This was originally posted at nten.org: https://www.nten.org/article/a-brief-history-of-tech-clubs-in-poland/.
Our Tech Club meetings, held on the first Wednesday of each month, have already attracted thousands of people from all over Poland. The formula created by NTEN and transplanted into Poland has proven to be exactly what local NGOs need!
Washington, D.C., Boston, Kraków, New York, Kielce, San Francisco, Lublin, Wrocław, Portland, and Austin. If you have not guessed yet what the cities on the opposite sides of the ocean have in common, the answer is simple: Each of them is a host to a local Tech Club. Regular panels devoted to technology and social considerations in the nonprofit sector have caught on so much that it is hard to imagine not having them.
How It All Began
“The meetings have become one of the Foundation’s strategic activities, supporting our mission to use global IT-related trends for local development in Polish conditions,” says Rafal Kramza, CEO of the Information Society Development Foundation.
Polish Tech Clubs are present in 16 cities, with operations covering almost the entire country. Meetings take place in all kinds of locations—cafés and clubs, university lecture halls, technology parks, and design centers. They gather hundreds of people every month, and have attracted more than 7,000 participants since the beginning. They are attended not only by NGO activists, but also by representatives of scientific, business, start-up, and student communities. This is largely due to the subjects discussed during Tech Club meetings, which are widely varied and adjusted to current needs. The most popular lectures are those on social media, fundraising and crowdfunding, graphics design, content publishing, and network security. But aside from those, many other equally interesting considerations are being addressed.
These Meetings Are Different
Obviously, education and expert support for local NGOs are the main objective of the Tech Clubs in Poland. However, the character of the meetings inspires additional activities—networking, discussions, and community-building around Tech Clubs are all very important aspects of those events.
“Much to my surprise, it turned out that it was not just another technology-only meeting,” admits Stanisław Skolimowski, a participant of the Tech Club in Lublin. “It is an attempt to focus on operators to whom the final projects could be really relevant.”
“I think that there should be more such meetings,” says Piotr Celiński, a media expert from the Digital Culture Institute (Instytut Kultury Cyfrowej). “I like the formula, as it is comprehensive and universal enough to accommodate a range of subjects.”
In addition, Polish Tech Clubs involve cooperation with large companies, which can be mutually beneficial. A research project on foresight is currently under way, carried out by Tech Clubs in partnership with DELAB, an R&D unit established jointly by Google and the University of Warsaw, which promotes the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in the economy. ICT knowledge and experience are also exchanged on an annual basis with the involvement of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, the largest NGO charity initiative in Poland, which provides aid for sick children and the elderly. Tech Clubs offer technology support for the initiative, which engages millions of Poles every year.
For some time, the Polish Tech Club operator—the Information Society Development Foundation –has been receiving inquiries from Poland’s neighbor, the Ukraine, regarding the possibilities of expanding the TechClub concept there, which is equally responsive to such activities.
Tech Club meetings in Poland are a regular event deeply rooted in the local NGO scene. Beyond any doubt, the idea will continue to expand, and Tech Club meetings will gather an even larger crowd of people craving technology expertise.
Tech Clubs are a part of the New Technologies Locally Program implemented by the Information Society Development Foundation and established by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation. Program activities include a technology portal, conferences and trainings for NGOs, a network of 60 circuit riders, and support for the development of new technology solutions as part of the Innovation Fund.