Jozef Balaz

Organization: 
Liga o.s. Bruntal
Year founded: 
1996
Country: 
Czech Republic

Liga o.s. Bruntal employs socially marginalized individuals, primarily Roma, in construction and electronic waste recycling positions.

Focus: Unemployment, Waste Management, Environment
Geographic Area of Impact: Czech Republic
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Czech Republic, 2008

Background
In the economically hard-hit area of Bruntal in the Czech Republic where Liga operates, the unemployment rate is a staggering 20% compared to the country’s average of 8%. Of the Bruntal Roma population, 90% are unemployed due to marginalization and discrimination. Negative stereotypes of the Roma population are continuously reinforced and lead to a downward spiral in economic engagement.

Innovation and Activities
Understanding the vicious cycle of unemployment and marginalization among the Roma population in the Czech Republic, Liga o.s. Bruntal employs primarily Roma in construction and electronic waste recycling positions. It then uses parts of the profits from the business to fund youth development initiatives to help break the cycle of poverty.

Josef Balaz’s strategy has been to look for market weaknesses or cracks and exploit them with a first-mover advantage. This strategy is employed in both his construction company and electronic waste management company called the Green Workshop.

Foreseeing the change in EU law regarding electronic waste management in 1995, Balaz started the Green Workshop to handle all electronic waste recycling in the northern Czech region. The Green Workshop provides environmental benefits in addition to its employment of socially marginalized populations. Balaz then reinvests his profits into a foundation that targets root causes of unemployment in the Roma community by providing a youth club, integration centre and employment assistance.

To ensure impact is being created, Liga has developed impact assessment tools to allow for measuring and tailoring strategy to best suit the needs of the community.

The Entrepreneur
Of Roma origin, Josef Balaz has long been passionate about Roma affairs. After an experience in providing free aid made him realize he was hindering rather than helping individuals, he shifted his work to providing opportunities to those that wanted a hand rather than a handout. At only 32, his visionary foresight and successful business practices have already made him one of the most respected businessmen in the region with plenty of potential for further growth.