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Newsletters > May 2011 > Study Visit in Malopolska - Experiencing social entrepreneurship
10/03/11
After the 4th International PEOPLE conference “Social Entrepreneurship – it pays off!”, with a number of useful theoretical reflections and inspiring voices of practitioners, the participants had the opportunity to get the taste of it by visiting some real-life examples of social enterprises working in Malopolska. Two sites were in Cracow and one in the rural community of Wieprz, where the guests were taken by coach through windy Malopolska roads!

During the first stop, the guests were kindly welcomed by the Mayor of Wieprz, Ms. Malgorzata Chrapek, who discussed the community initiatives and programmes in place. Whilst giving a tour of the local Social Integration Centre, she gave a brief outline of the problems encountered and conditions of dealing with long-time unemployment and demographical limitations. One of the projects at the centre focuses on training for unemployed people in the areas of ICT, construction, and wickerwork. The participants attend weekly “soft” training classes with the aim of enhancing entrepreneurial and active attitudes, as well as skills useful in everyday life. During the study visit, we witnessed a wickerwork class, visited ICT workshops and saw the construction team at work.

One of the visits' highlights included meeting the local activist and social manager, Mr. Seweryn Galysz, who organises cultural activities for young people. He has initiated a series of travel-and-cuisine workshops, which notably enrich the community's free-time offer, in addition to educating and broadening horizons of local young people. The study tour visited social facilities, including a sports centre with a gym, football pitch, and artificial beach on the Wieprzowka river. On the funny side, the group visited a miniature Museum of the Pig, a clue to community's name, literally meaning “pig”.

The next point of the visit included “U Pana Cogito” hotel, established by two Cracow NGOs collaborating with an Edinburgh-based foundation. With the support of the Cracow municipality, a historic building was renovated to host the socially-guided enterprise. Visiting the site, we learned that the hotel employs 21 people with mental disabilities, including schizophrenia. All profits generated by the enterprise are entirely dedicated to the employees' rehabilitation, especially to refund medications, rehabilitation programmes and training. After her comprehensive and thought-provoking presentation, Ms. Agnieszka Lewonowska-Banach, the enterprise manager, was asked several questions about the business, barriers to overcome, and the results yielded so far.

With the busy day coming to an end, the participants deserved a relaxing evening, which was organised in (yes!) another social enterprise, the Café Hamlet. This was a tasteful, cosy place, run by the Hamlet Foundation, which aims to support people with mental disabilities by providing employment and vocational training. As we learned from Ms. Maryla Aleksiejew, the Foundation Coordinator's presentation, the foundation promotes works created by artists with mental disorders and organises self-help groups, in addition to providing social aid. The presentation being a starter, the delicious dinner followed accompanied by a heated discussion. The guests were impressed by the fact that the firm acts as a regular business, successfully competing with market-based companies. A number of interesting thoughts were voiced, including the reflections on how to ensure sustainable effects of the programs, support the participants to increase their potential, and help them remain in the labour market.

As Conroy Williams of the Hampshire School of Social Entrepreneurs neatly summed up the day; the key words are sustainability and entrepreneurship, and those initiating social programs should always bear them in mind while laying foundations to new initiatives.