and has a promising future.
Disclaimer: This blog was conducted within the project “Learn from the Best” which has been funded with support from the European Commission within the LLP – Mobility (PLM). This blog reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.