The Civic Congress is an area for apolitical debate to work out common strategic thinking about Poland’s development. The debate is participated by representatives of various sectors and environments, all generations, residents of cities, towns and villages, with various political views and sensitivity. This-year’s Congress was participated by over 300 people, and the main theme was the use of local potential for development of Poland.
The Congress was opened by Dr. Jan Szomburg, President of the Management Board of Institute for Market Economics. He pointed to the fact that localism has been the foundation of Poland and the most important challenge for the nearest 100 years. After the inaugural addresses, there was the debate of experts on “Local communities – how to build them and use their power”. It was moderated by Luk Palmen, a member of the Civic Congress Program Board. The panel discussion was participated by Marcin Skrzypek, TNN Ośrodek Brama Grodzka Lublin, Ewa Całus, vice mayor of Wadowice, Dr. Tomasz Rakowski, the Institute of Etnology and Cultural Anthropology at University of Warsaw, who emphasized the significant role of local government cooperation with citizens and of sense of community which in local space is based on culture and art, as well as by Małgorzata Dąbrowska, representing the „Made in Bończa” Association, a PAFF Local Partnership of Warka, who was speaking about acting for common good and pointed out that the critical is to have one objective and acting together. In her opinion to activate local people one has to like people and look for what they have in common, and not what they differ in. She also emphasized that people involved in work for the benefit of their community shall feel they contributed to the success.
Following the plenary session were the thematic sessions, which took place at the same time. The hosts of one of them were representatives of the PAFF Local Partnerships program. The discussion panel on “Local common good – what it is and how to build it” was conducted by Paweł Łukasiak, the President of the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland. After the short introduction, Daniel Prędkopowicz, the President of “Europe and We” Association, a representative of PAFF Local Partnership of Grodzisk Mazowiecki noticed that various issues may be important for the residents but it is important that the common good selected by them did not cause conflicts or negative consequences for the local community. In turn Tomasz Schimanek, expert in social policy of the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy in Poland, explained what the applied in the “PAFF Local Partnerships” Program method of local community activation consisted in and what its elements are. He also emphasized that the common good shall be precisely described and combine individual interests with the community ones.
Another participant of the debate was Ewelina Langer from Municipal Public Library in Chrzanów, a participant of the Library Development Program. She told about the way of establishing a partnership and cooperating effectively, on the example of the Train to Tradition partnership set up as part of the 6th round of the “PAFF Local Partnerships” Program.
On sustainability of common good spoke Mateusz Małyska, the President of “Sempre a Frente” Foundation, the leader of the Youth Forest Guard partnership. He indicated two most important factors – understanding and communicating. In his opinion it is worth informing the community about the particular actions and needs to make residents understand the actions performed, as that translates into particular participation.
At the final part of the panel, where audience asked questions, the participants pointed to the relations between local good and global good, mainly in the context of natural environment, and to the fact that the Constitution of the Republic of Poland speaks about common good. Then the panel participants commented on the questions and issues raised.
The meeting was summed up by Paweł Łukasiak, who emphasized that speaking about the common good, it is worth informing the residents about benefits, offering them not only general ideas but also detailed solutions.
The “PAFF Local Partnerships” Program has for several years fitted into the subjects of the Civic Congress as it presents examples of multisectoral partnerships at the local level. The objective of the program is to initiate and develop cooperation of participants of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation various initiatives in order to establish partnerships that can implement projects important for local communities. Over six rounds of the Program, a total of 45 partnerships were established in 97 municipalities and communes, with participation of over 600 partners.