Last week we visited the fantastic Kooperatwya Dobrze team (roughly translated as ‘The Good Co-op’) based in central Warsaw which sells food produced and grown in the region to its 130+ members. The team are pioneers in Poland – the very first grass roots co-op to set up in the country, and they are looking to inspire and support others to do the same. Plunkett’s Chief Executive, Peter Couchman, and Project Officer Tom Carman, visited the group to deliver a Director Development workshop. Here, Tom shares his experiences.

“Kooperatwya Dobrze is found in Warsaw’s Wolf Street, an area with a similar feel to that of the Stokes Croft area of Bristol, or London’s Dalston and Stoke Newington, and the shop’s membership reflects and supports the livelihoods and lifestyles of the community living there, stocking an impressive quantity of healthy, organic vegetarian food at a price affordable to the diverse range of residents.

“We arrived in the late afternoon and were shown around the small shop, busy with members buying fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, peppers and carrots, as well as grains and wholefoods, and value-added products like olive oil, jams and juices. Shortly afterwards, we were invited to share a meal of this produce with the group, and we took a short walk to Ujazdowski Park. It’s a small park, but one that has played an important role in the history of the city; following the Second World War, a number of Finnish-style wooden cabins were erected in the park in an effort to help rebuild the city, each with a small garden and growing area. They were only intended to be temporary, but those living there came to enjoy them and they have since been recognised by the people of Warsaw for their important contribution to their city’s heritage. Whilst many of the cabins have remained for the past 70 years to provide homes for families, some have been gifted to NGOs in the city to be leased out as informal meeting spaces. In this fantastic cabin in the middle of Warsaw we sat and shared a meal with the group, and learned more about their co-operative.

“Koop Dobrze has been making an impact since it started in 2013 – the team are exceptionally enthusiastic and have a fantastic vision. Their successes have been at an organisational level (getting the co-op set up, despite there being no recognised legal form in Poland), but also on an individual level, by providing employment for members, for example. Like many young people that have just finished studying, members have found that working for others is presented as the best option for graduates; this is especially challenging when demand for new skills is not met by the employment market, or the employment market is offering opportunities that are not inspiring or of interest. Koop Dobrze is a great example that shows the ability of younger people to work together to run their own enterprise or co-operative and create their own opportunities.

“The following day we delivered our Director Development workshop. Peter spoke about co-operatives around the world that are building communities, considering what scale means, and looking at co-operatives that are linking well with others, and applied this to how Koop Dobrze might operate in the future. We then worked with Koop Dobrze to develop ideas for new initiatives they might deliver in the long term, and heard how they’re particularly keen to support others to set up their own co-operatives.
“Plunkett would like to say a huge thank you to the Koop Dobrze for their warm welcome and generosity, for sharing their ideas and the delicious meal in the park. We’d also like to wish them luck when they host a Polish Co-op Congress in October, which we know will help them towards achieving their ambitions to inspire others. Plunkett will be helping the team with this and their other plans over the next year.”

If you would like to find out more about this work or Plunkett’s international work or director development workshops, get in touch with Tom Carman on [email protected]