Ms Head of Unit “Job Creation” European Commission,
Ms Director General for the Social Economy of the Ministry of Labour,
Mr Director General for Land Planning of the Government of Aragon,
Ms Representative of the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces,
Mr Representative of the Regional Government of Castile and Leon in Soria,
Mr. President of the Provincial Government of Soria,
Mr. Mayor of Soria,
Mr. President of Caja Rural de Soria,
mayors, authorities, friends, ladies and gentlemen ..
Welcome to El Hueco.
A few days ago we’ve learned the number of inhabitants of the province of Soria, it is 88,830 inhabitants. This is according to a preview of the statistics of the census as to January 1, 2017 published by the National Institute of Statistics (INE). That number means the lowest historical record among those analyzed by this demographic service. This figure gives us a population density of 8.63 inhabitants / km2, that is one of the lowest in Europe.
The phenomenon of depopulation reaches its maximum bitternes in Soria, but it is not the only such province. The researchers warn us about Spain with no future, an extensive inland territory distributed among 22 provinces as if it were a great dark spot where 30% of the inhabitants are older than 65. It is a “terminal Spain”, an “empty Spain”. The crisis has stressed the problem of depopulation. Demographers venture (believe/suppose) that more and more citizens will live in county main cities and go to the countryside just to work. The villages will be there only for the weekend. And the ‘terminal Spain’ will continue its way, if no one helps it. In Europe there’s a similiar phenomenon in countries like Germany, Finland or Slovakia, represented today in this meeting by several members of its institutions.
This terminal scenario demonstrates the failure of the land planning, cohesion and rural development policies implemented by the public administrations in the last 30 years in provinces such as Soria. The different agrarian and rural development policies are useless if they have not achieved the most important thing: to link people with the land, with the rural world. Various local social agents (like trade unions and others) have for many years called for a land planning policy that would provide public services and support measures necessary for the population to remain in the rural world, but it has been in vain: every day this province loses 4 inhabitants and step by step how our schools, shops, transport services etc. are closed.
Juan Rulfo, a Mexican writer, wrote in his “El Llano en Llamas” (The Burning Plain and Other Stories) that “the people went down from the farms to the towns, from the towns they went to the cities. In the cities the people got lost, they disappear or we can say they dissolve among other people …” And that is what’s happening to us in Soria, that we are dissolving, we are disappearing.
In the context of extreme adversity El Hueco has sought right since it was created more than 5 years ago by the NGO Cives Mundi, to inject hope and optimism. El Hueco is an ecosystem for development of social entrepreneurship and social innovation, it’s powerful and mature, made up of more than 70 entrepreneurs and 30 companies that contribute to a better future for everybody. Future that will allow us and newcomers to continue living in a depopulated province like Soria. That is our most important aim, to reverse the process of depopulation in Soria applying sustainable development models based on the principle of the common good, cooperation, social entrepreneurship and social innovation, therefore reinforcing the sense of belonging to this land, defending our Identity as a people and showing the world our pride of being rural citizens, who, as Juan Rulfo would say, “refuse to dissolve and disappear.” We demand the defense of the right of a people to perpetuate in their land. We want a future for our children in Soria and for this to happen we work very hard every day. And El Hueco is a good example of the struggle of civil society for a future for this land. El Hueco is pure resilience. El Hueco is talent, it is audacity, it is innovation. El Hueco is hope.
And in that eagerness we persist along with emblematic companies of this ecosystem like Huertos de Soria, La Exclusiva, Megara Energía, Lanzaderas, Anillo Celtibérico o Föra Forest, among others.
We ask the administrations present here today to help us. We need the support and collaboration of everyone because the challenge is ambitious. We need support measures for social entrepreneurship and social innovation in Spain and we need the collaboration of the administrations to transfer the knowledge generated in El Hueco to the last corner of our country. We need to be known, beginning with our own administrations. That is our main goal for the short and medium term. In October we will launch a program of knowledge transfer and technical assistance to make El Hueco and the most representative social enterprises of its ecosystem known to people and organizations interested in fostering entrepreneurship and social innovation in Spain such as social entrepreneurs, public administrations, NGOs, companies, investors, local action groups, students, teachers, etc.
To achieve that we have designed a program based on training and technical assistance that serves to transfer the keys to how the ecosystem was created, who is part of it, how it is managed as well as to know in detail the social companies that make it up, its promoters and the possibility of replicating them in other geographical areas of our country.
For two days we are going to meet and listen attentively to more than 25 speakers from all over Europe who will tell us how social entrepreneurship and impact investment can help to slow down the process of depopulation we suffer by creating an innovative business fabric which in addition to seeking the benefits would even pursue the positive social impact.
I would especially like to thank the Innovis Foundation, the Caja Rural de Soria, the City Council of Valdeavellano and Martialay Audiovisuales for their collaboration in this event and all the speakers who have so kindly come to our city to participate in this Meeting.
We wish you two highly productive days that would serve to generate links and alliances that help us all to reach our objectives.
Let me finish by inviting everyone present here to work in a coordinated, collaborative way, in “open source” sharing experience and knowledge, A philosopher and one of the most influential Spanish intellectuals, Francisco Giner de los Rios heard once these words from a farmer in one of his trips when he was in charge of the Free Teaching Institution: “Don Francisco, everything we know we share it between us”.
Thank you very much