This profile was prepared when Piotr Topinski was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Piotr is engineering a revolution in home heating practices for the people of rural Poland. By utilizing locally-grown straw instead of government-subsidized coal as fuel, Piotr's method reduces heating costs, cuts pollution, reduces dependence on the government, and creates jobs in rural communities. He is also working to convince the government to allow villages to roll over a portion of the savings into local development cooperatives, which will fund various income-generation ventures and additional create jobs.The fuel conversion project is just one of many possibilities for promoting local development in rural areas. The lack of economic activity and employment that is currently plaguing so many Polish communities could be largely alleviated if local resources and skills were put to work. The key is being able to generate creative ideas that are well suited to local needs and resources, and finding the money to initiate the start-up process. The success of the heating fuel project will generate a pool of capital that can be reinvested into similar projects that serve local development needs.