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Microsoft in your community

ChangeX strengthens local connection through the Sweden Community Challenge

ChangeX has provided funding through the Sweden Community Challenge for local community groups, schools, and organizations to start impactful community projects in Gävle, Staffanstorp, and Sandviken.

Now in its third year, the Sweden Community Challenge has supported 36 local groups to start community projects related to digital skills, community prosperity and sustainability. With a focus on social inclusion, the goal is to reach as many communities as possible in Sweden.

Community Fridge in Staffanstorp

Maggie Nath helps people facing poverty in her community in Staffanstorp, working with a food redistribution nonprofit, Saved. When she heard about the funding available through the Sweden Community Challenge, she was interested in how the Community Fridge project could build on the existing support for households in need and help to reduce food waste in her community.

“Already we were providing food to about 30 to 35 households, some weekly, some fortnightly,” Maggie explains. “We provide food baskets to households, and we put food outside on the street for people to take. Many of them are quite shy and would like some privacy so we wanted to build an ‘open fridge’ at the back door of our premises.”

She says that some people are reluctant to receive the support because they feel someone else needs the food more than them. However, Maggie is quick to point out that “somebody else isn’t here now,” and calls households who receive food support “environmental heroes” as they are helping reduce food waste.

Using funding from the Challenge, Maggie and her team purchased a fridge with a glass door so that available food is easy to display. “We bought it secondhand from a restaurant in Malmo and would never have been able to afford it without this funding,” she says. The funding also allowed Maggie and her team to purchase a variety of shelving units, some food storage baskets, and some food including large bags of rice and beans.

“This funding enabled us to grow,” she says. “It was quite crucial to our expansion.”

Maggie found applying to the Challenge “very easy.” She had applied for other funding opportunities in the past which required a lot of paperwork and was pleasantly surprised by the straightforward and pragmatic process of the funding from the Challenge.

Red Cross Toy Library

At the Red Cross Toy Library in Gävle, people can borrow high-quality and non-toxic toys free of charge. The project is aimed at people with children aged 0-10 years and contributes to a more ecological and socially sustainable future for today’s and tomorrow’s children. The toy library also acts as a platform for fostering community and civic engagement. It is the third toy library in Gävle, opened in March 2022.

“With the support of Microsoft, we have the means to develop an online portal where families can see which toys are available for loan,” says Marina Haugdahl, program director. “During the first four months of being operational, we attracted 31 families from 16 neighborhoods across Gävle, 35 percent of whom live in neighborhoods associated with socioeconomic challenges.”

Plant Place for All (Vaxtplats for alla)

In April 2022, Alex Wiberg led the team to set up the Vaxtplats for alla (Plant Place for All), an organization that aims to be a catalyst for social change through local farming, community garden projects, and supporting local crafts businesses. The team set up a community garden by converting part of the yard on which the building sits into a space for growing vegetables, plants, and flowers.

In May, they arranged a garden festival and invited local artisans, craftsmen, and musicians to a community-building event which included live music and forest yoga classes. By June, the garden had grown extensively, and the team was able to hire an additional team member to help look after the flowers and vegetables throughout the summer.

“In times like these with war, rising food prices, and widening gaps between the rich and poor, we think projects like ours can inspire people to grow both vegetables and friendship together in harmony with nature,” Alex says. “We look forward to developing this garden to support both social and biological diversity.”

Additional funding available in 2023

Additional funding of more than SEK 445,000 is now available for projects in Gävle, Sandviken, and Staffanstorp. Applicants can receive up to SEK 55,000 to start or expand a community project of their choice related to digital skills, environmental sustainability, or community prosperity.

For more details, please visit Microsoft’s Sweden Community Challenge fund page.