In Albania, Arnen and Ivo created the project “Tek Bunkeri”. Based on a social innovation approach, they seek to transform abandoned military facilities and prove their economic potential for local populations.
The bunkers: a part of the Albanian history that has to be used
Travelling around Albania makes one realize the omnipresence of bunkers. Why are there so many? Between 1967 and 1991, the country’s communist leader Enver Hoxha built thousands of bunkers – some say up to 700 000 – as a protection against any invasion. They have never been used but building them has ruined the country.
Among those bunkers, “some have already been used, mostly for private purposes”, Ivo explains. “As they were build collectively by the population, we think that any transformation should contribute to the common”.
In 2016, as part of his studies, Ivo launched – with Babeta, from Albania and living in Berlin – a first project that took the form of an artistic event. For a weekend, a cultural festival took place in bunkers above the capital city of Tirana: paintings and tags from local artists, music, discussions and screenings of documentaries about the military facilities. On this occasion, he met Arnen, an Albanian architect and bunker specialist who got involved in the Tek Bunkeri adventure.
A pilot project to prove that local communities are actually rich
After travelling the country for a month and visiting between 60 and 70 villages, Arnen, Ivo and Babeta are now launching the first pilot project in three villages in central Albania: Nivica, Progonat and Gusmar. They officially met with the mayors and inhabitants of these villages to present the project and their ideas: rehabilitate some bunkers to install mushroom farms, plastic recycling and upcycling machines and a way to use sheep wool, an abundant resource that provides very good insulation.
Next April, they will come back with experts and students to carry out workshops with volunteers from the villages. The aim is to train them in the fields and activities that have been decided. “We promise them that we will work with them and train them on turning the pilot into businesses, that will be their businesses”, Arnen clarifies. 25 other Albanian villages have been identified where similar projects could be implemented.
A broader objective: developing a social innovation network in Albania
The Tek Bunkeri team hopes that this project strengthens connections between villages and people from the city. Its aim: “be a space of collaboration, to integrate horizontally and vertically as many actors as possible to create a strong networks of local change in Albania”. Because even though the population shows interest in social innovation, nothing has yet been organized.
On top of that, they plan to implement a social innovation academy, which would offer online courses and practical tools. Their broader goal is therefore to “change the way people think” and to promote social innovation and its utility for local development.
Find out the project’s backstage and follow them on their Facebook Page.