Urban Alternatives is launched by a collaboration of different actors which are united in their efforts to create a more democratic, just and sustainable world. This map seeks to highlight initiatives that work towards this goal. Proposal for initiatives not listed yet can be made directly on the website. This process is open to new collaborations.

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Röstånga Tillsammans

Social & Solidarity Economy

What challenges did this initiative look to address?

Röstånga is a small village of 900 inhabitants that is located about one hour from Malmö in Southern Sweden. Despite being rich in nature (it borders a national park), Röstånga also faces the usual challenges of rural Sweden – depopulation, empty houses, social challenges, and public services that are closing down. Villages like Röstånga have experienced both the withdrawal of public sector services (schools, youth clubs, elderly care, public services) and the private sector (no investments due to poor revenue and low prices on estates, and no provision of services).

This development urges communities in rural areas to reorganise and rethink both their role in the local community and the capacity to run services. Röstånga Tillsammans saw this vacuum as a potential for grassroots activity by the inhabitants themselves.

What has changed?

Today, the NGO Röstånga Tillsammans owns a grant-independent shareholding company with more than 400 shareholders. Together it has raised more than €100.000 to invest in real estate and houses within the village of Röstånga. Röstånga Tillsammans owns seven houses – both private housing and commercial buildings – including a restaurant, a museum of modern art, and a local beer brewery.

In 2015, 300 asylum seekers were placed in the asylum centre in Röstånga. Röstånga Tillsammans developed a joint initiative where local volunteers and asylum seekers together worked on the houses. Some of the refugees, after getting their permanent residency, chose to stay in Röstånga with their family; they are now renting the flats they renovated themselves, as tenants in the development company. This is not an immigrant-integration-project – it’s about local development and using the local recourses of those that want to contribute, regardless of where people are from.

Formerly run-down empty houses are now filled with new tenants or business. They have almost no houses on the market and the school’s student population is increasing as young families move to the village. Local collective self-esteem has risen and people are proud to say they are from Röstånga!

Röstånga Tillsammans collaborates closely with other rural development NGOs and companies, Social Innovation Skåne, folk high schools, as well as the local, regional and national authorities. Some local officers in the municipality have been very supportive, but in general the public sector finds it hard to categorise and thus work with them. In the Swedish welfare state, it is not normal to organise locally and at a grassroots level.

Röstånga Tillsammans claims to reinvent the structure where the public and business sectors leaves rural communities behind. They perceive themselves not only as a rural development initiative, but as a framework for empowering, capacity building and changing the mindset for both the civil society and the public/local authority. Through their work they are trying to create tools to bring about participatory change in rural communities.

How did it happen?

Röstånga Tillsammans (Röstånga Together) started in 2007 when a group of parents realised that the local school was in danger of being closed by the municipality unless the decline in population was not reversed. They soon realised that they had to involve the whole village in order to incorporate everyone’s ideas and commitment to make the village more attractive. After some initial meetings, they decided to found the non-profit development NGO Röstånga Tillsammans – with free membership and a democratically elected board. The NGO was started as a EU-funded LEADER-project. In 2011, the NGO gained momentum as they decided to start the community shareholding company “Röstånga Development Company”. This hybrid organisation combines commercial and social aims.

Röstånga Tillsammans is based on both, a non-profit NGO and the Community Development Company. The NGO enables social mobilisation while the company provides the framework for financial mobilisation. Both organisations are run in a very democratic way. The majority owner of shares in the company will always remain the NGO – guaranteeing through its legal structure full transparency and openness. Consequently, this means that the members in the NGO have more power than any other shareholder.

Since the foundation of the company, they have been grant-independent. Initial investments were sourced through private and bank loans; today, financing is done by selling shares of the company as well as with income / profit from their own businesses, such as rent from the houses and profits from the restaurant and the brewery. Röstånga Tillsammans believes that a community-run social enterprise based on strong mutual values is making better use of recourses, resulting in better and more efficient business.

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