Cooperative – Alternative Forms of Entrepreneurial Action
 Lublin, Poland

 

THE CONTEXT OF YOUR INITIATIVE

Since the Emmaus Lublin community (Poland) opened in 1995 it has been carrying out the classic activities of collecting and selling on used objects. But in recent years the group has been looking to identify new sources of funding.
The current economic climate in Poland means that the quality and quantity of articles received in our community is mediocre. Thus we are dependant, in a way, on aid coming from Emmaus groups in Western European countries.
Developing new forms of funding would mean more autonomy for our group and greater diversity in our sources of funding. We also offer training and practice in manual jobs for our companions, depending on whether or not they are interested and depending on their individual capabilities. Thanks to this work some of them have been able to find work and become autonomous.

With this goal in mind a Cooperative has been created and the majority of its members are companions. This Cooperative helps provide greater diversity of production and services.

THE ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT AS PART OF YOUR INITIATIVE

Since the turn of the millennium we have been preparing, creating and experimenting with workshops with a view to launching new forms of development. We launched crafts workshops such as carpentry, ironwork/welding, vulcanisation of rubber, upholstery, repairing bicycles and moulding concrete. We have since had to close some of these workshops.

In 2010 we created a Social Cooperative and the majority of its members are companions. The goal of this Cooperative is to carry out entrepreneurial initiatives for production and services.

Since 2010 we have been diversifying our production, creating public infrastructure such as park benches, concrete tables, stools, bins, road signs, bus shelters, etc.

In 2016 we opened a restaurant where we make Italian-style pizza and Turkish-style kebabs as well as offering salads, drinks and other options.

WHO IS INVOLVED FROM OUR GROUP?

. 12 companions, 2 of whom have been employed as staff and 3 of whom are doing internships
. 4 salaried workers and 4 partners
. 1 architect who designs technical documents for new products
. 1 companion in charge of the restaurant
. Other people (admin people, social workers) help us if and when needed

WHICH PARTNERS ARE YOU WORKING WITH ON THIS INITIATIVE?

We work alongside the public employment centre and NGOs who work on reintegrating excluded people into the working world.
We also work with commercial businesses that deliver materials to us for highly specialised services such as digital cutting, galvanisation, etc.
An Italian chef who is well-known here in Poland helped us with the opening of the restaurant and has since continued supporting us; we also have another chef who has helped us with our Turkish cuisine.
Our clients include local associations, accommodation centres, businesses and individuals.

The different steps towards opening the restaurant:

. May 2015 – the idea was brought forward and was discussed in different groups. We analysed the feasibility of this project in terms of finance, human resources, potential return on investment, etc. In July we held a meeting with our companions, our board and our employees and organised an anonymous vote. Despite initial apprehension the result was unanimous: 100% voted in favour of the project!
. We then moved onto renting the premises, drawing up the technical, technological and sanitary documents, etc. This work was important in order to obtain all the necessary approvals (and there were lots!).
. We then had to bring together our sources of funding:
Self-financing (around 10,000 euros).
Loans: we took out 2 loans - we received around 8,000 euros to be used to purchase materials and in return we promised to hire 2 people for a minimum duration of 2 years.
. Adapting the premises to our needs – all of the work done on the building was carried out by our companions.
. Fitting out the building: kitchen equipment, kitchen accessories and furniture for the restaurant.
. We built the furniture and many other objects ourselves (or rather our companions built them).
. Training, designing the menus, looking for suppliers, etc.
. Designing and completing the interior of the restaurant (decoration, lighting, displaying objects designed by people with disabilities, putting up posters for our local association project and for Emmaus International, etc.)
. Designing our advertising material, promoting the project in the media - in the first few months we were the subject of several television reports including two reports for national TV; we also did several radio interviews and many articles about our project were written in the press.
. The official opening took place on 12 March 2016

FUTURE PROSPECTS

. We are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that our project is an ambitious one and yet we have potential for economic and social development thanks to our wide range of varied and profitable initiatives. We have become a key, influential stakeholder in terms of the development of a social economy in our region and in Poland as a whole (on 14 November 2016 we came 2nd place in a national competition for the best social economy business).
. There is potential to increase our commercial income.
. We are fortunate in that our partner associations, who are now our main customers, understand the social economy concept and recognise the quality of our products.
. Potential development for our mission and solidarity: increasing our capacity to aid people in poverty and to aid groups who see poverty as a scandal and who fight to make our world a fairer place.

SHARE YOUR PROGRESS AND THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF THIS INITIATIVE

. We have succeeded in creating a commercial business which operates only with entrepreneurial activities. For the time being our profits are not very high but we are competitive.
. We have created a workspace which allows our companions to gain qualification and practice different professions (carpentry, welding, masonry, catering and also, less often, tiling, painting and decorating).
. Thanks to these projects we have been able to do a lot of the construction work and work in the restaurant ourselves; this has helped us to progress and improve both our working conditions and the day-to-day life in our community. This aspect was important for the companions’personal development as they feel as though their living and working conditions are improving thanks to their own hard work.
. We have given ourselves an opportunity to further the economic and social development of our community.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD ANY INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR INITIATIVE?

This project has helped:
. Widening and providing an extra boost to our possible partnerships with other associations (who work on professional activities and/or local investment)
. Starting a partnership with private companies and greater participation in the job market
. Creating partnerships with other NGOs who are influential in the development of a social economy in Poland

WHAT ARE YOUR PROSPECTS?

What we need most of all is a bit of a boost and to widen our possibilities in terms of commercial management. The current level of development has now become too much for us to handle.
With the 2nd place prize we won on 14 November (best social economy business in Poland in 2016) we were granted a management and organisation audit which will be carried out by the international consulting firm PWC. We hope to make the best possible use of this aid.

About

 42987

Initiative sponsors

Zbigniew DRAZKOWSKI
Ela GUC


Location

Lublin, Poland

Struggles

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