The IICS Foundation Gala was a large social networking event (of about 300 participants) for people/organizations/institutions/companies engaged in promoting the idea of civil society, the spread of civic attitudes, and activities to increase citizen engagement in public life and the economy. The event’s primary goal was the integration of people and the environment centered on the IICS, the summation of the foundation’s activities until now, a talk on current projects and plans, as well as opportunities for cooperation. The leaders of NGOs and think tanks, politicians, diplomats, local government heads, entrepreneurs, and representatives of culture, science, administration and the media took part in the gala.
During the Gala’s official portion the Founder and President of the Foundation, Mateusz Komorowski, as well as members of the IICS Program Council - Professor Renata Mieńkowska-Norkiene and Attorney Piotr Schramma, who couldn’t appear in person and whose letter was read by Renata Gabryjelska - spoke. The Marshal of the Polish Senate, Professor Tomasz Grodzki, US Viceambassador to Poland B. Bix Aliu, as well as Social Psychologist and Professor Krystyna Skarżyńska appeared as keynote speakers.
At the introduction, IICS President Mateusz Komorowski thanked so many for coming, noting that common values, ideas and a citizenship gene bind the group in which we met. He stated “Today, we can talk in a positive, friendly atmosphere about the condition of civil society in Poland and the world, and about a space for joint actions and civic projects; and also sum up the prior year and think about the future - both near and distant.” He said that no-one in the hall needed to be convinced of the fundamental importance a strong civil society has for democracy, the democratic rule of law, politics, public life or our everyday functioning. At the same time, he encouraged [those in the audience] to cooperate within the IICS Analysis Center, which is directed by Karol Reczkin. It is a center of expert analytics functioning within the statutory activities of the IICS Foundation that focuses on and specifically supports the development of experts, leaders of social initiatives and active participants in the public debate just starting their operations.
President Komorowski also thanked the partners with which the Foundation cooperates on a daily basis: Orange Polska, The US Embassy in Poland, The Konrad Adenauer Foundation, The Committee for Social Dialogue of the National Chamber of Commerce, The Security and Development Foundation Stratpoints, The Center for the Study of the Legal Aspects of Blockchain Technology, The Social Security Institute and Association 61.
The members of the IICS Program Council thanked all for engaging in IICS activities. Professor Renata Mieńkowska-Norkiene summed up the political events around the world of the past year - “Populism has not ended, but is rather expanding its reach. Unfortunately, social protests are being brutally suppressed (just calling to mind Hong Kong or Chile) and the European Union is losing its illusions of Great Britain staying in the [European] community. But as a scientist I also have an obligation to look positively at everything. Nevertheless, Hong Kong brought about a positive result, in Chile the situation is beginning to slowly change, and a sensible level of parliamentary debate was able to be reinstated in the Polish Senate,” - she said. In the name of the IICS Program Council, Professor Mieńkowska-Norkiene invited guests to cooperate within the Foundation - “We are the IICS’s potential for various events that speak to the fact civil society in Poland is doing well and that we are fighting - and we certainly aren’t losing hope” - she added.
Renata Gabryjelska read Attorney Piotr Schramma’s letter. In his speech, the attorney noted the progressive weakening of the law by the current leadership. - “According to the government in Poland today, democracy is a system in which the leadership can interpret every Polish and European legal act in its own, instrumental, arbitrary way. It is a system in which the leadership can take over not only departments, but also the courts. I myself say an emphatic ‘no’ to such a definition of democracy,” - we read in the letter.
Attorney Schramm noted that we’re at a crossroads and up against a revolution at every level. Today, it is up to us as to what kind of all-embracing principles we civically make. - “As a representative of the IICS Program Council, a European, a citizen of the world, and a lawyer in my daily life I plead to you: let us not worry ourselves with the phrase: ‘One who knows a day in advance and attempts to warn others comes across as an idiot for 24 hours.’” - he finished.
The Marshal of the Polish Senate, Professor Tomasz Grodzki, said that the Foundation’s slogan - Together, we can do more - should be a beacon to all who believe that only smart, harmonious cooperation serves the development of every nation and society. In the Marshal’s opinion, looking at the last 30 years it should be admitted that the construction of the beginnings of civil society in Poland was a huge success. - “Nothing happens on its own, but thanks to such organizations as the IICS Foundation and many anonymous individuals, every year we become a smarter society,” - he said. In his speech, the Marshal also brought up the issue of education. He noted that without good education there will not be a good future for subsequent generations. He expressed thanks to all of the NGOs engaged in this area.
Harkening back to his diplomatic trips, US Viceambassador to Poland B. Bix Aliu said that in many countries around the world he has heard an opinion of Poland as a country for solidarity and on which one can always count - especially in the area of sharing one’s own experiences and helping understand what civil society means. B. Bix Aliu noted how fundamental the support of NGOs, those organizations who deal with international cooperation, as well as those working for local communities alike is for the United States. As part of such activities, the US Embassy is organizing training programs for representatives of administrations and NGOs in Washington. Thanks to such programs, one can obtain valuable experience, as well as learn how to strengthen and develop social action. It’s also worth adding that every year 40 Polish high school students travel to the United States to take part in the yearlong program FLEX, or Future Leaders Exchange program.
B. Bix Aliu concluded his speech with President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”.
Professor Krystyna Skarżyńska cited opinion surveys and social attitudes. The data indicate that the average Pole performed only 1.5 civic activities in the past 12 months. The group of individuals that socially engages prizes such values as kindness and community. A frequent reason cited by Poles as to why they don’t carry out civic activities was the admission that they don’t want to be treated as political activists. - “Let us not allow ourselves to be seduced by the stereotype that our work consists only of the gnashing of teeth and costs. So, the support of the weaker among us and work towards a cause gives us much in return. Even in Singapore - one of the most individualistic societies on earth - those who socially engage themselves are happier, healthier and live longer,” - the sociologist said.
The official part of the event ended with a concert put on by Dorota Miśkiewicz and Marek Napiórkowski.