15 January 2014

Working group for systemic solutions in social economy.

A Case of Strategic Partnership Between Public and Civic Shareholders in Poland.

Author and organizational affiliation: Krzysztof Herbst, an expert of Foundation for Social and Economic Initiatives (FISE).

1. Context and history

Since 1990’s Poland passes through systemic transition and begins the integration with the European Union. Economic transformation has changed economic geography and social stratification in the country. Thus it created new excluded  groups, sometimes unexpectedly. The issues of inclusion, re-integration, cohesion have become a hot issues of public policies. 

1.1. Actors of Social Economy in Poland

The institutional, human, programmatic and executive capacity of to-day’s Polish Social Economy (SE), has different and distinct roots.

Historically first and still very powerful is traditional cooperative sector. Born in the break of  XIX and XX centuries it was nationalised under communist regime. Shifted from the private to the public sections of National Statistics and planning, headed by the ministry-like administrations, this sectors fulfilled numerous roles in the State’s policies: housing, integration of disabled, agriculture, small craft and services delivery.

As a result of State’s control, the entire movement lost its driving force and democratic dynamism. Not to be neglected is institutional potential resulting from this period. Discussions continue whether and to what extent, this sector has overcame the damaging part of this heritage. Since about 15 years, representatives of this sector participate in debate and undertake  initiatives within the general movement towards building SE contemporary role in public policies and social programs. The cooperation is more obvious at the headquarter level. On the “ground level” the scene appears segmented.

Natural partner in employing Social Economy subjects for conducting the employment programs, resolving local economic downturns and restructurings, constructing social integration projects, are local authorities. Significant effort towards building strategic partnership with the unions of Polish local governments, was not successful. This was probably due to the particularities in the modus operandi of the local governments in Poland. Largely autonomous, with their own revenues and budgets, they are obliged by law to deliver the services to the population.

There is always a gap between the tasks to fulfil and available financing (i.e. budgets + subsidies). However a number of cooperation cases and joint projects between Mayors and local NGO’s served as a proof of the general idea’s feasibility. The number of such pilots was visibly lower than the stake of initiatives supported from the EU programs (ESF).

Polish NGO’s are very important player in building modern Social Economy. This “sector” or “industry” claims the direct link with civil society which overturned the real-socialism regime. Being offered significant help in its creativity and learning professional management of the projects and programs, the NGOs became the actor of change in many areas.

Naturally, one of them was social assistance, reintegration, community development and combatting unemployment. NGO movement has developed think tanks and built the pool of experts. Under the influence of EQUAL Initiative and other stimuli, NGO’s took part in building the support system for emerging SE initiatives, offering them training, consultations in management and business planning and incubation of projects. They also provided training programs for local authorities and labour administration – promoting Social Economy. Moreover, among other corporate and individual actors, NGOs initiated a large number of pilot projects in the area of social reintegration.

The social cooperatives and social enterprise concepts opened the way for new initiatives. Financed form local budgets, National Fund for Disabled Rehabilitation and ESF programs  caused vivid discussion over difficult regulations concerning social clauses and public procurement. Thie movement recently tends to mature to the form of a Social Economy Sector with associations of social entrepreneurs and employers and independent agenda.

The sector is structured and networked through “hubs”, think tanks and unions. The strongest one is Social Economy’s Standing Conference (SKES). Consciously non-formalised, reated on the letter’s of intent basis, SKES organises national conferences, participates in debates and networking, provides open internet portal ( ). Another “hub” to mention are Polish Federation of NGOs (OFOP) where Chamber of Social Economy and Chamber of Social Entrepreneurship are based ( Vivid and active is also Union of Social Enterprise Employers (

Very important role in the sector is obviously played by traditional unions of cooperatives as well. All in all, there is no single confederation of union and chambers within the sector. Some bodies have not many members and there are many of enterprises which aren’t members of any union. Public administration has no single legitimated partner to dialogue with. It could be a real barrier on the way to the institutional partnership.

It was the “development from the middle” (or advancing from the middle levels) as the Social Economy’s part in social integration was drafted through projects (including EU supported ones) and Structural Funds, programs or projects management rather than by state’s policy makers.

The re-birth of the SE movement, despite of its complicated history, can be recognised as a success both in terms of numbers and in terms of its ability to gradually built its position as a partner in modelling social policies and integration practices.

Due to the highly differentiated legal status of the bodies implementing SE programs and/or conducting activities, there is on reliable statistics to provide with the numbers. Estimates of the Strategic Group indicate circa 77 thousands organisations acting for public benefit. Of this, circa 9 thousand organisations conducts economic (“corporate”) activities. 28,7 thousand organisations are employing 123 thousands employees for 103 thousand this work constitutes main job. The subsector of the organisations (“officially”) active in the area of social reintegration, employs circa 5 thousand people. In this group we find the “producers” and ”service providers” as well as infrastructural and advisory organisations.

The core of cooperative sector (consumer, manufacturing, and employees  cooperatives) amounts to 15,2 thousand organisations and 265,9 thousand employees.

Beyond this estimates we identify the informal self-help sector and Corporate Social Responsibility movement.

2. Main characteristic of good practice

Poland joined the Social Economy movement under the EQUAL Initiative which has encouraged several pilot and promotional projects. Popular types to mention are:

  • Financial and insurance, SE-like, local and mutual services – often created within at-random projects and initiatives;
  • Social inclusion projects. Inspired by Equal, partnerships with French, German (“Paritätische Gesamtverband”), Italian social cooperatives, and others, serving as the demonstration or pilot projects.
  • Conferences: promotional First European Social Economy Conference in the EU Candidate Countries in Prague 2002, and II-nd European Social Economy Conference in Kraków 2004.

Since 2006 yearly National SE conferences are organised under the auspices of SKES. Traditionally, this is the meeting of SE subjects, local governments and Central Government Ministers. This allows for discussion of current issues as well as for promoting new projects and representing entire SE sector.

The pivotal momentum for strategic partnership building between politics and SE community was preparatory phase and the course of  events during 2008 conference in Gdańsk, a subsequent of the yearly National SE conferences. In harmony with the government’s readiness for partnership, The Social Economy Manifesto was announced[1].

This document of great importance was drafted and discussed among the ES people between the years 2006-2008. It was finally made public in Gdańsk, in the presence of legendary leaders of the Polish New Era: President Lech Wałęsa, Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki and Minister of Finance Leszek Balcerowicz.

The conference took place on 26–28 June. Gdańsk - as the birthplace of the Solidarity movement and witness to the historic negotiations between Solidarity activists and the communist government in 1980, was especially chosen to host this event. It was an ideal site to discuss new forms of social solidarity. Reflections were also encouraged by the summing up of the European Social Fund’s EQUAL Community Initiative.

This movement was prepared in understanding with the key politicians of current government and opened  a number of steps towards the operating partnership between SE environment and government. As a consequence on 15th December 2008, Prime Minister Donald Tusk appointed the working group for systemic solutions in social economy. Key stakeholders form the government, SE circles and experts were appointed. The Group was composed of teams for the following tasks:

  • Legal – to draft new Act on Social Enterprise
  • Financial – to design new financial instruments for the needs of social economy
  • Educational – to prepare curricula for civic education on social economy
  • Strategic – to propose National Program of SE Development (KPRES)

The group was formed by delegates of the ministries, the territorial administration, tripartite commission,  researchers in the field of social economy and social policies and some organisations active in that domain (SKES, OFOP and Workers Cooperative Union among others). The bodies allowed to delegate their members were indicated by the prime minister in governmental regulation. The works of a group have been communicated to the sector and general public by websites and as well as during different national and regional meetings and conferences.

The Working Group, created on the basis of invitation directed to the renown people of the movement, plays the role of a platform, where different stakeholders of the sector can meet and negotiate their positions.

2.1. The process

The strategic partnership building conforms to what is often addressed as a “change” or “innovation”. As the theory of a change teaches us, this is a kind of non-linear process with many accelerated activities and backstops. In this particular case, the change has laid the foundations of systemic integration of Social Economy realm into the repertoire of State’s policies. The key elements of the process, where working group was created and has produced its outcomes (KPRES strategy as a most important of them) were:

a) The illumination: first idea of solution, program, or framework (whether invented or imported from somewhere else. Based on diagnosis of the challenges in place.

As mentioned before, in Polish case the origins of “illumination” are successfully combined: heritage of traditional Social Economy, strength and creativeness od Polish NGO’s active in the area of social assistance / community projects, and imported from other countries of the EU solutions (like social cooperatives). 

b) Promotion of the solution, attracting stakeholders, identifying the potential leaders

Here the role of publishing and even more of the public gatherings (SE conferences) with wide participation of the political and non-governmental leaders and managers was crucial. Open discussion encouraged different pilot projects.

c) Coalition building.

The atmosphere of the above mentioned conferences: friendly, open though critical towards the state of affairs, encouraged working together. The role of the “expert – middleman” is worth of mentioning here. Experts and consultants with mixed NGO and administrative background have added to accumulation of the experience and blueprints.

d) Once, the general agreement was achieved, the drafting of the Pact or compact on cooperation on the SE role in social reintegration policies, and  blueprint design of the KPRES Strategy could only begin.

2.2. Importance of the Leaders

While we underline the spontaneous character of SE movement, it is worth of mentioning that any process of change and innovation, introducing new strategy, requires the leader. In the case of strategic partnership, the precondition of success was the emergence of coalition: the “personae” leading political and administrative process and the others leading civic partnership and demonstrating the readiness to take the load of projects implementation.

Personal cooperation between the SE community and political leaders have significantly influenced the quality and dynamics of the working group. On the other hand it increased movement’s fragility on political agenda. Elections and personal re-configuring caused slowdowns.

Nevertheless mutual understanding, sharing the values of project and of the partnership principles, based on personal knowledge and the record of previous cooperation on the projects as well as participation in the public debate, have facilitated the dialogue. Thanks to the leaders, the main lines of the SE agenda have survived elections and changes of the governments and Ministers responsible.

2.3. Tidal nature of the process

The personal composition of the coalition between administration and civic movement together with dynamic nature of the policy articulation process is always accompanied with the risk. The public side (members) of the coalition is governed by the political agenda. Elections, sudden changes of the government or ruling majorities, as well as the terms of offices (tenures) for the elected officials, may cause quite important changes in the personal composition of the coalition.

The problem of Working Group was change of the ruling Government and consequently, change in the post of Minister of Labour and Social Policy, which has put slightly “adrift” the processes within the working group. It caused the change in agendas, and made necessary some come backs for rebuilding the common understanding of the agenda and rebuilding part of the working group.

Worth of mentioning is the importance of the open, democratic process. During the governmental slow-down the civic partners of the coalition have helped in maintaining the sustainability of the project. It was not a political decision to stop or to abandon the game. Nevertheless, new officials were confronted with the process in the run and needed some time to familiarize. The work continued but projects of strategy did not pass “political thresholds” and subsequently was suspended.

At the beginning of 2012 civic part of coalition decided to strengthen the Group and push forward the strategic initiatives within it. The first step was the work of rebuilt the legitimation of the group. Civic partners, with the leadership of SKES, worked-out a position paper to the Minister of Labour about how to reframe the Group and make it more democratic and efficient at the same time.

As a consequence, the Prime Minister signed a new regulation, prolonging the work of the Group. The main issues of new regulation was:

  • More clear, democratic and up-to-date list of civic partners involved
  • More ministries involved
  • Minister of Labour and Social Policy as a president of the group
  • Two deputy-presidents, one from governmental and one from civic part of a group
  • New tasks for the Group
  • More clear and transparent rules of meetings of the group and ways it communicates its work to the general public (Group must publish all working reports in internet)

Finally, the present acceleration was followed by the finalization of previously started works. With one more review by the partners and some editorial amendments, the set of key documents:

  • the Compact between Social Economy movement and the Government,
  • draft of the new Act on Social Enterprise and
  • National Strategy of the Social Economy Development (KPRES),

was officially announced as official presentation to the  Ministry of Labour in July 2013. 

3. Evidence/Justification for Good Practice

3.1. Diagnosis of the SE situation in Poland and key challenges

The discussion in the entire SE environment, reflected in papers of Working Group has identified[2] the following diagnostic and challenges influencing the ES growth in the next periods:

Growing SE importance in Europe will encourage the emergence of new legal and financial instruments and make easier SE support and alimentation from the EU funds. Provided the lesson from the period 2007 – 2014 will be learnt and systemic adjustments introduced, this will be a strong stimuli for the SE development.

SE constitute vast potential in the areas of  employment, social integration, local development, public service delivery, and the growth of social capital. SE sector’s potentialities embrace employability (inclusion) of the most difficult groups, with involving energy of more than 10M citizens. Nevertheless, currently, SE  represents a minor share of National Economy, with 1,6% GDP and 2,7-3% of employment. Therefore main direction should be increasing SE economic importance.

Existing support for the SE sector was dispersed (not focused) due to non-existent definitions of the SE subjects (types). Moreover, supported were “soft” activities, but not locally embedded.  Momentary financing and advice did not encourage job creation nor after-start-up growing of the social enterprises.  This situation calls for stronger legal and financial back-up and for changing the proportion: from building institutional infrastructure, towards reinforcing directly the SE entities. They should become more competent in business as well as in fulfilling their societal roles. 

Equally, lowered civic dynamism and administration’s readiness for partnerships in sharing roles and responsibilities in the areas of public services and partnerships in fulfilling the tasks, are observed. Authorities rather “support” than delegate or contract-out. This, stronger form of partnership equals to 3-5% of the whole of financial transfers to the partners. Financial relations tend to create more of clientelism than of partnerships. Similar difficulties can be observed in relations with the business (including social-business) sector.

Public (including administrative) awareness of the ES virtues and capacities requires an effort to increase.

3.2. Social Economy’s current potential[3]

The two mentioned, somewhat different currents (“traditional” and modern) have built the potential of to-day’s Polish Social Economy. We still lack reliable in-depth Sector’s description. Given the absence of clear – cut definition of “modern” SE organization nor of the social enterprise, the estimates are based on available data on NGO, cooperatives, social cooperatives and similar. To obtain the possible close to the social economy, from the realm of NGO, those formally registered under the Act on Public Benefit were selected and from this number, organization conducting commercial activities (selling products – books, organizing ticketed events and so on).

Recent estimates made for KPRES show the following picture.

As it can be seen from the graph below, civic sector is recognizable employer. However, dedicated public financing from ESF, have little influence on job creation in SE.

3.3. Policy framework, including funding

Working out the National Strategy of SE Development, with accompanying tools (legal, financial, programmatic, infrastructure of support, education)  is by itself, an achievement. It begun with mobilization of the entire SE “sector” or community. Stakeholders form organizations, experts and representatives of the public administration participated. All steps in the process were accompanied by widespread public discussion, comments and opinions gathering.

Effort of the Working Group was consciously linked to the rules established by Polish Act on rules of [implementing] the development policies. Thus it constitutes a part of the National strategic planning system[4]) Particularly, the SE strategy relays so-called National “horizontal” strategies. They do not represent branches or ministries, neither belong to the “vertical” logic of the administrative programming. Horizontal strategies address the key issues and challenges of development in Poland. Consequently, the Strategy (KPRES), Education program, The Act on Social Enterprise,  involves numerous ministries: from education, through economy, regional development, up to labour and social policies.

Linking the Social Economy to the horizontal strategies. Based on KPRES

Very important achievement is progress in partnership and democratic governance of the Social Economy Program for the years 2014-2020. This concerns the structure of project’s “ownership”, composition of the governing bodies and assumed building of the sector’s own, independent potential (including non-public financial instruments). The potential but also some fragmentation of policies can be noticed while looking at the planned sources of financing for the development of Social Economy[5]:

State budget

  • National Fund of Civic Initiatives (National Budget)
  • Social Economy Program of the Ministry of Labour (State budget)
  • National Labour Fund (dedicated public Fund)
  • National Fund for Disabled Rehabilitation (dedicated public Fund)

EU Funds

  • ESF – European Social Fund, Operational program for Social Inclusion
  • ERDF – European Regional Development Fund
  • EAFRD - European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development

Other funds

  • Territorial self-government’s  budgets
  • Banks assets
  • Private sector funds

Global spending for the period 2014/2020 amounts to circa 2.645.000.000 PLN of this the share of particular sources amounts:

Local / budgets: 22.000.000

National Budget: 354.500.000

Dedicated National Funds: 641.082.000

Polish private sources: 49.280.000

EU sources: 1.577.100.000

TOTAL: 2.643.962.000

Within the funds listed above KPRES defines main activities which are crucial for feasible development of the social economy and social entrepreneurship in Poland:

  • subsidies for job creation in the Social Enterprises allowing for circa 18,5 thousand jobs of which 5,3 thousand jobs for disabled.
  • subsidies for participative development at the territorial level, civic education and financing of public services delivery by the civic sector at the local level and development of volunteering and internships
  • contracting-out public services by the local authorities to Social Economy
  • subsidies for innovative projects od Social Economy
  • revolving financing: venture capital, loans and guarantees
  • managing implementation of public policies, evaluations, coordination, management, monitoring
  • education for Social Economy

All activities were defined in the line with different diagnosis worked-out by the group.

4. Outcomes

4.1. Solid foundation for Social Economy - the socially responsible territory

The Strategy (KPRES) stressed that the social economy is part of the community (mainly territorial) realm. Therefore developing it as a separate “sector” is not possible. Vibrant SE movement is connected to the communities and social capital on their territories. The dependencies were presented by the following diagram:

Source: KPRES ver. IV

Therefore, Strategy sets the reinforcing the territorial community as the precondition for growing and vibrant SE. The following activities are provided:

  • reinforcing the participative models of diagnosing and planning at the local scale. Improving the internet platforms and electronic administration for better informed, better serviced people and better civic dialogue;
  • encouraging and supporting local self-organization  and civic activities and democratic governance in the neighbourhoods;
  • growth of public services delivery by social economy (contracting out, delegating);
  • SE participation in the key local developmental programs and activities.

From the author’s point of view, the picture  of the dependencies between the community and administrative processes is simplified. While Projects visualisation proposes perspective of direct, linear - and  - causative dependencies, shown in the graph above, The author of this paper would prefer to picture this as interdependent but relatively independent processes, as shown in the below graph:

4.2. Legal basis: Act on Social Enterprise and supporting the Social Economy.

There are visible weaknesses in merging traditional social economy establishments with the new-and-useful social enterprises, invented to fulfil the roles in social integration policies. This is due to the slow improvement on the side of traditional sub-sector, but also due to the somewhat exaggerated expectations concerning “new” sub-sector. Also, not all “stakeholding” Ministries participated to the equal extent in the process. 

It is important to notice main characteristic of the traditional SE. The organised (corporate) economic activity aims to gain the profit, that is transferred out to the owner(s). If this return is not satisfactory, the enterprise closes. On the contrary,  SE enterprises are focused on their members. Thus, their central goal may be – depending on the case:

  • Assuring work and salary for the members of the enterprise;
  • Reducing the cost of living (doing something important for the members);
  • Cooperation and mutual exchange of services and commodities between the members.

The return from being active, employed, member, participating in democratic governance, is human dignity, self-fulfilment, improved life quality. The offer of the SE is directed towards gifted people, skilled and eager to work. The classical ES enterprise does not require special privileges. As an economic undertaking, it seeks the return. Important is to whom the return goes.

On the contrary, the “new” Social Economy appears to target the needs of social assistance or social reintegration. The Act on Social Enterprise, being drafted within the Working Group, clearly defines a social enterprise as the organization aiming reintegration and employing persons being the target of the social policy, therefore entitled to receive a assistance from the State.

Self-help, cooperatives, mutuals, if they do not gather pre-qualified people, do not meet criteria of social enterprise. So, by the nature of criteria, Social enterprise would address the problem in its “mature” form, instead of taking preventive action.

Social Enterprise can profit from tax  exemptions, lowered cost of land and property lease and can receive the subsidies. It can be privileged in some types of public procurement. Moreover, it can receive privileged training, consultations and advice form the support networks of Social Economy.

Mandatory membership in the Chamber of Social Enterprises is written in the Act as well as establishing the Social Economy’s Council at the Ministry of Labour. The Act would be accompanied by adjustments in the law on cooperatives and social cooperatives.

Additionally, the changes, following the EU directive on public procurement (Com(2011) 896 will be introduced and training, reducing the abuse and “goldplatting”  in the Regional Audit Chambers, provided.

4.3. Support system for SE

One of the most important issue of the National Strategy and the new Law is to create framework for a feasible support system for social enterprises in Poland. The idea of this kind of network was formulated before the current ESF programming period and – was widely criticized by both social entrepreneurs and authorities. At the other hand the need of the supporting new enterprises is common. The Group has faced the necessity of reframe the idea of the network. In that case, the intersectoral nature of the group played the crucial role.

4.3.1. Services

EU support for the new Social Economy, the forms utilised such as competitive granting, which were already familiarised by the NGO environment and were not well suited to the Social Economy units’ modes of operation [6]. As a result the growth of support Centres was partly uncontrolled and the Centres lacked sustainability[7]. To many centres were established On the other hand, the grant – type financing favoured non-profit organizations  rather than for-profit social economy ones. This has made entire support sector of the SE, grant dependent. Thus, the support system has helped very little in actual job creation. An effort to overturn this tendency was made by the Working Group by introducing quality standards for the Centres, clearer criteria and introducing revolving financing principles.

New form and principles of operation of the support system proposed by the KPRES, are shown in the graph below.

4.3.2. Non repayable financing: (subsidies for Social Economy projects) 

Presented below graph demonstrates the will to integrate previously dispersed instruments belonging to different public administrations. Cooperation and joint use of assets are expected to add the efficiency to the system.

4.3.3. Revolving financing – repayable investments

Revolving financing for Social Economy was the area of intense discussion in the activities of Working Group. In depth analysis was prepared already in 2008[8]

According to the analysis, regular banking loans are hardly accessible for the social economy entities. The reason is their low credibility from the banks’ point of view. In addition, Social Economy is targeting different aims than typical business. Banking standards of loan assessment, designed for commercial projects, fail in assessment of SE projects. Similar difficulties are observed in guarantee schemes.

Better accessible loans or guarantees are offered by the non-banking loan / guarantee funds but their assets are low and standards of project assessment follows the rules of banking sector. 

As a result, the revolving financing for the social economy is not trace-able in the reports from financial institutions.

Recommended ways to improve the accessibility to the revolving financing: provide mobilizing the assets and increasing institutional capacity of the networks offering revolving financing for SE entities and developing  standards of project assessment better suited for the situation of social enterprises.

The National Fund of Social Entrepreneurship is proposed[9] to allocate the assets accessible for SE solely. The assets would be managed by the Bank but the retailers could be non – banking loan and guarantee funds. Foreseen sources of revolving assets mobilization embrace:

  • EU financing;
  • National budget;
  • Civic and corporate voluntary donations of 1% from the tax paid by individual subjects.

On the basis of the above analysis and following discussion, the Strategy (KPRES) proposes three steps:

  • In 2013–2015 pilot project of the SE loans will be conducted (already started); 
  • After evaluation of the pilot results the National Fund of Social Entrepreneurship will be created (about 2015) to finance loans, venture capital and guarantee schemes;
  • Innovative forms: mutual lending, private financing and other form will be tested.

4.4. Mainstreaming into public policies at the National and regional level

The National Strategy, worked-out by the Group, states that the success of its assumption should be based on the strong coordination centre. As the Strategy defines the way how the public money should be invest to a SE_sector development, the centre is appointed in the administration structures. At the same time there is a need, expressed by the Group, of more participative, not-only-governmental monitoring.

This would embrace creation of the bodies at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, to help in horizontal coordination (Council and Secretariat). Monitoring would be embedded in the coordination structures. The principles of cooperation are shown in the diagram:

Coordination of the policies towards Social Economy (source: KPRES)


Still, stronger voice of the public administration in this partnership can be noticed as well as separate alimentation from different public funds (social, regional), which are independently managed at the EU and National levels.

In parallel, the internal self-governance within the Social Economy environment is planned to develop.

4.5. Education for Social Economy

In line with the perspective of the SE as embedded in the community and social capital realm, strong educational priority is proposed by the education Team. It starts with introducing SE as party of the cultural identity. Then training and consultancies delivered through school curricula and practical internships, by the non-formal education and through system of support for initiatives.

5. Strengths and weaknesses

This SWOT analysis assesses  the performance and “replicablility” of the working group for systemic solutions in social economy as the way towards co-planning in the area of social policies at the national level.

It is worth to remember that Strength and Weaknesses boxes refer to the present situation while Opportunities and Threats speak for future situations.



Integration of the stakeholders thanks to projects supported from public, peer exchange and debates;

organised; mobilized SE communities; local and central government people informed;

Institutional and personal leadership and partner structures at political level, built thanks to the experience of working group;

Conscious effort to integrate multiple threads (types) in SE at the national level;

Personal goals and ambitions of the leaders at the stake.

Participation in the group reflects rather level of mobilization than the magnitude or potential.  Mixed composition: from grant-hunters to enterprises not fully reflected;

The presence of the Working Group members was personal, not institutional;

Personal history (job, career) may overturn the common goal’s future;

Social Economy as part of public assistance overrepresented over “self-help” SE;

Voluntary participation makes for unstable presence at the meetings and uneven effort between the meetings.



From applicant to partner – working group  as the partner in the national policies;

Multiphase, participative with intense public consultations, process of programming for the next period promises in-depth partnership in the future;

Horizontal multi- sector thinking in the works of the Group will continue;

The Group continues its involvement in the implementation phase of new strategy;

The Group participates in the European think-tanks to share the experience and work for change.

Discontinuing the Working Group dynamics;

Low participation of the territorial authorities unions and leaders continues;

Difficulties in co-planning not overcame;

Sectoral (“my backyard”) thinking prevails over program coherence;

Administration’s perspective prevails over  partnership among the actors. Authorities rather “supporting” than contracting-out;

Low participation in the SE debate and related issues at the EU level;

Slow pace of independent (non-public) assets  building curriculum.


6. Overall assessment and transferability

The final version of this section was written after Trento peer review, when the comments to this case and peer review summarizing Report have been voiced. Thus, although aiming at concluding the case itself, it also contains some reaction to these documents.

Part of the discussion addresses issues of differences in the key focus differing between southern and northern countries (to some extent corresponding to the cultural/civilizational dimension) or between long-term democracies and “maturing” ones. Both could partially explain questions concerning the possible systemic gaps on different levels of SE sector operation in Poland.

Hence, regarding the transferability of the Polish good practice it comes not as a surprise that only the Czech partner found it applicable to its own situation, as we are more or less in the same development phase regarding the SE sector, while some other partners (UK, Sweden etc.) had already gone through this initial process of building the framework for SE.

Nevertheless all other partners within the Network found some elements of the good practice useful in terms of partnership building, such as grass root initiative or the framework of this kind of intersectoral cooperation.

Worth of further (bilateral or general) discussion are specific paths of policy formulation and implementation, while the given issue (like SE) was introduced with the help of partly autonomous institutions and programs, such as Structural Funds.

In Polish case the SE project was partly introduced and initiated by the intermediary (NGO’s)– at the middle level of the State verticals, not by the central – political bodies. Although “centrally” approved, Equal and ESF brought not entirely foreseen developments. In this meaning, the SE development can be regarded as spontaneous one. The actual leaders of the project were EU Projects’ or Programs’  managing Units, NGO environment and – only to some extent – national policies makers who sometimes had to catch up with some delay.  This specificity could partly explain the comments which “under-appreciate” the grassroots type floating structures and forms.

Finally, some comments seem to neglect the transition factor. Still, this is a social policy under construction and some structures are not ready yet. Interestingly enough, no comments were given as to the role of leaders from all stakeholders and as to the “tidal” nature of the process.

Otherwise than it the author’s SWOT, commented were strong and weak sides of the process, related to the transferability issue. We have tried to gather them with adding some comments from the Author:

Strong sides:

Holistic approach and, potentially, the outcomes

Bridging national and local relationships

Strength of  a broad partnerships (vehicle)

Efficient instruments of influence and representation (other than annual conferences). Working Group promises continuity. SE obtained the instruments of pressure towards the government.

Direct and indirect impact of social partners on particular activities, policy design and coordination

Weak sides:


Instability of political (institutional) setting and bottom-up patterns of innovations’;  partnership represents weak type of structure. There are conflicts inherent to a confederal model.


Risk of grant dependency.







Lacking involvement of business sectors (CSR)

Relatively low level (prevailing straight - instrumental approach - to fulfil mandatory roles)  of Local Authorities.


Lacking involvement of Social Work Institutes and/or Labour offices.


Lack of regional organization.















Fragmented SE environment.



Issue of quality assurance.

This is  partly the nature of social movements. Worth of discussion are risks connected to the more rigid “disciplined” solutions.



In fact the works of the Working Group bear some costs. Mostly these are costs of travelling, meeting, external experts’ work . In this sense the Working Group depends on external financing. In the Polish case it is financed from the ESF project within the OP Human Capital.







In fact there are local authorities and regional organizations represented to the Working Group .  Two seats for them are occupied by the Association of Polish Counties (Poviats)  and the Association of Rural Communes (Gminas). The regional self governments are also represented by  the representative of the Convent of the Regional Centres for Social Policy (ROPS). This body  belongs to the Marshal’ office and is responsible for  creating the social policy. They are really active in terms of the SE development in each region. In the case of local/regional authorities as well as central ministries the involvement  of the representatives depends on the awareness of the role of SE in the local/regional development.

In the Author’s opinion, the dialogue and partnership way of strategy building is the best way to integrate the movement.

This was key concern of the debate during drafting the Strategy. Thus, the partnership rather facilitated shift towards the quality than otherwise.

Issues worth further discussion


What should be the proportion between supporting infrastructure and SE organizations? It should be discussed together with the issue already indicated in the case – of integrating the “real economy” support infrastructure with SE support. This is probably the key factor of building “real” (more economic) and market oriented SE.

Efficiency of short - vs - strategic consultation. Another comment pictures the activity (as depicted in the case) as building consultation framework rather than partnership.

Developing instruments to attract more/differentiated stakeholders, especially from the private sector.

Mix of cooperation and competing (or even clientelism) in the NGO and SE subjects milieu.

Different support systems for SE organizations and free market start-up enterprises. Adding new instruments to the dialogue: independent financial means (assets), developing  separate business support and partnership structures , or rather strengthening ties between social  and market economy sectors? This question is still open in Poland, whereas the framework for the SE sector is being built at the moment from the scratch.


[2] KPRES draft ver 4.

[3] If not marked otherwise, the content and data below, are drown from the draft of National Program of Social Economy Development (KPRES), ver 4., May/June 2013

[4] Ustawa z dnia 6 grudnia 2006 r. o zasadach prowadzenia polityki rozwoju (Dz. U. z 2009 r. Nr 157, poz. 1240, z późn. zm.

[5] Source: KPRES final draft version, July 2013

[6] See KPRES diagnostic, ver 4. and  Tadeusz Durczok: Dlaczego nie powstało 65 EKON-ów?  (access July 2013)

[7] Ministerstwo Rozwoju Regionalnego, Sprawozdanie z realizacji Programu Operacyjnego Kapitał Ludzki za II półrocze 2011 roku, s.82

[8] Irena Herbst: Analiza możliwości finansowania podmiotów ekonomii społecznej w Polsce; [Analysis of Financing Possibilities for Social Economy in Poland] unpublished paper prepared for the Working Group, Warszawa 19 Feb 2008 r.

[9] Solution inspired by the Hungarian National Civic Fund, created in 2004