Published 19th June 2019

Nick Gardham visits Centrum Doradztwa Strategicznego

Community Organisers’ CEO, Nick Gardham, visits the Polish organisation Centrum Doradztwa Strategicznego (the Strategic Advisory Centre) as part of the ‘Socially Organised’ programme – an Anglo-Polish partnership supported by the British Council and the European Union.

Nick reflects on his recent visit to Poland:

About a year ago Community Organisers was contacted by Centrum Doradztwa Strategicznego – an organisation based in Poland – who were keen to explore how a community organising approach could be adapted and developed in a Polish context.

Funded by the European Union, the ‘Socially Organised’ programme was launched in two pilot cities, Przemysl and Krosno.  Both cities are similar in size and demographic to Stockport and Lincoln so – thanks to Joanna Okrasa, Alice Carter, Nicola Dean, and Ryan McMurdo – Community Organisers invited the Polish team to come to the UK and hear the experiences and stories of community organising – and they also got a bit of training too (with the added advantage of Joanna being able to lead the session in Polish!).

In December, the Polish team invited Nicola Dean and I to visit the two pilots; we meet with local organisations and with the Presidents of both cities, and we introduced community organising from our experience.

What makes a good ‘Organizator społeczny’ [December 2018]

The ‘Socially Organised’ programme has recruited 12 trainee community organisers from a variety of backgrounds, including current and former teachers, charity and NGO workers, municipal officers, and social entrepreneurs. As part of their development, they have taken versions of our courses – ‘Introduction to Community Organising’ and ‘Listening Skills for Community Organising’ – adapted by the team leading the programme in Poland.

These Polish trainees recently visited the UK (at the beginning of June) and learnt from Becky Jackson – the newly recruited community organiser in Stockport – to hear what it’s like starting out on your community organising journey.

Stockport community organiser Becky Jackson (left) and Nicola Dean speaking to the Polish trainee community organisers [June 2019]

It’s really hard to talk about Power when there isn’t a Polish word for ‘Power’!

… and now I’ve visited Poland for two very intense days, to witness the ‘Power’ and ‘Action’ training in Rzesòw; to hear about their listening campaigns – and how these are being put into action.

It was amazing to see how the training has been translated and adapted in a Polish context.

Lessons learnt…!

  • it’s really hard to talk about Power when there isn’t a Polish word for ‘Power’ (in a community organising context);
  • the role of the civic budget (budget that people can vote on) to support the emergent outcomes of organising activity;
  • the importance of building local organising structures to support the newly developed community organising teams.  Will we see the launch of Community Organisers Krosno and Community Organisers Przemysl?
  • whether it’s in England or Poland, people being trained have very similar fears and aspirations about starting 1:1 conversations – but people always leave feeling inspired!

I’m sure there are many more, but this is just the beginning of this project as the trainee COs hit the ground. As their actions develop and their stories emerge I’m sure we will hear more about how community organising is taking root in Poland.

Polish trainee community organisers taking part in ‘Building Power Through Community Organising’ training [June 2019]


If you've got a great story about community organising and the positive impact it is having in your community we would love to hear from you.