The Jiu Valley Portal was first launched in late 2001 to provide a online information resource center for visitors and residents in Jiu Valley, Romania’s coal-mining region in the Transylvania Alps. The Portal was developed locally (and largely built by young coal miners-turned-web designers) as part of Renaissance (Renașterea), a program begun in 2000 to facilitate innovative community and partnership-based volunteer initiatives in the Jiu Valley.
Renaissance started as an international development partnership between two friends, John Gongwer, a Washington, D.C.-based international management and collaborative innovation consultant, and Florin Lupu, then the national Executive Director of the Pro Democracy Association (then Romania’s largest civil society development organization).
A temporary legal structure, the non-profit Romanian non-governmental organization Foundation for Development through Economic Education and Partnership (DEEP) [Fundația pentru Dezvoltare prin Educație Economica și Partneriat], was created in early 2000. Over the next several years the assembled international team designed, launched and or facilitated numerous community-based initiatives in and outside of Romania, its programs involving more than 300 volunteers.
The Renaissance initiative and its programs received official endorsements and support from both national and international officials, including the Romanian Minister of Education, Minister of Youth & Sport, Minister of Tourism, members of Parliament and the Senate, the President’s Office, and partnered with and/or received financial sponsorship from such institutions such as the World Bank Romania, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Embassy, and the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe.
The local team reconstituted itself in 2005 as a local association, various team members and program graduates went on to launch their own social activism and development programs, and Renaissance’s portal sponsorship and international activities were assumed by iCatalyst as a volunteer non-profit community service.
The Jiu Valley Portal underwent a complete redesign in early 2015 to incorporate new Web 2.0 collaborative and knowledge-sharing technologies.