Community-led initiatives in Slovenia

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A circle before lunch at the 10th Ecovillage day at Podgrad, Vransko, in Slovenia in 2016.

Slovenian community-led action is carried out by NGOs (officially) and sometimes by civil initiatives (inoficcial). Slovenia has a long history of farming cooperatives. Ecological projects are strong and active across the country, the permaculture movement is vibrant, while ecovillages and transition are at very basic stages of development.

Overview

Community-led initiatives have a long tradition in Slovenia. In most cases, these initiatives are organised within non-government organisations (NGOs). In 2020, there were about 27,000 NGOs [1] in a country with a population of 2 million, meaning there is one NGO per every 74 people.

1300 of these NGOs are uninted under the umbrella of The Center of Nongovernment Organisations of Slovenia which serves as the national information, advocacy, training, advisory and project centre.

Plan B for Slovenia[2] is a broad civil society platform for sustainable development, consisting of 37 NGOs that focus on sustainability, ecology, climate change, environmental protection, zero waste, biodiversity, alternative energy etc.

Most NGOs are small and active mostly in their local environment. Umanotera Foundation, one of the oldests environmental NGO in Slovenia, has been compiling reports on best practices of community-led action for many years. The latest is the web-platform Dovolj za vse (There is enough for everyone), [3] In 2020, the platform had 44 best practices listed of bottom-up action on sustainable spatial planning, sustainable mobility, self-sufficiency in food and organic farming, local circular economy and sustainable consumption, energy efficiency and energy supply from local renewable sources, participatory management or other community-based management of resources. Prior to launching this platform, Umanotera had been publishing A Catalogue of Best Community-based Practices [4]

In Slovenia, the term "(civil) initiative" is commonly used to describe either formal or informal local groups fighting against new socially or environmentally harmful developments, such as environmental and health policies, industrial pollution, river dams for powerplants, high-voltage powerlines, wind turbines, highways, building factories and shops on protected areas and farmland, etc. Civil initiatives and established NGOs often have different approaches and this can lead to tensions and disagreements between them.

The collaboration between community-led initiatives and the government varies greatly, depending on leading parties and individuals. Some local communities are well self-organised within Community-led Local Development (CLLD) programme while others are not.

Permaculture in Slovenia

Main page: Permaculture in Slovenia

A tour of permaculture gardens at Sunny Hill community in Slovenia.

Permaculture started developing in the mid-1990s and the Slovenian Permaculture Association was established in 1996. The association promotes permaculture through educational programmes and networking with organisations and individuals that share similar interests. Permaculture has a substantial following, dozens of certified trainers and hundreds of trainees that passed the 72-hour Permaculture Design Course.

Ecovillages in Slovenia

Main page: Ecovillages in Slovenia

By 2020, no ecovillage project has met the requirements to qualify as established ecovillage by the norms of GEN Europe. These rural projects mostly consist of one or two families and a few loosely affiliated members, rarely more. In 2020 there were about 20 such projects based on similar principles. Individual groups are well connected and they keep meeting up at least once a year on the Ecovillage Day[5] which has been taking place every year since 2008. Since 2017, the Ecovillage Day overlaps with the European Day of Sustainable Communities.

Sunny Hill and Veles farm engage in international projects and partnerships with other members of GEN Europe. Sunny Hill Association, a member of ECOLISE, serves as an unofficial national ecovillage hub. Ecovillage Mokri potok saw the construction of the first houses in 2019/2020. In the first phase, it will consist of 9 houses, and potentially more in the future.[6]

Slovenia, a former republic in ex-Yugoslavia, has a socialist/communist background. Local communities and neighbourhoods used to be strongly connected until 1990s when the Western lifestyle brought more individualism and breakdown of the sense of community. Perhaps that is why there are no (larger) intentional eco-communities in Slovenia, even though smaller eco-communities have been popping up and later disappearing from the 1970s on.

Transition in Slovenia

In Slovenia, there are no real Transition towns or villages. Most activities stemming from Transition movement are taking place under the umbrella of organisations that represent permaculture and ecovillages. In 2020, the 2 Slovenian Transition initiatives[7] listed on The Transition Network website[8] were inactive.

Community Food Production in Slovenia

Main page: Community Food Production in Slovenia

Community Supported Agriculture first became widespread in the second decade of the 21st century. Individual organic farmers deliver boxes with vegetables and fruits, a few also with dairy and meat products. Some farmers united into cooperatives or small businesses to market their products together, for example, Cooperative Soil and Sea (Zemlja in morje), Zabojček zdravja, Association Deteljica and many others.

Gardening is very popular in Slovenia and even people living in blocks of flats in cities can find areas dedicated to community gardening at the outskirts of the city and sometimes even near the center. Polonca Lovšin, co-initiator of the community garden called Beyond construction ground finds that "One of the characteristics of community gardens is that they often occupy degraded urban areas."[9]

Community Energy in Slovenia

Main page: Community energy in Slovenia

Solidarity Economy in Slovenia

Main page: Solidarity economy in Slovenia

The SUSY report of 2015 on Social and Solidarity Economy indicates that the concept of social economy is little known or spread in Slovenia. Better known is social entrepreneurship which is attributed in official documents also the role of a " connection factor, as it encourages people’s involvement and volunteer work, and in this way strengthens solidarity in society". The responsibility for the social entrepreneurs sector on national level changed from the Ministry of Labor, Family, Social Affairs and Equal opportunities to the Ministry of economic development and technology in 2015.[10]

Let's Do It World in Slovenia

Main page: Let's clean Slovenia in one day.

Let's Do It World movement came to Slovenia in 2009. Slovenia was among the first 10 countries to do a vast one-day national cleanup, engaging a large number of citizens to collect illegally dumped waste. The cleanup on 17 April 2010 had 270,000 participants or 13.5% of the population of Slovenia. The cleanup was organised by the Ecologists Without Borders association. The association had a crucial role in the spread of the movement to other countries in Southeast Europe and also globally.

Degrowth in Slovenia

Degrowth is represented in Slovenia mostly by Focus Association for Sustainable Development. Focus is involved in national and international projects, conferences and advocacy related to degrowth. In 2019, the book Degrowth, A vocabulary for a new era has been published in Slovenian language.

Other(s)

These are some of the larger relevant movements and projects:

Collaboration with Local Government

References

  1. NGO sector: facts and numbers, CNVOS website, accessed on 14 May 2020
  2. Plan B for Slovenia official website, accessed on 14 May 2020
  3. Dovolj za vse, official website, accessed on 15 May 2020.
  4. Umanotera's 2015 Catalogue of Sustainable Community Practices.
  5. The 13th Slovenian ecovillage Day page, accessed on 18 May 2020
  6. Mokri potok ecovillage website, accessed on 18 May 2020
  7. Transition Slovenia official website, accessed on 14 May 2020
  8. The Transition Network website, accessed on 15 May 2020
  9. "Ljubljanski skupnostni vrtovi" [Ljubljana Community Gardens]. Viva (in Slovenian). 2015-08-01. Retrieved 2020-12-31.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  10. Troisi, R., di Sisto, M., Castagnola, A., 2018. Transformative economy: Challenges and limits of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) in 55 territories in Europe and in the World. Sustainable and Solidarity Economy, Firenze.