Dominika Szaciłło, founder of the grassroots movement “Uwaga, śmieciarka jedzie” in Poland, is radically limiting the volume of trash accumulating in landfills by introducing a new role to the system: trash brokers. Through her participation in the third edition of the Dela programme, a systems change accelerator co-created by Ashoka and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship, Dominika shares her personal insights on how the accelerator helped the movement expand its impact – redefining trash and reducing landfill accumulation by demonstrating the value of unwanted items.
Nearly 650.000 people have joined the movement that began with the idea of redefining the status and redistribution of unwanted objects, which is now creating a new culture around consumption. Currently, Dominika and her team of 160 volunteers help people save their unwanted items from dumpsters by providing tools to connect them with people who will use those items.
To learn more about the impact of this cross-sector collaboration, we spoke with Dominika Szaciłło, who views success as a potential growth-blocking factor.
Why did you launch your initiative, and what motivated you to join global staff innovators in this global program?Dominika Szaciłło: I grew up in a home of artists and entrepreneurs, where quality items would age “beautifully” and could be used for a lifetime. This led to becoming a product designer and studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. I saw from my kitchen window in the central district of Warsaw that someone left used-but-beautiful, old wooden chairs next to the garbage bins. I didn’t need the chairs but at the same time couldn’t stand to see them end up at the landfill. When I realized that there is no system in place to rescue “trash” from being wasted, I decided to use my professional knowledge and previous experiences as a designer to create a way to preserve this “trash”.
Through the early stages of this community, the “founding chairs” made their way to a new home. Over the years, so did hundreds of thousands of other items. As our growth was based on a spontaneous initiative, I was challenged by professional and well-organized accelerator journey steps. With the help of the Dela systems change accelerator, I could think of other ways of solving the problem of discarding items as trash despite their potential for reuse. My idea of making an online and offline infrastructure for people to give away unwanted items was only part of a bigger picture.
The unexpected success of the "Attention, garbage truck is driving" movement was a surprise to me and I was looking for the best paths for further development.
Dominika Szaciłło, founder of Uwaga, śmieciarka jedzie.
What are the main challenges that you have addressed by participating in this global accelerator?
Dominika Szaciłło: I joined the Dela programme with a strong feeling that my initiative is like a very talented baby. The community I started has grown to almost 650.000 people who are happily giving away unwanted items for free. I had a feeling that, as a mother of a concept, I have the obligation to raise it in the best way possible. The unexpected success of Uwaga, śmieciarka jedzie surprised me, and I looked for the best possible ways to develop it further.
During the Dela programme, I went through a careful guidance so I could see our success from a wider perspective of system change. I went through difficult journey full of obstacles, explaining the core of our activity and its unique trash-saving mission. Although trash and unwanted items are taboo topics, experts from the social innovation field helped me with finding the best words and stories to explain the movement and the mission behind why people love to save trash.
How did you turn your dream into a reality?Dominika Szaciłło: Thinking of other possible solutions gave me the space and distance needed for my own first initiative, so I could transform from an “obligated mother” to a fully conscious Changemaker. Being free and detached made me see how much effort is needed to sustain my first initiative, so I could appreciate other solutions to the problem.
Additional ideas of Waste Saving Fiestas in schools and the needed law changes appeared to me first as a dream, which later on started to grow, becoming more and more precise during my journey in this global accelerator, transforming from a dream to an actual plan.
What did participation in the Dela program give you?Dominika Szaciłło: Despite this breakthrough experience, after the Dela Summit and meeting with my co-workers, the journey did not end. Every person I talked to was carefully chosen, and I gained new perspectives to succeed in implementing my strategy. From a business point of view, and from a senior Changemaker perspective, a new idea also brings new questions.
Digging into every aspect of the problem revealed its complexity, but also showed that there are many people whose goals and needs align. This experience has taught me that cooperation can accelerate change and increase its effectiveness.
Ashoka and IKEA Social Entrepreneurship have created a global accelerator to offer space to scale social initiatives. During the first two editions of the Dela Program, 204 selected experts from the global social and corporate innovation sector (including IKEA co-workers and associates from companies such as Microsoft) provided 24 leading social entrepreneurs with support in developing an impact scaling strategy, testing its elements in practice. In addition to the strategic work, the program enabled financial support, networking and offered other opportunities for participating social entrepreneurs selected from the Ashoka Network.