Any organisation that offers three courses for dinner served at three different local homes to its guests deserves a place on the innovative hit list. Hopping from a different house for starter, main course and then dessert is wonderfully representative of all the soupcons of sustainability on Lapland Vuollerim’s menu. And just like their guests, the founders of this village collective never sit still. They are always creating new products and activities to entice visitors up to this remote part of Swedish Lapland. Founded in 2008, a house to house enquiry was carried out to garner innovative and original ideas that could help them, as a community, attract visitors to the area. There are now 50 genuine Lappish everyday life experiences on offer, where guests interact with local people. All year round. The non-profit organisation created by the villages became a company in 2010 with 50 individuals, other non-profits and small companies becoming co-owners. A socially responsible business, it reinvests a hundred per cent into the local economy and resources. The business is also now a member of the Swedish Ecotourism Society and is certified with Nature’s Best, Sweden’s equally innovative nature tours label.
The seeds of innovation grow out of a social foundation at Lapland Vuollerim. There are 800 villagers here all contributing towards their own social capital, creating products such as the Cloudberry Festival, The Festival of a 1000 Lanterns and the Blue Light Festival. And unique activities such as river swimming in the midnight sun or horse-riding through the winter snow, ‘skijoring’ behind a horse, a forest Sami safari, reindeer herding, snow sculpturing and winter ecology courses. All innovative. All inspired by villagers.
It is not surprising, therefore, that with this level of successful stakeholder involvement, Lapland Vuollerim is now advising other small rural communities and grassroots tourism organisations, at home and abroad, so that they can emulate what this community has achieved in such a small time. Consequently, there are now plans to offer conference facilities and workshops for philanthropists, social entrepreneurs and social impact investors all over the world who want to address the “real issues and obstacles” for succeeding in their investments.
As the team at Lapland Vuollerim say themselves, “We want to be change makers – to make common good instead of just selfish good”. And the results are most definitely good.