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Lab4e in Italy – the acknowledged example of solidarity and democracy at the workplace

12 April 2018

A story about the sought experience, shared practices and inspiration found by a group of Bulgarian social enterprises in Italy

 

This is a first party story of Aylin Yumerova - part of the executive team of the BCNL project “Know-How Lab for Social Entrepreneurship” (Lab4e), as an expert on social innovation geared towards improving the process of training and support of the labor cadres on the social enterprises.

 

 









For a long time, I was wondering how to start this story. On an emotional or a business tone. However, when a person visits a warm-blooded and colorful country like Italy with its extremely hospitable and emotional citizens, it is almost impossible to remain indifferent in the speech. And, after the 5-day intensive program of out study visit with the laborers in Lab4e to the city of Padua, in the Veneto Region, Italy, filled with a variety of visits and new acquaintances, the task gets even more difficult. So, I will start from there - from the very beginning, presenting the participants in the study visit:


Day 1 – Monday, the 26th of March, 2018

After a few unexpected tribulations and a proper Italian lunch – pizza and short coffee – the introductory session started for our colorful group of representatives of organizations from various spheres and cities in Bulgaria. The representative of our partner organization in Lab4e - Franca Barison, Head of the International Projects Department at the Regional Institute for Cooperative Education and Studies - Irecoop Veneto, became our guide star and hospitable host for the upcoming days of our study visit of different social enterprises in the Veneto Region.

 

Day 2 – Tuesday, the 27th of March, 2018

Full of sunny mood and impatient curiosity, early in the morning we headed to the hills of Eugenia, close to city of Padua, where we visited Casa Marina hostel, managed by the social cooperative Terra di Mezzo. There, we met Barbara Vettorato, Head of the Marketing and Workplace Safety Department at Irecoop Veneto. Barbara presented the activity of the Regional Institute which offers training and professional courses for the improvement of the professional qualifications and skills of the employees and managers of local social cooperatives, but not only. The interesting thing about these cooperatives is that, together with Irecoop, they are developing projects involving trainings for the staff members. These projects are funded by the Veneto Region with funds from the European Social Fund and the training and courses are provided by Irecoop (as a certified institute) after a public procurement contract. For its part, the Institute pre-examines the needs of enterprises, including social enterprises, and on this basis prepares and adapts its training programs.

The main part of the trainings are devoted to the administrative management of human resources, the internal organizational activity and the equal participation of all partners, who are cooperative employees, in the process of decision making. In its courses, Irecoop also relies on the method of assessing the employability of employees with intellectual disabilities and mental health problems to help their colleagues. Specifically, some of the program trainers are professionals who have previously worked for many years in social enterprises and are familiar with the specifics of the work process and staff management.

Our second meeting was with representatives of the social cooperative Terra di Mezzo Francesco Loreggian, President of the cooperative, and Luisa Betto, a team member. They presented us to the organizational management structure of the cooperative which has the status of  “social” as it provides employment for people with disabilities, representing 30% of the total staff. Some of them are partners in the cooperative itself and can participate in the decision-making process at the Partners' Meeting, including when adopting the annual budget.

 
The Social Cooperative provides non-formal education services through outdoor training courses for children and students and ensuring their accommodation at the Casa Marina hostel, where we were as well. It also offers entertainment services against payment through the adventure park LE FIORINE. The work of the Park is in fact the leading business activity that supports the existence of the cooperative as well as its ability to provide employment for disabled employees. After conducting vocational courses for unemployed persons with disabilities, which include training and apprenticeship in Casa Marina (with the assistance of Irecoop), some of them remain on the job or in the hostel are directed to other appropriate entities. The main key for the success is actually the highly motivated team of Terra di Mezzo which strongly support its employees with disabilities, while everyone in the team is in a relationship of equality.

 

Day 3 – Wednesday, the 28th of March, 2018

The hospitable Chiara Frattina and Ricardo Stocco, partners of the start-up company, Ocioo, opened the doors of their Bike Store, a café and a bistro. They told about their innovative project to develop cyclotourism in the city of Castelfranco. The project is related to the management of a building next to the train station, offering healthy food and drinks for visitors, service and bicycle rentals for local residents and guests of the city. The initiative was one of the few financed projects from the Veneto Region with funds from the European Regional Development Fund.

The hospitable Chiara Frattin and Ricardo Stocco, owners of Cooperative Ocio - a new start-up company for sustainable tourism - oped widely the doors of their Bike Store / Bike Cafeteria and Bike Bistro. They told about their innovative project to develop cyclotourism in the city of Castelfranco. The project is related to the management of a building next to the train station, offering healthy food and drinks for visitors, service and bicycle rentals for local residents and guests of the city. The initiative actually was one of the few financed projects from the Veneto Region with funds from the European Regional Development Fund.