Kazimierz Jaworski

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1995


This profile was prepared when Kazimierz Jaworski was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
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.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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