Location: Jurbarkas, Lithuania
Vulnerable group in focus: Single Parents
Coordination: Lutheran Diaconia, Ingrida Karūnienė
Do you speak Lithuanian? Visit the local blog of Martyno Žąsys.
Social Start-Up Biography
On this page we want to document Martyno Žąsys and its development into an independent social start-up. To take you with us on this journey, we update this interview diary every other month. If you have further questions, feel free to contact the local coordinator (see above). If you want to learn more about certain terms you may encounter here (such as "micro project", "social start-up", "Accelerator Team" and the like) please check our "the ideas behind the project" section.
|Choose your issue of the Martyno Žąsys biography:
DEC 2019 FEB 2020 APR 2020 JUN 2020 SEP 2020 DEC 2020 APR 2021
Tell us about your micro project in three sentences.
In “SEMPRE Accelerators for Service Co-Creation”, we prepare, plan and finally create Martyno Žąsys, an association for single parents. The core idea of our local initiative is to foster entrepreneurship of single parents, such as healing massages or beauty care businesses. While the infrastructure is provided by us – the Lutheran Diaconia – the single parents will develop their business ideas and manage their work schedules themselves.
Who are the persons behind the initiative?
The most important persons are of course the single parents, as they are the ones who actually run the social enterprises and fill the project with life. In the background, several local organisations with complementing functions contribute, such as Jurbarkas District Municipality, the local action group of Jurbarkas, a community family home as well as the local Diaconia (“Jurbarko Sandora”).
What are your long-term goals?
One of the first activities in Jurbarkas is to develop a formalised organisational setup for our endeavour. We will thus establish the association “Martyno Žąsys”. The aim of this association is to represent the interests of single parents and other social risk groups and to promote their entrepreneurship. In the second year, we hope to create two workplaces and to develop a website for small sales. In the short term, we are looking forward to our new premises: from May 2020 we will get new rooms at a multifunctional centre here in the town, these rooms will also be used by “our” single parents to realize their ideas.
Which topics do you currently address in your micro project?
We recently organised a training for our group members where we learned about team building and project management. The aim of the training was to build a team, recognize the capabilities of the team members and draw an activity-based process map which guides the establishment of a signle parent’s association and other planned activities (such as the creation of our website and facebook page, the search for potential products and services or administrative matters related to the new association). On another note, we just had the entire SEMPRE Accelerators consortium visiting us in January. We made substantial progress during this meeting and kick-started the work on revising our various publications, but the meeting also came with a lot of practical and preparatory work for us. The pictures below show impressions of the meeting.
What were your recent challenges?
One of our challenges was to find out what the abilities and strengths of the different team members are and how we can make the best use of these strengths. Since we are a larger group, it was at times difficult to match persons and roles in our startup in the most efficient way. To solve this issue, we organised a session in which we worked with a self-perception tool. Using the tool, we learned how team members see each other and how it corresponds to their self-perception. For example, we identified who is good at managing interpersonal relationships or who could best support the project as a rather practically-oriented “implementer” as well as other roles.
What are your short-term goals for the next months?
In the short term we plan to prepare all the necessary documents to formally establish our association and to notarize them. Moreover, we will continue working on our website which has not yet been finalized.
Right now, public life in Europe has come to a standstill due to COVID-19. But let’s start with the time before. What were your recent achievements before the pandemic started to spread?
In February and early March, made significant steps forward regarding the registration and establishment of our association Martyno Žąsys. During one of our regular meetings in the Accelerator Team, the persons acting as official founders of the future association were elected and appointed. Their task is now to fill in the association establishment forms and provide other personal data required for the establishment of the association.
And what is the current impact of COVID-19 on your work?
The association establishment process was completely stopped, the notary services for the association establishment were halted as their specialist refused to continue the process under the current circumstances. Following the suspension of the association establishment, the activation of the online shop was stopped until further notice. This is a very difficult situation. The online shop should serve main outlet for the products created by the NGO, and the formal establishment of an association is crucial to provide a stable framework for the activities of the initiative. We hope to find solutions for both issues soon.
How did you proceed with your social start-up Martyno Žąsys in the midst of the pandemic? How did you experience the past months?In May, we joined an online meeting of the entire SEMPRE Accelerators project, with all nine partners. The meeting was originally foreseen as a regular meeting hosted by our colleagues from the Karelian Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Petrozavodsk, but like all other meetings it was transformed into an online workshop. There, the consortium discussed implementation challenges related to quarantine and identified problem areas and potential risks for the project activities. At the same time, gathering in this international group helped each other to build confidence and learn how others are dealing with this situation. Just a few days ago, on 18 June, we had the first “real”, i.e. physical meeting again here in the region. We met in Samlininkai and checked the progress of the building reconstruction. One day, this building should become the premises of Martyno Žąsys. The construction work is planned to be completed this autumn and we expect that, once Martyno Žąsys has been registered as NGO and its online shop has been launched, the doors will open in Smalininkai as well.
One of your long-term aims is to establish an NGO, so that you have a stable organisational structure for your initiative. How did you progress in this regard? Did you manage to overcome the challenges that we discussed in April?
Luckily, the situation improved. As soon as the country began to ease the restrictions related to COVID-19, we resumed the implementation of our activities. Most importantly, the notary agreement on association establishment was signed, and the layout and framework for the future online shop of the initiative was developed.
And what are your plans for the coming months?
We have two major tasks ahead: firstly, we want to complete the process of establishing an association. We already have the notary agreement, but further paperwork is needed. Secondly, we want to further develop the online shop.
Your social start-up participated in a job-shadowing this summer. What did you do exactly? How was it, and what did you learn?In SEMPRE Accelerators, all social start-ups commit to a so-called job-shadowing. The purpose of this activity is to give insights into different work realities: the members of the social start-up should get the opportunity to learn and experience the workflow and processes of a social service provider. Here in Jurbarkas, we conducted a job shadowing in cooperation with the Family Home at Jurbarkas Evangelical Lutheran Parish Diaconia “Jurbarko Sandora” a few weeks ago. One of the single parents from Martyno Žąsys participated; she was given a possibility to directly contribute to social service provision and in return learned about the structure of the NGO, their activities and processes, work methods and tools. The job shadowing was split over two working days and also included meetings with different employees, such as the head of the Family Home, the chairperson of the association, a social worker of the Family Home who is in direct contact with clients on an everyday basis and a psychologist.
A similar activity is the so-called micro project breakfast. What is it about?We test this as an empowerment support tool. This and several other tools are described in the SEMPRE Empowerment Handbook. The micro project is an event that brings micro projects and social service providers together and allows for informal exchange, for mutual benefits. In our case we met with representatives of the Diaconie of Jurbarkas at the Family Welfare Centre.
Why is it called micro project "breakfast"?Well, the idea is that the setting is a rather informal one, not necessarily a class room setting, but a casual and informal setting that allows time and space for conversations and makes it easier for the micro project members to speak in front of people. Offering food and coffee might help create a cozy atmosphere!
And what were your main takeaways?We discussed, for example, how to increase the attractiveness of services, and the possibility of involving the target group in creating and updating the services. Each participant had their very own perspective, based on the respective background, and learning about these different perspectives helped a lot.
Welcome to the final interview in this series – after a relatively long break during which the pandemic and new restrictions slowed down the development of almost all micro projects in SEMPRE Accelerators. What did you achieve since our last discussion?We are happy to announce, that finally, despite the restrictions, we managed to successfully establish our social platform for single parents as a formal, official social enterprise: Martyno Žąsys. We documented this achievement in a video, too.
Congratulations!Thanks! This was indeed an important milestone. It was a long journey, and not everything is as simple as it seems at first glance. Having an independent organisation comes with many challenges. In order to function, the organisation needs an administrative base (e.g., accounting services) and basic maintenance requires constant financial resources. Ensuring these resources is a puzzle until the organisation enters a cycle of constant revenues (at least a part of them). The developed product and services must also pass certain stages of market validation and refinement so that the marketable and profitable products would be selected.
What exactly do you offer now at Martyno Žąsys?At this point, Martyno Žąsys has attracted mothers bake and sell cakes and other delicacies. Moreover, we started developing the sale of used clothing as another pillar of Martyno Žąsys. Finally, we are currently finetuning a website. Once it is ready, the website should have a shop function and thus facilitate selling the products created by the single parents of Martyno Žąsys.
And what are your plans for the future, for the time after SEMPRE Accelerators?Thanks to support from LEADER, Martyno Žąsys was able to purchase a food truck and a lyophilizer. Next to all the development work carried out in SEMPRE Accelerators, this investment additionally stabilises Martyno Žąsys and ensures its future activities. Currently, seasonal berries such as strawberries or blueberries are collected, frozen and lyophilized. The products will be sold on the Martyno Žąsys website. The food truck has not been delivered yet, but a food takeaway services will be provided. These are measures to ensure the continuity of the association. The organisation is committed to creating at least one workplace for three years.