Sopotniki (‘travel companions’) institute offers an innovative solution for elderly mobility, customized for rural areas. The free of charge service increases quality of life of the elderly and prolongs their independent life. Drivers are volunteers, alternating every day, enabling the elderly a variety of social interactions. It also relieves the burden on relatives to provide transport and strengthens links in local communities.
Sopotniki's mobility model is financed through public, corporate and civic sector.
The solution Sopotniki was established in 2014 as a local initiative by a group of young people from a remote Slovene village. The founder of the NGO Sopotniki, who lives in this village, noticed the struggles of elderly people in terms of access to services.
After nine years of service, replication to 16 Slovene municipalities and over 5.000 active users it has become clear that the Sopotniki mobility solution is solving a real problem and that it is solving it adequately and effectively. The Institute is staffed by a combination of 270 volunteer drivers and a team of professional personnel, including 3 headquarters staff and 12 local service coordinators and using 19 service vehicles.
The Institute bases its activities on its own developed IT infrastructure (transport planning, CRM, fleet management, volunteer’s mobile app). It has also developed a platform www.pomagajmo.io for organizing fundraising campaigns – and made it available for other NGOs to use also.
The programme has succeeded in winning several European (ERDF, EAFRD, CERV), national and local calls for proposals.
The Institute’s solution is a recognised social innovation, one of the 10 finalists of the Horizon Award. As a good practice example, it was included in the “Smart Villages” initiative and presented in the framework of the EU Parliament activities.
The Institute has:
– obtained the national status of an organisation of public interest in the field of social protection (Ministry of Social Affairs).
– The volunteer training programme was awarded as the best Slovenian HRM programme in the “public and non-profit” category in 2021.
– numerous other awards and recognitions.