Tu Jest Praca

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A framework for social economy growth

The Tu Jest Praca ('We have Jobs') project is laying the foundations for a resurgence of social enterprise in Poland. Working at national level from its base in the Institute of Social Policy at Warsaw University, it has carried out the country's first compre­hensive survey of the social economy sector, which is much needed to guide policy formation. It has launched an innovative postgraduate programme for existing and would-be managers in social enterprises, and winter and summer schools on social entrepreneurship, backed up by a series of transnational visits. There are pilot development projects in two regions, and work is under way to establish an investment fund. The lessons will be institu­tionalised through publications and through a perma­nent Observatory of the Social Economy.


Aiming for a comprehensive support system

Ewa Leś, a professor in the Institute of Social Policy at War­saw University, first had the vision of the Tu Jest Praca project when she was invited to speak about the Polish social economy at the major social economy event held during the first round of EQUAL, the Strength­ening the Social Economy conference, that took place in Antwerp in May 2004. "At the conference, I suddenly realised that the social economy would be an interesting area of practice ori­ented work for my university," she says. "I real­ised that what the social economy needs in order to be supported and promoted in Poland was a sound basis of research that could provide policy-makers with evi­dence of the socio-economic potential of social enterprises and their contributions in the area of disadvant­aged people and the labour market. We need to deliver the message to policy-makers that the social economy can be a sound actor in local socio-economic develop­ment." Talking with her col­leagues Marcin Chludzinski and Przemysław Rosinski and to practitioners, she also saw that res­earch information is not enough if you don't also have the approp­riate legal and financial mechan­isms.

The project therefore set itself the ambitious goal of building a comprehensive support system for social enterprises, that could tap into the social capital that neither communist nor liberal regimes know how to use, thus stimulating economic growth and local development, and integrating those people modern society leaves behind. It has divided its activities into five modules, covering research, education, finance, transnationality and mainstreaming.

The partners necessary to this task comprise those with a strength in education and research (Warsaw University, the Polish Academy of Science, Collegium Civitas and the Central Statistical Office), those who make policy (the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs) and those representing practitioners (the National Co-operative Council) as well as several regional partners active in promoting social enterprise, notably WAMA COOP in Olsztyn, ERKON in Elbląg and the Barka Foundation in Poznań.

Mapping a fast-changing social economy sector

The need to build an evidence base for policy-makers to work from led to the first leg of the Tu Jest Praca project – statistical research. Professor Leś and research co-ordinator Dr Sławomir Nałęcz worked hard to get Poland's Central Statistical Office on board the partnership for this job – and they succeeded. "It was important to have the government institute carrying out the research, as it meant that the respondents were prepared to return the question­naires." Even so, several com­plained that they were expected to provide information on their finances. The survey, the first of its kind ever undertaken, has achieved a sample of 4,000 – probably around one-tenth of the sector. As of October 2006, the fieldwork done by Central Statistical Office has just been finished and the results are being analysed. "We have been surveying both the traditional social economy – associations, foundations, mutuals, classic co-operatives," says Professor Leś, "as well as the new types of social economy organisations that have sprung up in recent years as social co-operatives and advocacy organisations start playing a productive role. These include workshops employing people with disabilities, centres and clubs for social integration and job clubs."

The data on social economy organisations collected through the studies cover revenue, costs, profits, goods and services delivered, employment and volunteering, participation, disadvantaged groups benefiting and much more. There are also two qualitative studies, in the regions of Warmia-Masuria and Wielkopolska, of how social enterprise works in the local context and what the prospects are for its development.

This research will enable Poland to be one of the first countries to contribute data to the EU-wide system of 'satellite accounts' that is being established under the guidance of the EU's statistical office Eurostat, and which will enable policy-makers to appreciate the social economy at Union level. The survey's most telling feature, in Professor Leś's view, is that it gives a reliable picture of the share of social economy organisations as employers, and their strength in services of general interest and local development.

Educating the sector's leaders

Though the final beneficiaries of Tu Jest Praca's educational effort are long-term unemployed and disadvantaged people, it also has indirect beneficiaries, that is the managers and leaders of social enterprises – the people who create the structures that employ disadvantaged people. Thus, the second pillar of the project is education. The project has almost completed one cycle of its post-graduate course for managers in the social economy, which was launched in April 2006 at Warsaw University. Twenty-eight people took part, coming from all over the country, and representing co-operatives, associations, foundations and local authorities.

Warsaw University Institute of Social Policy 
Postgraduate programme in social economy management
The 230-hour curricu­lum includes:
- civil society and the social economy (including theories of local development
and EU structural policy) 
- roles and instruments of social economy in local development (including 
partnership building) 
- management of social economy institutions (including value-based leadership,
human resource, financial and project management, planning and marketing) 
- the legal and fiscal framework, including mobilising endogenous potential
and untapped local resources 
- social entrepreneurship (including services of general interest,
entrepreneurship and corp­orate social responsibility) 
There are also seminars and workshops on advocacy and lobbying as instruments
of building local social infrastructure, and on new technologies in the social
economy. Finally there are internships in organisations abroad.

Professor Leś and the project secretary Małgorzata Ołdak have collated the materials into the first volume in the project's planned series of three 'working papers'. Entitled Z Teorii i Praktyki Gospodarki Społecznej (Aspects of the Theory and Practice of Social Enterprise), the 180-page book brings together contributions from Poland and a number of other European countries. Four hundred copies have been printed and the volume has been distributed to libraries, the ministry, relevant parliamentary committees, social economy and civil society networks, and direct to social enterprises.[1] Two more volumes are to follow: one to be published at the end of 2006 will focus on the relationship between local authorities and the social economy, while the third and final volume will sum up the project's results towards the end of 2007.

In the regions, the project has now run two week-long residential courses for some 60 people – a winter school coinciding with the international conference of the SEED transnational partnership, and a summer school that took place in June 2006 in the village of Guzowy Piec in the forests outside Olsztyn.

Push for local development

Giving it strength in depth, the project has in partnership two regional organisations with impressive track records in social enterprise development. WAMA-COOP, which was set up in 1999 on the model of Sweden's lokal kooperativa utvecklingscentren (local co-operative develop­ment agencies) has been successful in establishing new social businesses in the province of Warmia-Masuria in the northeast of the country, which suffers from high unemployment. So far it has set up six social co-operatives, the last two under the new social co-operative law. They are active in basket weaving, information technology, catering and tourism. As part of the Tu Jest Praca project, it has been organising regional workshops for workers and managers of social enterprises and giving legal services to the founding members of new social co-operatives. Meanwhile in the west of the country the Barka Foundation, based in Poznań, will be running a similar series of seminars in 2007.

Founding a fund

The third component of this multi-stranded project is the search for appropriate finance for social enterprises. The initial idea was to create a fund for social entrepreneurship in partnership with the new breed of co-operative banks that have mushroomed in Poland, the SKOKs (spółdzielcze kasy oszczednościowo-kredytowe). They have grown to have over 1 million members and 13,000 branches, and together are larger than the country's largest conventional bank, with a 5% market share in SME finance. Unfortunately, the SKOKs have been deterred by their assessment of the risks involved in lending to fledgling social enterprises, and have so far refused to take part. In their place, the project is now trying to interest the local co-operative banks in collaboration. "We haven't given up," says Professor Leś. "The idea is to set up a multi-source system, with public as well as private sector partners." And the general public? "Yes, there may be scope to tap ethical investors too."

Embedding the lessons

The project is making use of its academic base to embed social enterprise in the university teaching curriculum. A further element of the project specifically designed to institutionalise the sector is establishment of the Observatory of the Social Economy, which is based in the Institute of Political Studies at the Polish Academy of Sciences. The institute makes a good home for the observatory, as it is already a partner in world­wide research studies such as the Johns Hopkins University study on the non-profit sector. "The observatory co-ordinates all the research," says Professor Leś, "and afterwards we hope to keep it going as a permanent institution to monitor trends in social enterprise."

The partners plan to carry their message to the regions of Poland through a series of four regional seminars. These would principally be targeted at local government officers, trade unions, churches and civil society organisations. Their objective would be to present the benefits of social enterprises for local development. "We aim to show that, by raising the activity rate of the population, social entrepreneurship brings both economic and societal benefits: it is good for the local economy, local businesses, the social security system and local government," says Professor Leś. "We want to promote social enterprise of all sorts – not only work integration but ideas such as neighbourhood/proximity services." The project will also hold a two-day national conference.

The project also aims to set the policy agenda, and is helping the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to set up a focus group to gather information on the action needed to create an enabling legal and fiscal environment for social enterprises. This will result in a set of recommendations to be presented to Parliament.

Professor Leś believes that the trend is upwards for social enterprises. Around 60 social co-operatives alone have been created in the last year or so, although no reliable figures exist as to their longevity. More and more foundations and associations have been engaging in producing goods and services for the benefit of the members and the broader community. The Tu Jest Praca project is putting the framework conditions in place that will continue this trend: knowledge, skills, networks, statistics, policy arguments and, it is to be hoped, finance.


DP name: Tu Jest Praca ('We Have Jobs')
DP ID: PL-57
Transnational partnership: TCA 4344 SEED - Social Enterprises for European Development
Contact: Professor Ewa Leś, project co-ordinator
Instytut Polityki Społecznej, Uniwersytet Warszawski, ul. Nowy Świat 67, 00-927 Warszawa, Poland
Phone: +48 22 552 0203, +48 22 552 0286
E-mail: e_les@onet.pl
Website: http://www.tujestpraca.pl

[1] ISBN 83-922787-8-X, downloadable from http://www.tujestpraca.pl under the heading Aktualności