A better world in practice
ZWOLNIENI Z TEORII
Warsaw | Poland
Everything started from a small project we developed during our studies – says Paula Bruszewska, co-founder. We wanted to encourage 30 young people to do social projects, people who haven’t done anything social before. So, we did the program, a little bit chaotic, but we had 30 fantastic participants who created interesting social projects. Then, we organized the next editions, for four years, every time changing something, for example adding more professional trainings. With time we went from just planning social projects to their realization. After 4 years we noticed that for 30 places we received 300 applications, without a big promotion. We thought it is really a pity to limit the number of people. We wanted to create exactly the opposite, a mechanism thanks to which anybody can start a social project, and its success depends on if and how you finish the project, not whether you were chosen in the recruitment process. We came up with the idea of Zwolnieni z Teorii [Exempt from theory], we put online all our knowledge and experience from the 4 years. In that moment we also decided that this is what we want to do in life. That time I was working in Geneva for an American corporation. About the two other co-founders, one used to work for Orlen, as project manager, a high position he tried to reach for long time, and another one was just starting a PhD in Switzerland. We told ourselves: “This is the moment; we quit everything, came back to Poland and created this project!” Quite a risk, but our hearts told us to do it. There was no other choice.
Zwolnieni z Teorii in the online version exists for 3 years. Up to now 5.000 people did projects for 8 million beneficiaries. Young people, both from big cities and small villages, with no previous experience started to make a difference, getting really spectacular results. All support they get comes from the online platform.
Everything is online, even the mentors which support those who do social projects. But the activities are offline. We give tips and lead you through the process, a little bit like giving the recipe for a cake. But it’s you to prepare it and bake it. You come to the platform and register your team. Before you have to find it, speak with people, in your school, among your friends, maybe online. Then you seek together for the idea, we give you some inspiration, but finally the participants decide what exactly they want to do.
Zwolnieni z Teorii arouse a lot of interests among young people. So, slowly, it starts to reach also their teachers.
Our name is controversial and especially teachers tend to be suspicious at the beginning. We wanted to be a little bit rebellious, underlining how much outdated is our educational system. It’s not that we need slightly less theory, we need to dramatically diminish the amount of theory and add practical skills. But when teachers get to know what is the project about, that we teach professional management of project or marketing, in practice, not in theory, they are amazed. Only this first moment can be problematic. Also parents are sometimes skeptical, they remember times when having good marks granted you a place at the university and good studies which would guarantee a good future. But this world doesn’t exist anymore. You need to have initiative, be entrepreneurial. In 20 years time most jobs on the labor market will be done by machines, what we need now are social competences.
Also to start an initiative like Zwolnieni z Teorii you need a lot of social competences. And courage.
It’s hard. To do a social project it’s not so hard, but to open a business which functions for years, employs people, really changes the world for better, this is really hard. Before we decided to do it full time for 4 years we were trying it in our free time. At the beginning, especially if you resign from a well-paid job in Geneva and come to do something completely not related with business, people think you are weird. It’s not that they support you and say: “Yes, go for it! You’ll manage.” They are skeptical. You need to have a lot of determination and be sure that what you are doing makes sense. Even if it doesn’t work, in the crucial moment you have to be 100% convinced, you cannot allow yourself to have doubts. Courage and determination. And the third important thing in being an entrepreneur… start small. It’s a beautiful vision to be somebody who makes a difference in a big scale, but you always achieve that with small steps. A good tool for that can be a social project. You do it in your free time, if it turns out not to have real potential for getting big, that’s ok, you still did something good, changed a little bit the world around yourself, you are satisfied, but on the other hand you can start to do something else. But maybe you will see there is something there, maybe you could give it more attention and time.. And there are quite a few projects of that kind in Zwolnieni z Teorii.
More about Zwolenieni z Teorii: zwolnienizteorii.pl