You will find a way
Timisoara | Romania
Ambasada was the place which basically all people we met in Timisoara recommended us to visit. NESst, couchsurfers, other changemakers we interviewed, everybody told us: if you look for the place where change is happening, don’t miss Ambasada. After a few minutes chatting we could easily understand why.
Everything started in 2006 when me and my current husband decided to organize a world music festival - says Andreea Iager, co-founder. He was 19 that time, I was 21. We wanted to bring life to Timisoara, put the public eye on NGOs initiatives, people who do things for passion. We wanted to empower people to act, not only complain. We had a lot of events during the festival, organized by NGOs, embassies, but also just people who have particular passions, for example board games, so they came to the festival and shared it with the public. You could adopt street animals, dance tango, learn French or German, a wide variety of activities. Getting to know this community of organized and not-organized doers is part of the idea of Ambasada: a place where all those people can gather and do things in a more systematic way. The idea itself is quite old, we started to dream about it in 2007, but we never had courage and money to do it. All festivals were volunteers based. In 2014 we started to think more seriously about the place, we realized that to have an impact the festival is not enough. We see the need of a community coming together and do more, become stronger by just spending time together.
They started to look for a place, which was not an easy process. They got specially interested in the subject of industrial heritage.
After the revolution a lot of factories were closed. The one in which we finally opened Ambasada was a very famous hat factory before. We think it’s sad that there is all this history young people don’t know about. It’s kind of our duty to find business models that will keep those places alive. Make an organized take up of the place so it makes sense also financially. Maybe not as much as a profit oriented business, but still have revenue to show others we can work and produce.
Ambasada started officially in 2015, when NESst invited them to one of their projects. They became a social enterprise, which on one hand it hires people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and one the other it offers infrastructure and facilities for free to non-profit and creatives. The business model is based mostly on renting space to corporations and selling drinks in the small café.
To think as a business is one of our biggest challenges. To run it as a business even though the great deal of the purpose and action don’t make any sense businesswise. This is really challenging. You take decisions with your heart, you think with your heart, but in fact we should always have the excel sheet in front of us and think with that.
Andreea and her team acknowledged that they don’t put enough attention to the business side and that they need to do it if they want to survive.
The focus for this year is to run the place more sustainably. Focus on content. We want to connect more with the real needs of the community. Maybe try to attract more companies to collaborate on a regular basis, not just come to us from time to time. Since last year we are part of the European Network of Independent Cultural Centers, we are first in Romania to come in, to be accepted. We also want to connect international networks with local needs. We were approached by the British Council, they want to do a project with us. They are based in Bucharest, but they look at Timisoara as the current Capital of Culture. We are also part of it, organizing some events within the Capital of Culture. It’s the year of content, I think, and meaningful projects.
Running Ambasada costs a lot of sleepless nights for Andreea, her husband, and other people. Sometimes they think how easier their life would be if they worked in a corporation, with stable salary, stable schedules. They would have so much more time and money for travelling, for their child, for so many other things. But they keep going.
Why we do that? I think part of it is determination to show that things can work if you work hard for them. Just do something meaningful and don’t take the easy way out. We always try to do stuff which hasn't been done before. I believe that nothing good comes out of the easy path. We are all different, working on Ambasada or even the festival itself, but we share this value, that if you want to change something, you have to get involved and try to do it. We also believe in the power of community. People coming together. I think the power given by a community of people cannot be replaced by any other resource. You can have all the money in the world and do good looking cultural centers, but if you don’t have a community that you answer to, if you are not really connected, if what you want to do is somehow artificial and not connected to real needs, it has no point. With the power of community you can really do stuff out of nothing. This combination of real needs and a lot of work and having community together makes it happen even if you don’t have all resources. You will find a way.
More about Ambasada: plai.ro/ambasada