November 19, 2015

Country Focus:The Polish VP/SI sector: challenges, key players and initiatives

Over 2015, EVPA is producing a number of factsheets detailing venture philanthropy and social investment activities in countries around Europe. The below article is based on our recently published Poland factsheet.

There is still a need for legal frameworks in some areas in order to take the next steps, but movement in the right directions is already underway.

Even though Poland is the only European country that has steadily grown in recent years, effectively avoiding the recession that hit its neighbours, some economic and social issues still demand attention. Persistent challenges such as unemployment, social exclusion, an unskilled workforce, insufficient access to high-quality health care and the traditional gap between rural and urban development would benefit from a novel approach.

The venture philanthropy (VP) and social investment (SI) sector in Poland is still very early stage, with few funders thinking about grant-giving in terms of ‘social investment’ and rarely focusing on measurable outcomes, supporting grantees with expertise and/or funding on a multiyear basis or allowing capacity building. However, in this article we will highlight some of the initiatives that are taking place and show great promise for the future of the sector in this country.

Government initiatives

The Polish Government Department of Public Benefit’s ‘payment by results’ initiative for public grants, which started in 2012 and incorporated input from the sector in 2014, has helped open the discussion on outcomes and impact in the Polish social sector.

The Polish government’s National Programme of Social Economy Development (KPRES) is working on the development of a legal structure  for Social Enterprises.

In addition, there are two national certifications already in place to promote social enterprise: [eS] certificate (Social economy enterprise) and Zakup pro-społeczny (pro-social goods and services).

Local initiatives to support Social Purpose Organisations

For 5 years FISE (The Foundation for Social and Economic Initiatives) has been organising a competition for the best social enterprise of the year (Final edition in November 2015). In 2014, NESsT supported by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation organised a national social enterprise business plan competition, the 1st of its kind in Poland. The winners joined NESsT’s incubation portfolio receiving up to seven years of capacity and financing support.    

There are two knowledge sharing initiatives in the sector. Firstly, SKES (Permanent Social Economy Conference) which is an ongoing arrangement between organisations involved in social economy to share learnings and advocate for creating an ecosystem for social enterprises. Then there is also the OSES Conference “National Meeting of Social Economy”, an annual meeting of social entrepreneurs, academics, policy-makers and other social economy actors in Poland.

Local initiatives to build the VP/SI sector

The Polish Private Equity Association created a Philanthropy Committee in 2011 to raise awareness of philanthropy within the Polish private equity/venture capital community. There is also one nationwide web portal Ekonomia Spoleczna that covers and promotes topics related to social economy.

There are two consultancy firms that are helping the sector grow. One actor is The Unit for Social Innovation and Research-Stocznia (Shipyard), a Polish think tank and consultancy that advocates venture philanthropy, working with funders and non-profits on impact including building evaluation capacity and impact measurement. Another actor is Go Responsible Consulting, with their support of third sector organisations in the field of management with special emphasis on sustainable development, social and environmental standards.

The outlook for the sector

The VP/SI sector in Poland is still in the beginning stages, but is witnessing great progress. There is still a need for legal frameworks in some areas in order to take the next steps, but movement in the right directions is already underway.

EVPA’s activities in Poland

EVPA has 2 Polish members, and 2 more members that are active in the country along with numerous partners with whom we co-organise market development and networking events to connect and support the development of the VP/SI sector. Polish members are active in our network, with TISE attending 2015 Training Academy and Valores connecting with UK based members to tap into their experience to successfully set up and develop Poland’s first VP fund.

In the past year EVPA has connected with players in the Polish market by organising the event ‘Innovations and trends in social investment’ in Warsaw on 2 July 2015, providing perspective at the ‘Collaborative ecosystem for social change’ pre-event at EFNI 2015 and participating in a session at the ‘National Meeting of Social Economy’ OSES conference in Warsaw on the 17th November 2015.

Interested in finding out more about EVPA’s members in Poland? Have a look at our factsheet, or get in touch with us so we can facilitate connections. Our Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) Manager Ewa Konczal is based in Poland and you can reach her here for any questions or comments.

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