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January 2022

[katja.rinne-koski] - 24. Jan 2022, 10:57
Three years has passed by and now we are at the final stage of our project: project outputs are ready and it is time to close up.

The background of the ViSEnet-project is based on the experiences of developing community-based tourism which led us to think about the potential of rural communities to provide needed services by themselves. The overall framework for the project was built around social entrepreneurship which was still a rather unknown business model in Finland at that time. We are extremely thankful that the Finnish National Agency for Education saw the potential of the project and granted our partnership the funding for supporting the rural communities by creating learning material targeted especially to the rural areas. We would like to thank all the partners for your commitment for the project even though the COVID-19 did make us rethink some of the project actions. During the COVID-19 the project group proved to be very innovative and determined to find solutions where others were seeing problems. It has been a privilege to work with you all.

The greatest thanks of all are directed to the rural communities who have been involved in the project. Your expertise, participation and dedication have been invaluable, and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with you. It has been a privilege to get to know you, and we are hoping to meet you again, hopefully in face to face this time.

At this moment we have a brand-new national strategy to promote social enterprises in Finland that also acknowledges the community-based social enterprises usually located in the rural areas. We are proud to be able to contribute the development work of rural community-based social entrepreneurship from our part with the intellectual outputs created in the ViSEnet project.

University of Helsinki Ruralia Institute
Seinäjoki, Finland

Merja Lähdesmäki, Principal Investigator
Katja Rinne-Koski, Project Manager
Anne Matilainen, Project Expert

October 2021

[katja.rinne-koski] - 18. Oct 2021, 11:51
The collaboration led by Lahemaa Tourism Association (LTA) to develop the Lahemaa local community continued throughout the year of 2021. The LTA that was established in 2020 now has around 50 members and an advisory board and is growing. The organisation has already initiated several essential developments.

1. Local tour guides` training and certification

The model of co-operation started a year ago where important state agencies helped small enterprises was used again this spring when Lahemaa Tourism Association (LTA) organised local tour guides` training and certification in Lahemaa. There hadn´t been a similar training for a few decades and there was a great need for qualified tour guides. Due to the Covid pandemic, most of the lectures were delivered online and therefore could include a wider audience. Once the registration was opened, tens of applications started to come. So almost 100 participants from all over the country were able to take part in the online course, to learn about sustainable tourism and the values of Lahemaa National Park. 24 local people were chosen to join a group who attended an extra on-site course, participated in the written and oral exams and were certified as Lahemaa tour guides.

The training was a great co-operation experience. The trainers and assessors came from the Environmental Board of Estonia, State Forest Management Centre, the Estonian University of Life Sciences, Visit Estonia, Estonian Guides´ Association, Nature Tourism Association etc. Newly certified tour guides got the opportunity to practice during the summer and will get new courses soon, in addition training for a new group is already planned for next spring. The course was appreciated by all parties and has been rewarded as the learning action of the year in Harjumaa county.

2. The cooperation between the Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMÜ) and the Lahemaa community continued with Community Innovation Lab workshops and summer placement for EMÜ students.

3. Winning the Gold Award in Green Destinations programme

Lahemaa Tourism Association took part in a 2-year Green Destinations pilot programme organised by Visit Estonia. In autumn 2020 we reached the first phase and Lahemaa was announced as one of the TOP100 global sustainable destinations. In the summer of 2021 Lahemaa, as the only destination in Estonia, got a golden award from the Green Destinations. All the hard work filling in 100 criteria paid off.

4. New project to develop a well-performing Destination Management Organisation (DMO)

This autumn we are starting a new project that is supported by Enterprise Estonia and local municipalities to create a well-performing DMO in Lahemaa. In 2 years, we are going to use both virtual and human resources to build Lahemaa aa a sustainable destination that would give its visitors a peaceful but exciting experience.

Kaisa Linno, Lahemaa community leader