In times of crisis, creativity and resourcefulness are invaluable assets. A slow economy can turn into a positive challenge as well as an opportunity to grow, build and create. (GRUPA) is a group of volunteer designers, artisans and architects actively involved in the effort of social entrepreneurship improvement in Slovenia and in real-life experimentation on the “future of living”.
(GRUPA) saw an opportunity in the current economic situation. Their native country of Slovenia provided the perfect testing ground: “a pool of knowledge, where any question can be answered by someone that knows someone that you know — it’s a really nice place to start.” (from the GRUPA book)
(GRUPA) works closely with the Centre Of Cyclical Trade (CPU), a newly established company with the purpose of positively influencing regional and national ecosystems, improving attitudes to the environment, using waste materials as resources, decreasing unemployment and stimulating environmentally aware development.
As research shows, 4.5% of the 10.1% of unemployed Europeans are highly educated — what they lack in money they have in time and know-how. (GRUPA) took this fact and coupled it with the knowledge that high quantities of scarce and reusable resources such as wood, iron and plastic were being expensively disposed of — 3.6 million euros spent just in Slovenia.
They came up with the answer by creating alternative social and economic systems where everyone works doing what they know best, exchanging what they have for what they need but cannot afford, while learning new skills that will give them more value in this new exchange system.
This is how Gostilna dela (Working Restaurant) came about.
Gostilna dela is a social enterprise project created within the Job Factory social union, with the goal to create a restaurant where 20 youths who are threatened by long-term unemployment and social exclusion are trained and employed.
(GRUPA)’s wide range of skills made them able to develop various parts of the project, ranging from the organisation of workshops that served to connect the place with the local community, promotion, fundraising, collection of used materials, architecture, graphic design, product design and the fabrication of all furniture.
Workshops like Work for a Snack helped to create a strong link between the project and the community by inviting anyone interested to help with their own ideas, knowledge, material contribution and hands-on development of the restaurant. In exchange, (GRUPA) offered snacks prepared by the 5 young cooks who were to work at the future Gostilna dela restaurant.
These workshops strengthened the links between the local community, employees and project partners. People’s emotional involvement with the project helped to promote it as well as integrate the restaurant into the local environment.
The restaurant stands out for its unpretentious, minimalist and functional design, the manual graphics made using analogue techniques, and a lack of superfluous elements.
“The project’s main purpose was to create jobs for the youngsters, therefore we made a decision, which was to open up the kitchen, so that the young cooks would also be the visual center of attention of the restaurant.” (from the GRUPA book)
It is heartening to see how a creative and determined group of designers, architects and artisans helped to turn an old chinese restaurant into the warm center of a community. They did it with a minimal budget, and along the way created jobs, friendships, exchanged knowledge and re-purposed old furniture and dishware. There IS hope in this bleak economic climate afterall.