Skillsharing and DIY: On the road to sustainability in Croatia

1 May 2012

Written by Sven Janovski, Green Action/FoE Croatia

Skillsharing and DIY will play an important role in the development of sustainability. They promote personal emancipation from an economic system that feeds itself on the helplessness of its subject, who must seek out others to do even the most basic things, forcing them to satiate all their needs by buying, do all the things they have to do by paying someone else. To prove that dependence is not a necessity and that most of the things that we need and use in our lives can be made at home, in an environmentally friendly fashion, we've started organizing several DIY and skillsharing events.

Our basic skillsharing event is a workshop organized by our activists, held roughly once a month. The concept is: we find skills and knowledge for which most would normally have to pay, we find people who can teach the basic level of these skills, and we organize it into a set of workshops during one day. From various kinds of cooking workshops (vegan cakes, soy derivates, edible wild plants...) to computer maintenance, from self-defense to sign language, from making your own hygienic products (tooth paste, soap) to playing drums and much, much more. The two most important factors being: the skill must be useful, and the practical part has to be in balance with the theoretical part. We started in September of 2011, and since then we've had seven workshops, counting a few hundred participants in total.

Another DIY project we have is our bicycle repair shop. Also run by volunteers, and held once a week, it has two main functions. First, it gives each person a chance to have their bike checked out and fixed for free (not counting the parts they buy themselves), and second, it also gives them the chance to learn how to fix it themselves. In average, around 30 people come to fix their bikes each week.

Although it started out as mostly our activists sharing the skills they had to offer, over time many people from outside of our organization have also offered to share their skills. Many volunteers have started out as "clients", who have, after learning their craft, become regular volunteers, in turn helping out others like themselves once. All our instructors are volunteers, and while some are very experienced and have a plethora of skills, they aren't all experts in their field. We feel that it's important to let people of all levels of expertise share their knowledge as another part of emancipation and to promote learning through doing.

What we are most proud of is that these projects are self-sustainable. The money we receive from donations is enough to cover the meager costs of our workshops. These are not project based activities. We hope that our success will motivate others to try the same. These activities are easy to organize and maintain, they are environmentally friendly, support sustainability, are very productive and also, on a personal level, quite rewarding.