Training ground for creative communities
Training ground for creative communities
Poligon is the first creative centre in Slovenia for creative economies, social entrepreneurship, and culture.
Coworking communities have developed in Slovenia as a reaction to the ongoing economic crisis and an increasingly precarious employment market for young university graduates and creative workers. This 'precarisation' is part of a profound change in the employment sphere where there is a constant rise in jobs offering too little income security. The service sector is particularly vulnerable to this, in part because an especially large number of people employed in this field are not protected by unions.
From nomadism to a dedicated space
The first coworking event in Slovenia took place in January 2012 at Lubljana’s Kino Šiška Centre for Urban Culture, which is usually a venue for night-time concerts and other events. Poligon's current managing trio, consisting of Luka Piškorič (co-founder and director), Eva Matjaž (co-founder and 'networker'), and Marko Orel ('idea motor'), successfully convinced Šiška's management to host a coworking event. This was a completely novel concept in Slovenia at the time. "We had no idea how many people would show up – first thing, we only wanted to test if this would work at all! In the end, 80 people came and we were really pleasantly surprised," Eva recounts.
Because there was such great demand, what was initially a bi-monthly event has grown into a weekly fixture. Over time, the need for a dedicated space arose, and so in February 2014, the Poligon creative centre was established, providing 1,200 square metres of space in a former tobacco plant. It is very lively and productive here throughout the day, and in the evenings, a variety of events are held in cooperation with neighbouring organisations and collectives.
Why Poligon Is the Ideal Name
In Slovenian, Poligon means "training ground for learning to shoot, especially with heavy weapons." In this case, the "heavy weapons" are creativity, active participation, independence, and interdisciplinarity, i.e. weapons that can be used productively. In terms of content, the main focus is on the latest coworking methods to empower self-employed workers and secure them a better future.
Luka describes those who work at Poligon: "The people who work here come from over ten countries. It's a very diverse and multidisciplinary community. That's one of the most important things we want to achieve: a giant community with as many different jobs as possible. That is exactly where magic is created and manifests itself."
Poligon, which was founded as a private organisation, derives the majority of its income from renting out space for various occasions and events. The content and format of the events are very important to the team – there are clear ethical criteria. As the Poligon team is unwilling to stray from its basic moral tenets, companies such as ad agencies that want to shoot their commercials at a 'cool' location are not welcome. If only the state were to recognise the enormous potential of the creative professions, it would support the project and Poligon would have the resources to focus more strongly on the issues relevant to the founders, instead of having to take care of renting out space!
On the one hand, the people involved in creative economies, social entrepreneurship, and culture have next to no economic security in Slovenia. On the other hand, the creative industries in particular have contributed a significant amount to the country's gross national product in the past few years. At the same time, there has been no comprehensive study on the topic in Slovenia and therefore no state-level long-term strategy. According to Eva, this lack of understanding is also evident in the fact that "the definitions of creative industries being used only relate to fields like architecture or design instead of including all creative work processes. Especially the fact that work processes transform and combine knowledge and experience in many different ways and thereby create new stories and models is characteristic of the creative industries." That is another reason why it is important to have a training ground such as Poligon, because not only creative individuals but also collectives need a space to "train".