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The concept of social innovation has not been widely used under such a term in Poland until the beginning of the 21st century. Prior to, Poland mainly used phrases such as “social change” and “institutionalization of change.” The term “innovation” was used primarily in the context of new technologies, market products, and services. The discussion around social innovation in Poland is still at an early stage.

This does not mean that the Polish society has no experience in the creation and dissemination of social innovation. At this point, the relationship of social innovation with a social entrepreneurship should be considered as the most important. It is believed that this type of entrepreneurship will provide new solutions to deal with the wider issues of social mobilization and social inclusion. Social entrepreneurs in Poland are seen as innovators and local leaders who discover and implement new ways to manage resources and activities in relation to areas such as unemployment, social exclusion, environmental protection, and employment of people with disabilities. 

Social innovation is time and context specific. That means it can mean different things in different context. What might not seem innovative in one country, may be ground breaking in another. The political and cultural background is important to understand. There are also a wide variety of organisations involved in this field, each have different perspectives. So, the purpose of this page is to demonstrate a variety of views on what social innovation means to different kinds of organisations in Poland.

The voices of Poland:

In 2011, Filip Pazderski, Dominika Potkanska, and Izabela Przybysz from the Institute of Public Affairs  provided a snapshot of how social innovation looked like in Poland at the time. They noted the role the government:

"Since 2009 the Polish government has recognised the important role of social entrepreneurship in the reduction of unemployment and in sustainable development. As a result, this sphere of activity has gained support within national and regional structural programmes financed by the European Social Fund. In 2009 the Polish prime minister established the group whose priorities are the improvement of the conditions of the social entrepreneurship development in the country (with respect to educational, legal, financial and institutional frameworks).

However, until now the results of its work has not bring any fundamental breakthroughs in Polish social entrepreneurship. Poland is still in need of implemented national policies and strategies to promote social innovation and social entrepreneurship in a more systematic way."

Read their full contribution here for a general overview of social innovation in Poland.

In early 2015, Andrzej Klimczuk from the Warsaw School of Economics provided a detailed report on the challenges addressed by social innovation in Poland and by who. He discusses initiatives like the "Integrated support system of social economy" project:

"The main objective of the project was to improve the condition of the social economy in Poland. The project has created permanent, institutionalized mechanisms of substantive support of the social economy organizations and their environment. Specific objectives include, among others, creation and development of quality standards for social services and social inclusion; increase of skills and strengthen the capacity of staff of welfare institutions, social inclusion institutions, and social economy entities through training and courses, counseling and post-graduate studies, as well as study visits and internships; professionalization of activities in support of social economy entities; raise public awareness of the possibilities of solving problems using the tools of the social economy; environment and strengthen the social economy institutions at the local level by the method of building partnerships for social economy."

He also explains how medialabs and fablabs play a significant role in social innovation and generating further innovations. Medialab is a meeting place for all those interested in sharing ideas, meeting inspirational artists and designers, as well as a useful platform for collaboration with international artists and institutions.

"Poland's first Medialab was organized during the project Culture 2.0 in 2010 in the village of Chrzelice near Opole. It was an attempt to create a sustainable platform for cooperation of people working in the fields of education, activism, art, and technology. MediaLab Chrzelice was organized at the initiative of the Ortus Foundation and project partners included the National Audiovisual Institute (Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny), Creative Commons Poland, and the Commission of History and Tradition of Chrzelice (Komisja History i Tradycji Ziemi Chrzelickiej). In 2012, Medialab Gdańsk and Medialab Katowice were formed. They tend to focus on interdisciplinary activities trying to find new uses for digital technologies and innovative ways to employ new media to promote sustainable urban transformation."

The full report contains more examples of various actors and types of projects that can be found in Poland. Read the full report now, available in both English and Polish.