Nowa Huta

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see also Siemacha

Nowa Huta steels itself for change

In the declining steel town of Nowa Huta in Poland, a three-way partnership has designed a way to nurture new and socially useful businesses into life. With their 'Nowa Huta - New Chance' project, they are adapting the French idea of the 'business and employment co-operative' to give young creative people a new chance in working life.

Original article from by Toby Johnson


The heyday of steel

The Polish town of Nowa Huta is synonymous with one thing - steel. Dating from 1954, the massive Lenin Steelworks, Poland's biggest, was built as a very obvious symbol of the power and importance of the industrial working class. It stood in deliberate contrast to the ecclesiastical and academic city of Kraków, Poland's ancient capital, just seven kilometres to its west. All went well for 20 years, as steel production boomed, and the 40,000 workers who produced it were the aristocrats of the proletariat. Jobs were secure, housing was affordable, and the works provided all manner of social and cultural facilities for the town's 220,000 inhabitants. Nowa Huta had a secure identity as a town that made things. Yet paradoxically the trade union movement that did so much to improve the lot of the steelworkers was also the focus for the growing critique of Communist rule, and Nowa Huta was one of the crucibles of the Solidarity movement and the eventual change of government in 1989.

Nowa Huta was once a town of opportunity and security to which people migrated, but no more. The liberalisation of the economy led to - albeit voluntary - job losses on a massive scale, and the works now employs only 9,000 people. Today, the steel industry continues to globalise, and production is shifting to Asia. The result is that Nowa Huta, the paradigmatic company town, has to find new occupations for its population, and reinvent itself under a new identity.

12 partners pulling together

Twelve organisations came together to create the Partnership of Initiatives for Nowa Huta (Partnerstwo Inicjatyw Nowohuckych - PIN) - and to change things, with EQUAL's help. Its membership combines the relevant local government departments with key private sector and social economy actors. They comprise: the Cyprian Kamil Norwid Cultural Centre (OKN), the city labour office, the Prymus Enterprise Institut, the Public Affairs Institute of the Jagiellonian University, the local social services office, the education department, the municipal economic board, the local newspaper Głos (Voice), the Małopolska School of Public Administration, the 'U Siemachy' association, the Kraków Nowa-Huta section of the Polish Scouts Union and the 'Gaudium et Spes' Association for Social Help. The lead partner, OKN, was set up in 1955 by the trade unions, but since 1995 has been supported by the municipality. It manages two libraries, a cinema, two cultural centres, a computer club, a neighbourhood internet network and two European information centres. It is active in the regeneration of Nowa Huta and is a member of the informal 'Forum for Nowa Huta'.

Activity co-operative

Together, they are piloting a new way of incubating new businesses, known as 'integration manufactures', with a particular desire to help young people. The project aims to make use of the strong local work ethic, which has been frustrated by the steelworks closures, and the social capital that comes from having worked as a team. It targets people who already have some professional career and ambitions, yet are facing exclusion from the labour market. There are four particular groups: young people with a basic education, disabled people, 17-23 year-olds benefit recipients and unemployed people with no benefit entitlement. "We think of the 'integration factories' as miniature entrepreneurship laboratories," says project co-ordinator Danuta Szymońska.

The 'integration factories' are initially set up within the partner organisations, and the entrepreneurs become employees. Mentors and experts are on hand to guide them in the mysteries of business planning, management, marketing and fundraising. The idea is that the entrepreneurs develop and experiment with their business idea, build up contacts, and after a period of a year or so the business will floated off as an independent unit, with a small endowment of stock, experiences, contacts and ideas that they have built up during their sheltered upbringing. The appropriate legal form - co-operative, social enterprise, association or foundation - will be decided at that time. Alternatively, the business might remain within the parent structure. In any event, the idea is that links remain strong, with the parent and offspring keeping up a preferential trading relationship.

"We are convinced that financial capital is not the only sort of capital that is required," says Ms Szymońska. "Our method builds human capital and social capital as well, and both of these are key assets for the development of Nowa Huta and its people." The project aims to nurse into being businesses which meet social needs as well as providing a livelihood for their workers.

Hobbies into jobs

As for what these business ideas are, these are based on the idea of tapping young people's existing interests. "My hobby is my job" is the slogan - a principle that should make for high-quality products. The initial idea was to focus on crafts and digital technologies such as film, photography and computer programming.

Eleven enterprises are in the process of being set up. During the first half of 2007 a team from the Małopolska School of Public Administration will assess the ideas proposed. At this stage it is likely that the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship will be established as a foundation, as will the Garden of Experience to be set up in the City Park. The existing Centre for Social Services will be converted into a Centre for Professional Development, a specific legal form designed for the integration of disabled people. Two of the 'factories' - the Map of Nowa Huta's Potential (see below) and the Voice of Young Nowa Huta - will remain within the parent structure, while the others will take different legal forms. One or two social co-operatives will also be created.

Integration factories - 11 nascent enterprises

  • A map of Nowa Huta's potential - an internet programme of social animation
  • GETCO - a European internet platform promoting entrepreneurship
  • The Sound Crusher - recording studio and promotion of young musical talent (there are 160 groups in Nowa Huta, mostly playing hip-hop)
  • DPI-GRAF - digital printing workshop
  • Artistic knitting workshop - 40 trainees, with an emphasis on designing difficult-to-obtain XXL sizes
  • Geranium and Rose - the Art of Gardening studio, design, trimming and care of the city's many green areas
  • The Young Voice of Nowa Huta - a section of Głos, the weekly local newspaper
  • The Garden of Experience - an educational exhibition in the Polish Pilots' Park (Park Lotnikow Polskich)
  • Local social service centre - caretaking and history lessons at the Museum of the Second World War, meals on wheels for elderly people
  • Centre of Social Entrepreneurship - information, guidance, counselling
  • Skauttur - bicycle eco-tourism for young people (supervised by the Polish Scouts Union)

One particularly interesting product, and a basic building block of the information society, is the Map of Nowa Huta's Potential. Like many good ideas, this is a simple idea but one with no limits. It starts by preparing a list of all the web pages mentioning Nowa Huta, in the form of a guidebook, and distributing this among the local population in Kraków. This encourages more people to create their own web pages, and so the idea snowballs, as local institutions strive to be included. The computer database infrastructure is now in place, and during 2007 the network of stakeholders will be developed. Following that, the emphasis will switch to the animation of activities based on using the database contents.

The project has also to create the necessary infrastructure - the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship - the institution that binds together all the 'factories'. Its role includes:

  • verifying ideas, and checking them against market and social needs
  • identifying the potential of beneficiaries
  • supporting the staff of the manufactures to implement their ideas
  • consultation and promotion
  • support to define legal and organisational structures
  • organisation of training and consultancy
  • Academy of Inspiration

Setting up new businesses requires a wide range of knowledge, and some of this is acquired by doing. However other aspects have to be learnt more formally, such as copyright and intellectual property law, state aid regulations, internet rules, co-operative law, project management and monitoring systems. These are taught through short specialised courses arranged through the Jagiellonian University. There is also training organised by the EQUAL national support structure. Individuals committed to the partnership's goals will also follow a two-year course in developing entrepreneurship called the Academy of Inspiration that has been specially designed by the Jagiellonian University.

Transnational contributions

PIN is in two transnational partnerships, involving six other countries in all. The first, Towards an International Social Enterprise (TISE), involves Finland, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. The partners aim to learn together how better to support the development of social enterprises to create useful work for unemployed and disadvantaged people. They will collaborate through a joint website and newsletter, and prepare a joint study on setting up social co-operatives and a video. Poland envisages learning about green jobs from Finland, about motivating young people from the Netherlands, about social entrepreneurship from Italy and about business creation on the third sector from Germany.

Also from Germany comes the specific inspiration of the Erfahrungsfeld zur Entfaltung der Sinne (Experiential Area for the Development of the Senses) in Nürnberg, which the project aims to transpose in the form of the Kraków Educational Park. "I visited Nürnberg in 1997 during a study visit organised for the directors of cultural institutions in Kraków," says Ms Szymońska. "I was impressed by the original character of the exhibition, the passion and devotion of the creators as well as the theoretical integrity that provided the base for this attractive didactic method. Eight years passed before the necessary conditions appeared, in the form of the EQUAL project, for the creation, on the basis of the German example, of the Garden of Experience in Kraków. The friendly attitude and approval on the part of local government and a willingness to join our initiative proved to be an essential condition, both in Kraków and in Nürnberg. We already have the Programme Committee of the Garden, a general plan of activity, and plans for 60 instalments have been approved for its realisation. In the Garden of Experience we are going to test a flexible model of employment combined with a pattern of work based on rotation."

The second transnational link is through the Base' Art partnership, with projects in France and Belgium. Here the main common concern is incubating artistic and creative businesses using the model of the business and employment co-operative (coopérative d'activités et d'emploi). In parallel with exchanges and four major seminars, it will promote collaboration through an internet 'bazaar' named, of course, Base' Art.

Plans for replication

Interest among politicians is slowly growing, and the project has produced a number of tools to promote the replication of its idea, including a film entitled Together and on one's Own, which describes the partnership's work both in Nowa Huta and on the transnational level. Cost per job figures are estimated at a very reasonable € 10,000 (over an eight-month period) and plans are now afoot to start similar initiatives in other cities, notably Gdynia, Warsaw (Żoliborz district) and Wrocław.


DP name: Partnerstwo Inicjatyw Nowohuckich DP ID: PL-115 Transnational partnerships: (1) TCA 3697 - Towards an international social enterprise (TISE).

Partners: NL-2004/EQD/0010 Werkcorporaties voor jeugdigen, DE-XB4-76051-20-TH/209 Gemeinwohlarbeit wird Jobchance, FI-66 SOFIRM - Social firms as a strengthness of local area (SOSVOIMA), IT-IT-G2-ABR-025 Sistema di Cooperazione, Organizzata e Partecipata (SCOOP).

(2) TCA 3810 BASE' ART. Partners: BEfr-51 Maison du Design, FR-BRE-2004-42606 Projet d'Actions Culturelles Territoriales et Solidaires (PACTS)

Contact: Danuta Symońska Address: Partnerstwo Inicjatyw Nowohuckich, 31-959 Kraków, os. Górali 5, pok. 31, Poland Tel/fax: +48 12 643 46 98 E-mail: mailto:// Website: