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Service Centre in Kalix Övre Bygden

Kalix municipality, Sweden

A service centre, initiated by the residents, that runs a local store and provides various public services, including a home care service and school taxi service. The service centre was established in 1996 and is run as an economic association.

Local services which keep the heart in rural communities

The local store and school have been central to the liveability of the area. When a decision was taken by the municipality to close down the local store and a school in Övre Bygden in 1995, it was seen as a critical moment for the residents to act and mobilize local resources in order to prevent it from happening.

More than just a local store

The residents established an economic association service centre in Övre Bygden in 1996 with the intention of providing different kinds of services to the rural residents. To begin with, the service centre took over the management of the local store. Gradually, the service centre expanded its activities to the provision of a home care service and taxi service for school children. Recently, the association has bought and renovated an old station house that is being rented out for office spaces and various events. The service centre also rents its employees to different businesses in the village to perform various maintenance jobs in the field of construction, cleaning, gardening, etc.

Local services saved and new jobs created

Besides saving the local store, about 10 permanent jobs and up to 20 temporary seasonal jobs were created at the service centre. The association has about 100 shareholders today that shows its importance to the local community. The service centre also works strategically with the younger population, aiming to strengthen their engagement and ties with the local community.

Local democracy below the municipal level

Local residents taking over the task of service provision from the municipality is a great example of local democracy below the municipal level. Among the key enablers has been close dialogue and support from the local authorities. In addition, the importance of driven individuals has been of a high significance. 

Resources required

The economic association got a loan from the bank for SEK 110 000 as starting capital needed primarily to get the local store running. EU funding has been used to employ a project officer and for the renovation of the station building. Currently, the economic association gets revenues from several economic activities, including the local store and provision of a home care service.

Flexibility in service provision is needed in remote rural areas

For remote rural areas with low population density creating a centre that combines different services is a viable solution that reduces costs and saves resources. Moreover, the activities of the centre contribute to strengthening social capital through increased local engagement. 

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Page last updated December 2016.