Big ideas: Southern Carpathians workshop strengthens bison-community bond
At the beginning of May a group of social entrepreneurship professors and students met with community representatives in the Southern Carpathians rewilding area. The ideas they brainstormed will further the development of local nature-based business and reinforce the connection between people and reintroduced bison.
In the Southern Carpathians rewilding area, where Rewilding Europe and WWF Romania have been reintroducing European bison since 2014, our goal is to use wild nature – with a particular focus on the bison – as an engine for developing the region. Today such development involves nature-based tourism, as well as community-based and educational initiatives.
At the beginning of May, a multinational group of 22 social entrepreneurship professors and students gathered at the first bison release at the village of Armeniş, where they met with representatives of the local community association called AMZA (Bison Hillock Association Armeniş). In a productive collaboration, the workshop group brainstormed five great business ideas to further community development.
AMZA acts as a partner in organising bison transports and releases, building relations with authorities, and developing and providing nature-based tourism services and products. With a strong entrepreneurial component, the ideas generated by the workshop were based on the use of local traditions, and the development of products, services and nature-based tourism infrastructure to promote the rewilding area as a destination.
The five ideas included a common signage system for Armeniş, directing locals and visitors to places such as schools and shops, as well as houses open for accommodation and traditional workshops. The signs would be made by local children and feature both bison and traditional motifs.
Another idea was to sell wool-based souvenirs, based on products locals make for their own use. This idea will be debated further at an upcoming “prosperity camp” in the village of Sat Batran, which will see urban professionals and local entrepreneurs exchange insight and experience.
Among the concepts currently in the testing phase are the development of an application that connects local producers directly with guests or consumers. The app would also include a feature rewarding small mountain clean-up actions with discounts on local services or vouchers for organic products from WWF’s partners and the local AMZA association.
Both students and locals were enthusiastic about the outcome of the workshop.
“I was surprised to see how many great ideas the workshop generated,” says Heleen de Lange, a student at the VHL University of Applied Sciences Holland. “Learning about the lives and stories of local people helped us to come up with solutions that really complemented each other. Once you’ve experienced this rewilding area it’s impossible not to want to develop it further and celebrate its beautiful wild nature and culture.”
The Armeniş workshop took place as part of the European Programme “Community Learning for Local Change“, with the support of WWF Romania. The goal of this programme is to promote social entrepreneurship as a solution to the challenges faced by European communities and prepare the students involved for future roles as social entrepreneurs.
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