Our mission

The mission of Barka UK to provide severely excluded Central and Eastern European (CEE) migrants with the opportunity for reconnection and social reintegration

Friends for Barka UK Concert at the Polish Embassy on May 29th, 2014


Barka UK was established in June 2007. It is affiliated to the Barka Foundation for Mutual Help, which for over thirty years has been working in Poland with excluded and vulnerable members of community. Among its many projects, Barka Poland has developed vocational schools for the unemployed, numerous social enterprises and a program of accessible housing and self-sufficient communities in the countryside.

In 2006 Barka Poland was contacted by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham in association with Housing Justice UNLEASH and The Simon Community, due to their rising concern at growing problem of homelessness among Eastern European migrants.

In 2007 Bernadette Cassidy offered Barka the use of her house in London, which soon became the hub of the UK operations. Barka UK was established that year by two senior officials of Hammersmith and Fulham Council together with Mrs Cassidy and a group of Polish nationals.

Barka UK Reconnection Project is currently operating with a great success in London Borough of Redbridge and Milton Keynes in cooperation with local outreach teams, day centres and Central & Eastern Europe Consulates in the UK.


Social Franchising

The business concept and it´s origin.

The Barka Foundation is a non-governmental organisation, its purpose is social development of marginalised groups, giving them a chance rebuild their lives by creating a programme of mutual assistance, education, entrepreneurship development in civil society and in particular in the new accession countries and the countries which have been regaining independence.

Why did it start?
How did it start?
Where did it start?
When did it start?

During thirty years Barka has been working in Poland with excluded and vulnerable people, among its many projects, Barka has developed: vocational schools for unemployed (Centres of Social Integration), numerous social and economic enterprises, a program of accessible housing and self-sufficient communities in the countryside. 

Similar needs are everywhere in Europe. Since 2007 when Barka started in London, they have been approached several times by different actors in large European cities. Today Barka is in the process of starting centres in Stockholm, the Hague and Utrecht, Berlin and Bremen. 

Barka first adopted a franchise model in 1989 – 2008 within Poland with establishing 20 associations and 20 social cooperatives which have been assembled in a network. Nowadays Barka has been working in 40 sub-regions of Poland on a franchising basis creating partnerships with councils, entrepreneurs as well as organisations in the government projects. In each and every sub-region Barka creates social integration centres and cooperatives. 

Barka started to develop the franchising model outside of Poland in 1995 when starting a new Barka Associations in France, the Netherlands, England and Ireland, but within a very specific ”business area”: helping excluded and vulnerable people back to a decent life and in many cases a social accepted life.

What does it do?
What is the service?
Who are its customers?
When was the first franchisee set up?

After the first stage of national franchising during 1989-2008, the first franchisees outside of Poland were established. These are: Association d’aide Mutuelle à Barka Le Puy, France (1995), Stichting Barka Alkmar, Nederland (1996), Barka UK – Charitable company Limited by quarantee (2007), London UK (2007) and Barka Migrants’ Support Ireland (2007). Barka Deutschland is in the process of being created in Germany. Last year Barka UK fully took over the franchising initiative from Barka Foundation in Poland which concerns the franchisees outside of Poland. In this light Barka UK has been establishing European Migrants’ Integration Network which includes Barka’s new projects in Hamburg, Berlin, Utrecht and the Hague. Also Barka started to replicate its projects to North Africa in partnership with the Government of Poland. Barka undertook cooperation with African organisations working in Europe which invited Barka to realise joint projects in the area of education of the excluded groups and social enterprise in Burkina Faso, Kenia, Zimbabwe and Uganda.

The first franchisee of Barka: the Association d’aide Mutuelle à Barka Le Puy, France established in 1995, was created in cooperation with older migrations of Poles to France, local civil society organisations and French farmers. The Association is focused on providing vocational education for the unemployed, organising study visits as well as providing in-kind donations.

Stichting Barka Alkmar, Nederland established in 1996, was created as a result of joint work with old migrations of Poles to the Netherlands, local entrepreneurs, organic farmers and ecologists. The Association has been working in the area of providing the equipment and other in-kind donations, programmes of education for the unemployed, helping to equip social enterprises in Poland, organising internships and study trips in the area of social entrepreneurship, ecology, organic building for the unemployed families and individuals in most difficult social and economic situations.

In winter 2007 Barka UK established Barka Ireland as a result of the partnership with the Polish Senate. Barka Ireland was created to answer the intensifying needs of Central and Eastern European migrants to Ireland who faced employment problems and often homelessness. Barka Ireland started a partnership with local civil society organisations, the Dublin council, the church and Irish Trade Unions. The partnership’s mission is to support migrants in most difficult social situations.

Barka UK, was established in June 2007 with Ewa Sadowska as the Chief Executive: ”Following the end of communism, Eastern European countries faced numerous social problems such as high unemployment, eviction of families from their homes, homelessness, drug and alcohol addictions and low levels of education. In these circumstances over two million Eastern European nationals emigrated to seek better lives in Western Europe, many settling in the United Kingdom. 

In 2006 Barka Poland was contacted by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham in association with Housing Justice UNLEASH and The Simon Community. They were concerned about homelessness among Eastern European migrants. They saw many who had lost their jobs, became cheated by unscrupulous employers and dishonest job agencies, fell victim of gang masters and ended up on the streets. Many were addicted to alcohol and drugs, suffering from physical and mental health problems and spiralling towards ruin.”

Key success factors of the business idea?

The Barka organisation is today growing to become an important player within the area of ”social work” in Europe. There are a lot of success factors, key success factors are among others:

  • Methodology, in theory and practice, has been developed under a long time by professionals.
  • Knowledge about vulnerable and excluded people is profound within the Barka organisation.
  • Working models and business models has been developed and proven since the start 1989.
  • Top management, including the Sadowska family, is very dedicated and professional.

The franchising system today​

Describe the franchisor.
How does it operate?
How is it managed?

Barka’s first branch outside Poland was established in Le Puy in 1995. It was followed by next Barkas in Alkmar, London and Dublin.

Barka is still facing a growth in European countries and answers need of unsuccessful migrations both within the EU as well as outside of EU. They are in the process of establishing five new centres; The Hague, Utrecht, Berlin, Bremen and Stockholm.

It usually starts with Barka being approached by civic society organisations, local borough councils, Central governments or Central and Eastern European Consulates or similar organisations.

When a New Barka project is established it involves Barka Leaders (former beneficiaries of Barka social integration programmes who had been homeless/addicted) who have been working in the organisation in Poland for a long time.

Usually the leaders faced the same problems and has a similar background to the people they help. Rest of staff members can be local social workers and/or people who want to join and work for Barka whom Barka calls Assistants.

The innovative element is that Leaders work in teams of two with Assistants and complement each other in providing the assistance to the most vulnerable migrants.

 The services provided by Barka UK:

Social Economy Centre

The goal with this programme is to guide people out on the working market and help them gain and maintain employment in the host country. This programme targets people who are haven’t yet hit the bottom of human existence and do not have to return home for rehabilitation. Few of the people that Barka staff meets within the Social Economy Centre are ready to undertake employment at once. The majority however, needs an on-going work with therapists, job advisor, enterprise development worker and psychologist as well as accessing support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous to prepare for employment. The Barka team at the Social Economy Centre are in the process of establishing the model for employment support centres for migrants/refugees. During the last year they have worked with a first group of 59 people and 60% undertook employment on the open market.

Education Services & Study Visits

During the last years Barka has drawn a lot of interest on the working models and frameworks used in the its integrated programmes within Barka. More than 200 study groups has visited Barka programmes in Poland to learn more about the success criteria when working with people guiding them back to a life within the society and back to the labour market. Within the Barka concept, professionals can now receive a-few-week- formation-training in ”Barka models” of social work. Today this is done in the main centres of Barka in Poland. In the future all Barka centres will provide information and education for individuals and groups on site.

Voluntary Return

Barka Leaders/Assistants make contact with Eastern European migrants who have become homeless to offer them the opportunity to return home. They support the individuals in their journey from exclusion to inclusion through an organised program of reconnection. ”During outreach on the streets, Barka Leaders & Assistants invite Eastern European rough sleepers to day centres for the homeless. Here they share stories of their path from exclusion to integration. Through building relationships based on trust, they encourage and prepare clients for reconnection. Barka also helps people to obtain passports and transportation. When appropriate, Barka support the individuals to reconnect with their communities and families with the help of the local organisations. Those who are not ready to do this are invited to take part in the Barka Network of Inclusion Program in Poland and Barka’s partner organisations where they can enter rehabilitation program, access detox, learn new work skills and build friendships with others who share their journey.” Since 2004 over 1500 vulnerable Eastern European migrants returned to rehabilitation programmes/vocational training in home countries and families.

Services provided by the franchisor​

Future prospects
Any major issues?
Pan-European interests?

The main goal/interest of the Barka Network is to contribute to quality growth through the development of human capital in the global scale. In this context we would like to emphasize the significance of the recommendation of European Parliament from the 19th of February 2009 concerning social economy[1]. The document presents the following definition of social economy: „(…)the social economy gives prominence to a business model that cannot be characterised either by its size or by its areas of activity, but by its respect for common values, namely, the primacy of democracy, social stakeholder participation, and individual and social objectives over gain; the defence and implementation of the principles of solidarity and responsibility; the conjunction of the interests of its user members with the general interest; democratic control by its members; voluntary and open membership; management autonomy and independence in relation to public authorities; and the allocation of the bulk of surpluses in pursuit of the aims of sustainable development and of service to its members in accordance with the general interest”.

It is worth to take into consideration some other recommendations regarding the subject, in particular:


– Report of Dr. Fabrizio Barca containing an assessment of the effectiveness of cohesion policy to date as well as a series of proposals how to reform cohesion policy for the period post 2013 [2].
– Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on “How to foster efficient partnership in the management of cohesion policy programmes, based on good practices from the 2007-2013 cycle” [3]
– Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘What is the role and perspectives for Africa’s social economy in development cooperation?’ [4]
– Publication (2010): ”Barka – New Beginning – Social Market Economy 1989-2009” on social economy experiences in Central and Eastern European countries which regained their freedom after the communism collapse (with the emphasis on the experiences of Poland gathered by the Barka Foundation, the leader of social economy in Poland). [5]

Social economy does not only consider management of economic infrastructures but above all it highlights a good-quality management of social capital, also in crisis situations. This does not only concern development of local and trans-local groups, but also creation of partnerships for new institutions, new action plans & strategies and new legal frameworks in the context of sustainable development. Integration of those systems within territorial partnerships is a responsibility of central and local governments. It especially lies within the scope of public institutions occupied with creating space for economic, political and civil society leaders to become involved. The adoption of social economy will result in decreasing social exclusion and diminishing marginalisation of less privileged groups and individuals.

Effects of negligence in implementation of social economy have been, among others, failed political and economic migrations. Difficult experiences of many hundred thousand immigrants are caused by their inadequate admission by many countries. This is a proof of a lacking ability to conduct complicated processes of social, cultural and economic integration and a shortage of well-prepared institutions and staffs to enhance these processes.

These phenomena ought not to be understated, especially that the intensifying migrations are one of the main challenges of the 21st century.

[1] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P6-TA-2009-0062&language=EN
[2] http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/policy/future/pdf/report_barca_v0306.pdf
[3] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/regi/dv/ces967-2010_ac_/ces967-2010_ac_en.pdf
[4] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2011:044:0129:0135:PL:PDF

Contact Ewa Sadowska