Condition of Polish NGO`s in an interview with Michał Piasecki, co-founder of the Center of NGO`s in Kielce
The main goal of the international project Ce Responsible, which together with its partners is implementing the Kielce Technology Park, is to activate non-profit organizations and pro-social enterprises to cooperate. We talk with Michał Piasecki, co-founder of the newly established NGO Center in Kielce, about the current situation of NGOs in our country.
What does the NGO Center in Kielce do and where did the idea for its launch come from? Is it because of the greater awareness of non-profit organizations that they should articulate their needs more strongly?
Michał Piasecki: The Center of Non-Governmental Organizations is a place of comprehensive support for NGOs, but also a place of local activity and the implementation of civic initiatives. The idea was born a few years ago. On the one hand, there were the organisation's housing needs, and on the other hand, substantive support and incubation, i.e. assistance in establishing and running an association or foundation, were needed. From the very beginning, we cooperated with the Kielce City Hall on the creation of the Center. The city is our natural partner. It was with officials that we went on study visits to other cities, where such centers already function successfully. Because let's face it, the NGO center is not a national innovation. We chose the model in which the organizations run the center. Because it was not so obvious in every city. The city gives us space, and we provide support using external funds that we obtain ourselves. Today, the Center is run by several organizations: the PEStka Foundation, the Homo Politicus Association, the Integration and Development Association, and the Kielce Forum of NGOs federation.
The awareness of the organization has certainly increased. Today, active NGOs are those that are not limited to their area of activity, but integrate with other organizations, exchange experiences and networks. As in any industry - you will not do as much yourself as in a cluster or federation. The aim of the center is to encourage NGO representatives to cooperate more closely.
Needs should be articulated, but in partnership. It is easy to criticize the local government for something, saying that it does not provide funds for these or other projects. But informed citizens criticize constructively - proposing solutions. And we support this model of articulating needs.
You have close contact with NGOs. What are their greatest needs today?
M.P .: We established the Kielce Forum of NGOs federation, which at the moment brings together 20 entities from various industries. We also cooperate with dozens of other NGOs. Most often, organizations struggle with housing problems (high rent in the market, which young entities in particular cannot afford). The second issue is the funds for the day-to-day operation. NGOs usually work from project to project, and if there are no public funds or there are breaks in their distribution (such as the period between the old and the new EU perspective), it may stagnate in achieving the goals. Often, employees and activists of such NGOs are looking for a new job, which completely inhibits the implementation of tasks. Another big challenge is the very start for newly formed NGOs. Let's compare young NGOs with a startup or an ordinary one-man company. For entrepreneurs, there is a full range of possibilities to start with - discounts, subsidies to start with. It is more difficult for NGOs because there are fewer funds on the market. This can also be seen in the recent financial shields. There was support for NGOs, but compared to non-repayable loans and other mechanisms for business entities, the scale was incomparable. And it was the organizations that lost the opportunity to implement social changes. How to change the society, carry out public projects if you cannot meet in more than 5 people?
What is the cooperation of companies from the Świętokrzyskie region implementing CSR policy with social organizations compared to Poland?
M.P .: CSR in general in Poland is rather in a very early stage. Also in the region. Entrepreneurs do not yet see tangible image benefits from corporate social responsibility. However, there is some progress. We are definitely moving from the stage of sponsoring awards in competitions to the stage of financing specific, long-term social projects. There are already such cases in the region and there will be more of them. Because in Poland, CSR is slowly becoming trendy. You can see it after the TV spots. And the benefit is three-way. A corporation gains the image of a company responsible, for example, for the environment, the society is educated for private funds, so public authorities can spend the budget on something else, and finally a citizen gains, because the environment around them improves.
How are such organizations doing in times of a pandemic? Do you support them in this?
M.P .: Pandemic is the main brake in interpersonal relations, and non-governmental organizations rely on it. Many projects had to be withdrawn and unused funds returned. The work of an organization, just like corporations or schools and universities, had to move online. The advantage was certainly that everyone, regardless of age, had to learn new forms of communication. But that was the problem in the long run. It's hard to change the world from home. We used the time of the pandemic to ... renovate the building at 52 Wojska Polskiego Street. And organizations helped us in it. Volunteers carried furniture, screwed cabinets together. Such simple things and physical work are enjoyable, because it is a springboard from the computer screen.
What are the Centre's nearest plans?
M.P .: There is a return to normality ahead of us. Organizations will start their activities after the pandemic, and we give them space to carry them out. Eventually, the center will also be able to become a place for municipal public debate and public consultations. It will certainly extend the formula of the Kielce Forum of NGOs. We have recently established cooperation with the Municipal Council for Public Benefit Activities. We also want to cooperate with the Kielce Seniors Council and the Youth City Council. The second stage of the renovation of the building is also ahead of us. It is necessary to rebuild the staircase and the floor intended for the permanent headquarters of the organization. We invite all NGOs, city movements and groups of citizens to use the space of the Center for Non-Governmental Organizations for free. The entire offer is available at www.ngo.kielce.pl
Michał Piasecki, co-founder of the NGO Center, President of the Kielce NGO Forum and the Homo Politicus Association, municipal activist.