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Country, Date of election


Civic participation

Martin Hollinetz founded OTELO to develop the creativity, responsiveness, and entrepreneurial quality of citizens across Austria.


Rural areas today lack open spaces and flexible structures that promote creativity - in companies, local communities, industries and the education system. In Austria, regional development programs fall short of providing citizens with support structures to experiment, exchange ideas, and act in new ways. More importantly, citizens also do not feel entitled to this type of personal questioning and often lack the self-permission to change normative structures. In search of acceptance of differences, flexibility, and a creative culture, people often migrate to urban areas, where jobs, stimulation, and a sense of belonging abound – leading to “brain drain” in rural areas.


Since 2010 Martin has opened 10 labs, in rural Austria and Germany and created 26 node-Groups. Today, OTELO has 500 active participants. So far approx. 100 partnerships with companies have been established, which support activities or sponsor lab equipment. Although an OTELO is not a dedicated startup incubator, 15 members have already launched their own companies. In addition OTELOs further stimulate people´s creativity by hosting an approximate of 170 events per year varying from topics like the production of soap to the construction of a 3D printer. Through these events OTELOs have reached out to 20.000 people and inspired their activities and performances


Martin is building an empowered and vitalized citizen base to create a new quality of life for people living in rural areas. He is the founder of OTELO, a network of “open technology laboratories”, spaces designed for and by people to experiment, collaborate, communicate, and exchange with community members about topics they want to take action on or simply learn more about. OTELO fosters creativity and an exchange of experiences in rural parts of Austria and links it with urban funding structures. Topics like participation, education, agriculture, social and technical innovations are particularly important.


OTELO is an inspiring community space that invites people to share and to realize ideas. It has become a role model in the fields of social community education, innovation, creativity and the collaboration between community members living in rural areas. To transform more and more rural communities into thriving centers of innovation and active citizen participation, Martin Hollinetz plans to launch an additional 20 to 30 locations within the next three years. In order to do so Martin is currently developing a franchise model to spread the OTELOs beyond the German-speaking world.


The strongest impetus for OTELO took place during Martin’s time as a regional manager. When he returned to his home village he met Martin, a 12 year old boy who developed a complex educational game and got almost no support while doing so. This was the point that he realized which possibilities were missing in order to attract young people to a life in rural areas. Being convinced that young people especially should be given the opportunity to develop their creativity and entrepreneurial potential has been the biggest motivation for Martin to develop a model which supports committed people and provides them with space and a nationwide network



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