Post-Communist Polska: Social Cooperatives legacy

Our Minca Team decided to go to Krakow (Poland) for a short break to visit, interview and film social economy initiatives in July 2014. We were exciting, as we didn’t know what we were going to find there. Krakow has an incredible history behind and what we were really interesting to find out about what Polish people think about the social economy taking into account the fact that Poland is a post-communist country and that some of what we call now ‘social economy’ initiatives were part of the communist system. What we found is that while the old generations connect the social economy with their communist times, the young generations see this as an opportunity for disadvantaged communities and as an alternative to the lack employment opportunities in the country.

Unfortunately, We had only two days in Krakow, so as you (the readers) can imagine we needed to organise our tight schedule properly to be able to follow the full plan.

The first day we arrived around 2.00pm, and when to visit Ambassada Krakowian, an open space for NGOs to collaborate and support. We filmed and interviewed two of the founders of this interesting project that was established just three months ago and discussed about their opportunities and future collaborations with other hubs in other European countries. After that, we had an interview with Rafa Kusa, a passionate lecturer that teaches about leadership and management and social economy initiates at university who briefly explained us about the history of social economy in the country. He also offered himself to give us a tour around the city centre, where we visit the castle and the Kazimierz area, Krakow’s former Jewish district. After that we were so exhausted, we finally decided that we had to go to bed

The next day we woke up early to prepare the material and met Rafal Siudowski that work at the Social Economy Research Centre, an organisation that supports social economy projects in Krakow. We arrived at Republika Marzeń Fundacji Anny Dymnej around 9.00 am. As you probably know, Anny Dymnej is a famous Polish TV, film and theatre actress that supports this social cooperative, which works with people with disabilities through arts and culture. It was a very inspiring and interesting visit and they gave two wonderful books written by disabled people that we are going to use for our mini-documentary about social cooperatives in Poland. We then when to visit Café Hamlet in Kazimier, a social cooperative that employs people with mental health problems and has been operating for more than 20 years in the city. We had Pierogi there for lunch. Yummy! Café Hamlet was the second business opened in Kazimier, after the Jews area was destroyed in the Second World War.

After this interesting visit, Bart and Jack from the organisation, Złote Rączki, came to pick us up and took us to show their facilities. Złote Rączki is a social cooperative that employs blind people that have just graduated from the best university in the country with a massage degree. We had an interesting conversation with service users and members of the cooperative (blind people) as well as the founders.

Our last visit was at Siemacha, a social cooperative that provides a system to help chidren and young people in education, theraphy and physical development (the key elements to guarantee well being). Siemacha is the biggest social enterprise in the country with more than 350 employees. Dominik, the communication manager received us and gave us a tour around the installations as well as we interviewed him.

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