From February 18 to February 24, 2018, in partnership with the Polish Solidarity Fund and with the support of the Government of Canada, PLEDDG Project led a study tour to Poland for representatives of local governments, business associations and small and medium-sized businesses from partner cities. The purpose of the study tour was to get familiar with the realities of Polish reforms and best practices in social entrepreneurship and women’s business.

The study tour proved to be dynamic and intensive. The participants visited Warsaw, Wroclaw, Lodz, and Brzeziny. In Warsaw, they had a meeting with the SMOLNA Business Support Center representatives and learned about how the city of Warsaw is supporting the development of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

The Ukrainian delegation met with Magdalena Klaus, Director of the Fund of Social and Economic Initiatives, to discuss the structure of the social economy in Poland. They were introduced to TransferHUB, a youth business incubator for social initiatives. The participants also visited a social enterprise “Conflict Kitchen”, which employs migrants from various “flash points” all over the world, and spoke with Jarmila Rybnytska, the founder of the enterprise, about the role of social entrepreneurship in solving urgent issues. Also, participants discussed women’s role in business with representatives of the Businesswomen’s Network Fund, whereas at the Polish Development Fund they learned about innovative entrepreneurship in Poland.

In Wroclaw, the participants paid a visit to a social cooperative “PANATO” and took part in the silk screen printing workshop. Equally interesting was a visit to the biggest academic business incubator in Wroclaw, where participants learned about successful investment in business projects. It was followed up by a visit to the Civil Society Development Fund and the Economic Cooperation Agency of Dolny Śląsk, where participants learned about the Agency’s activities with a special focus on the Academy of Entrepreneurship.

Lodz became another city to have shared its experience in social entrepreneurship and women’s business with Ukrainian delegation. In Lodz, participants visited the Regional Center for Social Policy, where they learned about coordination and development of social economy in the region of Lodz and discussed relations between social economy entities, social economy support centers, local authorities, and businesses.

At the Brzeziny city council participants were met by Marcin Pluta, Mayor of Brzeziny, with whom they discussed how the city facilitated the development of social economy entities. Also, participants were introduced to STEIG, a social enterprise specializing in manufacturing modular houses, and discussed opportunities for cooperation.

The study tour to Poland enabled the representatives of PLEDDG partner cities to get first-hand account of Poland’s support for inclusive business development, integration of vulnerable social groups into economic life, EU financial support, and to acquire an understanding of how successful Polish practices and experience could be replicated in the Ukrainian context.