“From local farmers to product supply chain: improving the nutrition of those who don't get to decide what shows up on their plate”
Lilijana Brajlih is the founder and director of the Institute POTENCIAL and the fair trade store Moja Štacuna, as well as a member of the Administrative Board of the Association of Social Economy of Slovenia (social enterprise). She is one of Slovenia's most recognizable names in the sphere of entrepreneurship committed to social responsibility.
Which is your role and duties in the Intitute Potencial? Which previous experience are you bringing in and which new competences are you hoping to acquire thanks to INNO-WISEs?
I am the founder of the private Institute POTENCIAL and the local fair-trade store Moja Štacuna, and started with social entrepreneurship without particular field experience. Five years later I became a sought-after mentor who lectures on social entrepreneurship and inspires change with my personal example. The institute is continuously forging new connections, exploring new opportunities and development ways. We hope INNO-WISEs project will help us to build a wider network of contacts and gain new managerial competences needed for growing our business.
Among other activities, the Institute POTENCIAL deals with the food supply. You run an agricultural plant, which in addition to principles of social entrepreneurship and cooperative practices in the local environment also engages in fair trade frameworks. What is special about your work, what makes it more than just a routine? Is there something you're particularly proud of?
Our institute is a supportive environment for socially positive activities. Its innovative programs and projects create so-called green jobs, intended for those segments of the population who struggle to find employment. We employ (and have employed) quite many of these. Our short food supply chain Moja Štacuna began as an European project. The inter-organizational market then provided us with an opportunity, we took advantage of it, and so our project grew into a thriving business. Supply of kitchens in public institutions (day care, schools, hospital, retirement home) is the principal activity of our responsible commerce. In cooperation with producers and socially aware customers, the public institutions, we keep food standards exceptional. Seasonal, fresh, made in nature-friendly and people-friendly ways, purchased for prices set by the farmers, for visible customers, these are the arguments that bring results and open doors on the market.
Which is your WISE’s approach to innovation?
We prove that public procurement isn't an obstacle but rather an opportunity. Our pioneering success paved way for more participating public institutions and new farmers who've never supplied to these before. It's a socially and locally beneficial cooperation we take great pride in. We aren't jealous when people get in touch directly with one another, to us the entire landscape is a challenge, and we're constantly looking for ways to improve the nutrition of those who don't get to decide what shows up on their plate. I still see local possibilities for improvement in all phases of the food supply.
In your region, tourism seems to be growing fast, offering also opportunities for social entrepreneurship. How do you perceive this potential?
I'm glad that the project INNO-WISEs actively combines tourism development opportunities with chances for the social economy. A short supply chain is, in a way, the primary activity in the field of local food supply, being also transparent. Naturally, providers of tourism services want to serve their guests wholesome, local, seasonal and fresh produce above all; the foundation of an authentic culinary offer. The sector is also a challenge for all those who care about the inclusion of vulnerable groups, about new approaches, the improvement of existing supply frameworks or helping out beginners in the field. Key factors reside in the acquiring of new skills and competencies, learning from the best, courage in the exploration and testing of unconventional concepts, trust, and cooperation. Projects like the INNO-WISEs provide a specific support environment that connects and inspires us. If we resolve conflicting opinions and organize into a cooperative, a sustainable and democratic business model, we can expect further development and success.
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