22 students and professors specialized in social entrepreneurship from 7 countries, together with the Bison Hillock local initiative group from Armeniş, Caraş-Severin, have outlined 5 local business ideas last week, contributing to the sustainable development of the community.
Armenis Commune, known as the Bison Hillock, hosts an ambitious project to reintroduce bison in the wild initiated by WWF Romania and Rewilding Europe in partnership with the Armenis City Hall and to create a community development model based on the special natural values and the presence of this emblematic species in the region.
Students grouped in multicultural and multidisciplinary teams have formulated community development solutions together with the locals. Having a strong entrepreneurial component, they are based on the use of traditions, the development of local products, services or ecotourism infrastructure to highlight the destination of the Bison Hillock.
“WWF Romania through the new international program Panda Labs uses design thinking to create a multi-disciplinary collaboration framework. This method brings more speed in delivering new, human-centered solutions, but also a creative, iterative mentality and tolerance to failure. We work par excellence with people from other areas who use their training to address the real challenges of the grass. “Oana Mondoc, Community Development and Innovation Specialist
Every year, in the Tarcu Mountains, bison are transported from breeding centres across Europe to form a viable, free, population of this vulnerable species. Working closely with the community, the presence of the bison can give the opportunity of a prosperous future to the Armenis commune, where Europe’s largest mammal is a key attraction for guests and an element of local pride.
Among the concepts currently in the testing phase are the development of a local vendor that tempts tourists with the area’s key points, a web 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 service costs or vouchers for organic products from WWF’s partners and the local AMZA association.
Locals and members of local government have helped shape a “prosperity” camping idea that is geared to the exchange of experience between urban professionals and local entrepreneurs. The location provided by the Armenis City Hall can be tested at the first edition of the Banat Brunch event taking place on 1-2 June in the Sat Batran.
The capitalization of material and immaterial patrimony was the focus of design teams and generated two new solutions that bring guests closer to the community. A unitary pattern system for points of common interest in the village (school, dispensary, shop, etc.) together with households that open their doors to tourists for produce and accommodation. The signs would be made by children in the community and inspired by both the bison as a new emblem of the place and traditional motifs.
The fifth direction proposes testing many types of wool-based souvenirs that people have or produce for their own use. Based on the “market” feedback, the arguments for an investment in a new product line will be outlined, with the support of professionals who take the invitation to exchange experience in the “Prosperity Camp”.
Explorarea zonei cu rangerul și fondatorul Asociatiei Măgura Zimbrilor Armeniș WWF-ROMANIA
The annual bison transports necessary for the formation of a viable population and the long-term WWF commitment in Armenis will help the Bison Hillock community to move and scale these ideas. Armenis, Sat Batran, Feneş and Sub Marginea have ingredients to grow through ecotourism, also thanks to the presence of the largest mammal in Europe – a key attraction for tourists, scientists and investors.
“We have seen how strong the interaction between students and locals can be, they are so spontaneous and open. I visited a school and I was welcomed with open arms, I received spontaneous invitations in the houses, to eat their food; the heartfelt hospitality you have in this country is at the heart of rural development and through it you can build any project. “, Prof. Dan van der Linde, HVHL University of Applied Sciences Holland
I was surprised to see how many great ideas came out after we got right into the lives and stories of people. It is incredible how teams have developed solutions that complement and amplify each other. I understand the impact that may be so close to “beneficiaries”. If you get here, it’s impossible not to want to develop this area and celebrate its traditional values. ” Heleen de Lange, VHL University of Applied Sciences Holland
- More about Panda Labs here.
- Follow the activities in the Bison Hillock on the Facebook page here.
- More about the LIFE-Bison project of rewilding here.