Regenerating rural Slovakia

In a bid to tackle the issues that come with people leaving to the cities, Iveta, Jarmila, and Livia, three passionate purpose-driven leaders want to regenerate old houses and attract new inhabitants to less developed communities. Ultimately, they aim to generate economic development while preserving cultural heritage in Slovakia. Let’s find out more about this innovative project.

“We want to bring the least developed regions of Slovakia back to life,” says Posledné domy.


What is Posledné domy and who are the three heroes behind it?


Our team consists of experts on regional and community development. Iveta Niňajová (left) works as a consultant in regional development and tourism. She is a pioneer in destination management in Slovakia. She was also part of the governmental team for the least-developed regions. Jarmila Oceľová (right) is a development coordinator in the Banská Bystrica regional municipality. She initiated the Coburg cultural route focused on steel industry heritage and also works on the reconstruction of the house of Slovak writer Klára Jarunková. Lívia Gažová (middle) is an urbanist and works on the popularization of architecture and urban planning. She cooperates with an NGO called Čierne diery on projects related to heritage management and regional development, for instance Jelšava manor house or the public sauna in Spišský Hrhov. Recently she worked on the Gemer and Malohont medieval frescos‘ nomination for the European Heritage Label.


Why did you decide to apply as a social entrepreneur for this action-learning program?


Our main motivation was to help the least developed regions in our country. Unlike big development projects, we decided to come up with a project that would not harm environmental and heritage values. We believe that even such a small intervention approach can become sustainable, and we therefore aim to develop a socially responsible and resilient business model. By doing so, we would like to demonstrate the great potential of less developed regions. Together with financial experts, we’re eager to develop a robust financial plan that would reduce our project’s dependence on external grants and help us to generate our own resources that could later be invested in the program.


Through a localized solution based on modern immigration to architecturally valuable houses, the project addresses socio-economic problems of brain drain, emigration of young people and economic capital to bigger cities, withdrawal of entrepreneurs and job opportunities and degradation of infrastructure. Using the emotional appeal of picturesque houses, undamaged natural surroundings and a popular vision of a modest life, the project aims to actively invite new inhabitants to the least developed regions. Originally empty houses are reconstructed by social enterprises, according to traditional techniques. We therefore avoid losing the cultural values of architectural heritage during reconstruction, consolidate the local economy and support the resilience of the local community. The approach differs from the top-down solutions to regional development and takes small steps to regenerate regions and avoid their further degradation.


We expect the project to stimulate local communities as these new inhabitants can change social dynamics and relationships in a small community. Additionally, newcomers will start their own small businesses, creating job opportunities for locals or providing a much-needed public service. Moreover, they can serve as role models to prove that it is possible to run a business in a less-developed region. One of the outcomes of the project would also be a marketing campaign promoting the less developed regions as good places for living as well as raising awareness of the small enterprises involved in the project.


Where do you see yourselves and your social enterprise in one year?


“The Last Houses” project will start with small and unused residential buildings in public property – in the hands of local or regional municipalities or churches. Gradually, we will incorporate larger buildings, buildings listed as cultural or industrial heritage, which are more difficult to renovate or buildings obtained from private owners. In one year’s time we would like to finish the pilot project with three to four houses being offered in an open call. We would also like to develop a marketing strategy to promote rural regions.


Posledné domy is a social enterprise supported by Swiss Re Foundation and their SHINE program.


Are you inspired by Jarmila, Lívia and Iveta? Do you want to create a tangible impact? Are you curious about a tailor-made program for your company? Get in touch with: marisol@bookbridge.org