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Page Title


Country, Date of election

Poland 1995


Civic participation

Kazimierz Jaworski przeciwdziała letargowi i poczuciu beznadziei, która przenika postkomunistyczną polską wieś mobilizując społeczności do budowania zaniedbanej infrastruktury, takiej jak telefony, woda pitna, kanalizacja, energia elektryczna i drogi. Ta nowa infrastruktura jest budowana i obsługiwana przez lokalne spółdzielnie socjalne.


Polish farmers courageously resisted Communist collectivization and retained their family farms. As a consequence, they were persecuted heavily throughout the Communist period. One form of persecution involved the systematic denial of physical infrastructure. Fewer than ten percent of rural households currently have telephones and more than half are without indoor plumbing or electricity. Rural households were also deliberately impoverished by the Communist State, which forced the farmers to sell their products through government marketing institutions that systematically cheated them. Regrettably, the rural situation has not improved significantly since the collapse of communism. Poland’s early transition to a free market was chaotic and even now delivers benefits unevenly. Budgets for public services are shrinking and the urban areas capture the overwhelming share of this limited public investment. The provision of rural infrastructure has not been seen as „profitable” by commercial and quasi-commercial investors. As a result, a mood of lethargy and helplessness pervades the rural areas. The dominant posture is one of waiting for things to be done from outside by someone else. This is reinforced by the larger historical process of economic integration into the global economy, which implies that capital and expertise are „out there” in massive quantities „just waiting to be tapped.” The result is that rural Poland is lagging behind the political and economic reforms of the new democratic era.


Kazimierz Jaworski is countering the lethargy and mood of helplessness that pervades post-communist rural Poland by mobilizing communities to build long-neglected physical infrastructure such as telephones, drinking water, sewage, electricity, and roads. His originality in doing so lies in the fact that this new infrastructure is built and serviced through local investment by local cooperative social action. This represents a 180 degree turn from the prevailing pattern of waiting for things to be done from above-by central government, Western Europeans, Americans or anyone else.To get things moving, Kaz started with a telephone service. Many of the people in his home region of Chmielnik had never used a telephone, nor did they particularly see the need to do so. But Kaz believed that by providing this powerful means to communicate, the larger goal of promoting social collaboration would be advanced. His strategic insight was to structure the service initially so that local phone calls were free. This variation of the well-known retail practice of the "loss leader" worked a small miracle. Where people generally had seen and spoken with one another only once a week in church, they were now talking incessantly on "their" telephone network. And just as Kaz had hoped, the experience of owning, operating and, most of all, using the telephone network together has created an appetite for more such local action. The community has subsequently initiated a number of other cooperative development efforts. Meanwhile, Kaz has begun to spread his approach to other regions of rural Poland and neighboring countries.


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