Martin Kontra

Ashoka Fellow
Czech Republic,
Fellow Since 2011


This profile was prepared when Martin Kontra was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
Martin addresses increasing social fragmentation and poor quality of life that is the result of rapid urban development and unmet basic needs, such as unemployment and the lack of supportive government and municipal leadership. He has developed a vast network of community centers, known as Bajkazyl; unique open spaces that foster community growth, entrepreneurial collaboration, and an improved support system for citizens across Europe. Bajkazyl is only a tool, however, in the long-term process Martin empowers the individual as an active agent of change in cities across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). He brings members of communities together as a powerful voice to propose change in inner cities. Martin uses the force of a mobilized group to create good management of cities.

By creating a space for connections to be made between city-based entrepreneurs, such as honey producers, herbs planters, community-based artisans, or architects, Martin helps improve their entrepreneurial capacity to work together to sell and promote home- and hand-made products and services. He is proving that individual citizen creativity, resourcefulness, and informal social capital actually benefit a city’s urban development. Bajkazyl creates opportunity for collaboration between citizens in advanced stages of their entrepreneurial life with those still crafting action plans, which over time has proven to government leadership that supporting local creativity and initiative can actually support the city center, rather than drain its resources. In addition, he is disproving the myth that city centers are only for wealthy and powerful people and that ideas for change should be internalized, rather than shared within the community.

In addition to creating the actual space for citizen collaboration in city centers and redefining what the city center means to citizens, Martin has designed community activities that revitalize this space. Even though each city has its contextual challenges, Martin is proving that a method for transforming public space can be universal: It is important to create space for dialogue and exchange, and then connect authorities, professionals, decision makers and citizens in the process so that they can engage and participate in citizen ideas for change.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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