THE DOUGHNUT HERITAGE of the era of coal and steel

Couple words about "ACT! as a Doughnut" project pilot implementation in city of Zabrze in Poland

The Doughnut


“ACT! As a Doughnut” is a non-formal education program based on Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics. The pilot of the ACT!Dou project has been implemented simultaneously by five countries: Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, represented by local NGOs.  MasterPeace Global, DEAL’s partner and umbrella organisation for associates all around the world, including the remaining four partners in the project: Edu4You (SK), Grow United (DE), Multigenerational Community (PL) & MasterPeace Club Romania.

The goal was to encourage young people to actively participate in their local community and help create a sustainable future based on shared EU values. 

The program was built as a journey with seventeen stops, which are workshops for young people. Every stop is a lesson that brings them closer to understanding their role in the local community and their strength to change their city.

It starts with participants understanding their values and connecting them with EU values; this allows young people to understand their place in the local community, in the future of their country and more broadly - what impact they have on Europe as their large homeland. They also learn about their talents - everyone has a talent, but sometimes it takes time and others to know your own. 

Those are followed by lessons on the Sustainable Development Goals – in local and global terms, basics of Doughnut Economics, and Artivism. These are the three pillars on which they based their most important work - community projects. 

The program aims to give the participants tools to become changemakers. As the final part of the journey, the Youth wrote their “Manifesto”, which they later submitted to representatives of local authorities.

The City

Tiger & Bear with Manifesto

We were working in Zabrze, a city in Southern Poland that's located near Katowice in the Upper Silesian Industrial District. In the late 20th century, Zabrze was known as "the city of coal, coke, and steel". It was home to 8 coal mines and a dozen or so large plants that were focused on coal and steel processing. At that time, around 205,000 people lived here.

This development had a darker side: the environment was being destroyed. Zabrze was one of the most polluted cities in Europe, with soil, water and air that exceeded safe standards by a hundred times. This environmental degradation led to a much higher incidence of diseases, infant mortality, and a shorter life expectancy for the inhabitants. Despite the advantages of slightly higher salaries, lower costs of living and early retirement, Zabrze is no longer able to attract new inhabitants due to the state of the environment.

Over the past three decades, the population of the town has decreased significantly to only 150,000 residents. The older generation is living in unfavourable conditions, which has led to them getting sick and dying earlier than expected. On the other hand, the younger generation is aware of the threats and is emigrating in large numbers to other cities and abroad.

For 20 years, the leaders of Zabrze have been dedicated to developing the idea of "Zabrze - the City of Post-Industrial Tourism". Thanks to financial support from the EU, the city has transformed into an open-air museum focused on industrial history - a unique attraction for visitors.

Unfortunately, residents have been neglected and as a result of errors, they have to pay for the most expensive water in the entire country, as well as one of the most expensive garbage and waste services. However, the high costs are not the only issue. The huge Garbage Processing Plant, which is located in the City Center, emits odour for several kilometres. This has been a persistent problem since 2016, even though the Parliament of the Republic of Poland has tried to address it.

Another unintended result of the investment is the highest debts (per capita) in Southern Poland. 

Recent national analyses of the "Quality of Life in Cities in Poland" have brought Zabrze to the top of the infamous list of cities that are losing socio-economic functions. Unofficially, Zabrze is called the Silesian Detroit, due to issues such as smog and polluted soil. Several leaders from MasterPeace Poland live in the city and its surroundings, so we are aware of these problems firsthand.

The Youth

The journey starts...

The project "ACT! As a Doughnut" was designed for young people aged 13-19. Our group was on the older side and mostly consisted of students from the vocational school - Zespół Szkół nr 3 im. Rotmistrza Witolda Pileckiego in Zabrze. They are learning various professions such as IT specialists, programmers, electricians, automation specialists, and clothes designers. Due to the school's profile, most of the group were young men. Additionally, some of our participants were refugees from Ukraine.

Regarding community life and local politics, these individuals were disengaged and uninterested. They didn't feel that they had much to contribute or that anyone would listen to them if they tried. When asked about their future plans, most of them expressed a desire to move abroad immediately after receiving their diploma, due to economic reasons. This only confirms the data from the city's characteristics - the depopulation trend continues and there is no end in sight.

Our participants, despite not being involved in city affairs, showed great awareness of major local and global issues. They had a clear understanding of what was wrong but felt powerless to address those problems. However, they were able to overcome their passivity during important moments, such as the 2023 parliamentary elections, where there was a record turnout in the 18-24 age group.

The willingness to engage in important matters and the opportunity to apply knowledge have become the driving forces behind planning and implementing social projects. This is a crucial aspect of the "ACT!Dou" project, where participants take matters into their own hands. Equipped with knowledge and tools, participants choose one of the five Doughnut topics - Empowered, Connected, Enabled, Healthy, and Ecological. They then adapt the Doughnut framework to their local realities and plan and execute community projects.

To tackle a problem in their local community, they followed a step-by-step approach. Firstly, they identified a pressing issue that needed to be addressed. Next, they explored various potential solutions and brainstormed individual ideas before selecting the best one. They then presented their findings and proposed solutions in a concise manner. Finally, if feasible, they tried to implement the chosen solution.

The Manifesto

Meeting with decision makers

Our project has three main target groups - youth, teachers, and local stakeholders. However, we found that the lack of connection with local decision-makers resulted in the helplessness and disengagement of our participants. Unfortunately, youth have no contact with local officials, and the officials themselves, with a few exceptions, don't have contact with Youth. Our job was to bridge this gap and create connections between these groups.

This is how the Manifesto, officially known as the Memorandum of Understanding, came to be. Participants learned about the SDGs and Doughnut economics, connected that knowledge to their local realities, and planned community projects. During that time they realized what should be changed in the city's infrastructure and functioning, would improve their situation. In other words: they dreamed of their thriving city.

After brainstorming and discussing their ideas with their group, they compiled them into a Manifesto. This is a short written declaration that outlines the most important, necessary, and urgent actions required to transform their cities/regions into thriving communities for all. The Manifesto serves as a means of informing local government and members of the community about the necessary steps that need to be taken. Our Youth wrote “CITY Z for Z GENERATION!”, where they focused on four problems: Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, Education and Innovation, Social Justice, Economy and Employment.

At the end of the journey, the participants had the opportunity to meet with local government representatives, present their manifestos and reach an agreement.


The journey...

How to summarize our Journey through the Doughnut?

Our participants wholeheartedly engaged in various activities and worked hard to prepare interesting community projects. They approached the topic with seriousness and commitment. Their manifesto is an expression of the needs of the young generation, who are concerned about not only their own future but also that of the entire community.

The school and teachers showed a great deal of interest in the project. They were regretful that the educational system did not allow them to cover the proposed topics more comprehensively and accurately. Truth be told, our proposed plan was too ambitious and would require a separate educational path throughout the school year. Nonetheless, they provided us with every possible support and intend to continue collaborating with us.

Creating a connection between young people and decision-makers was the most challenging aspect. It was difficult to organize meetings with representatives of local government due to various reasons such as the lack of habit of talking to city's youth, the political culture of the region, and the accumulation of elections including parliamentary, local government, and European elections within a span of 9 months.

Regardless of political views, it was important to engage in conversation with all potential candidates. However, not everyone was willing to have a discussion. Some conversations were unsuccessful due to ideological differences, such as questioning the validity of global warming or believing that our actions do not have a significant impact compared to China's pollution levels ("Our smog is much smaller than China's smog, so our actions do not matter much"). Nevertheless, the value came from attempting to initiate a dialogue or simply having a conversation.

LTTA, March 2024

Project, Analysis, Partnerships, Manifesto... Now it's time to ACT

Meeting in Hague

City we dream of...

Our Manifesto!

Our Community Projects




    Bob Kaminski

    Katowice, województwo śląskie, Polska

    I want to use Donut Economics to transform Poland to find it in an ecologically safe and socially equitable Donut Space!

    1 comment
    Bob Kaminski 17 days ago

    On behalf of MasterPeace Poland (Multigenerational Community Foundation), I would like to thank all our Partners, all Participants, Entities and Organizations whose support and active help made this Project the beginning of something Ours, something Important, something for the Future - A Better Future!

    Project, Analysis, Partnerships, Manifesto... Now it's time to ACT!

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