The Slovak team was the first to host the representatives from partnering organisations and institutions from Finland, Germany and Spain of the Project „Social Entrepreneurship in Sparsely Populated Areas”. Project is supported by Interreg Europe – dotation scheme of European Regional Development Fund. Two-days long visit (25-26th of April 2017) through the region of Gemer – Malohonty was rich in programme and meetings with local stakeholders. There was a lot to share and discuss about the current living conditions of the local people, challenging regional problems and opportunities for the future development.

We were particularly focusing on local and regional needs, as well as past experiences and opportunities in the area of social entrepreneurship.

The Slovak organisers: NGO EPIC, together with Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic prepared the itinerary of the visit. As a part of the program, the new study about „Social entrepreneurship in sparsely populated areas –  region of Gemer, Slovakia” was presented as well.  The international group of partners was meeting various stakeholders, in order to collect the first-hand information about the social entrepreneurship and related issues. The appointments were organised foremost with the mayors, directors and officers of the district Labour Offices, as well as with the representative of the public sector, self-governing local authorities, and regional activists, namely Local Action Group Malohont and Gemer Development Agency. The program has been assembled in a way to allow an insight into the situation in the district towns and bigger municipalities: Rimavská Sobota, Revúca, Jesenské and small municipalities alike: Rakytník, Muránska Dlhá Lúka. Talking about their current conditions, challenges and opportunities allowed us to create a broader picture about the local situation.

The problem of depopulation and economic decline of the region stem from the complex and mutual summation of the reasons, such as: structural economic changes, failure of privatization process in the 90´s period (after the period of communism), mountainous terrain, low quality roads, railway in need of reconstruction, high unemployment rate, missing work opportunities, education structure of the region (high rate of inhabitants with basic level education), migration of young and educated inhabitants, missing experts, insufficient integration of Roma community, dependency on social benefits. On the other hand, the stakeholders are aware of the opportunities, which could play the role of a driving motor of improvement in the development of the region: natural richness (protected National Park area), good geographical position, opportunities in tourism, agricultural land, forests, human resources: labour force, experiences in industry, active civil groups: local action groups, development agencies, opportunities in social entrepreneurship, rich culture and history of the region, bilingualism of the culture (Slovak and Hungarian), etc.

Contribution of the local point of view, together with openness to the discussion and expressed willingness of the local representatives to participate in development of the region, were among the most important outputs of our site visit in Gemer. We really appreciate the exceptional hospitality of our hosts in Gemer and quality of the information they provided and share with us and we are looking forward to our ongoing cooperation.

The organisers are pleased that our project partners  accepted  our invitation to vitist this  truly magic region and we believe that partnership between all actors created by this project will help to uncover and develop hidden potentials of the regions for the benefits of its people

Thanks to interviews of regional Rimava TV (17 – 21 min.) the message about the project will reach the general public.

Read more also in regional newsletter (in Slovak) or see our photogallery or programme of visit.