Tackling the problem of socio-economic integration for refugees in Italy.
Submitted by: Cristina Rapone, co-founder and project coordinator.
Email: [email protected]
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Introduction to the project
2014 - Present
As an innovative social business model, SIAMO was created and designed to solve the problem of the difficulties of socio-economic integration of refugees. The cooperative goes beyond providing simple assistance and becomes a tool for the integration of refugees through the creation of decent jobs opportunities. The expectation is that the cooperative will ultimately become financially self-sustainable. The projects will hopefully continue to reach more and more refugees through the years.
In accordance with the second objective of the Global Compact on Refugees, the project SIAMO Umani is designed to enhance refugee self-reliance through the creation and promotion of training and employment opportunities that support the social and economic integration of youth refugees, particularly women and vulnerable youth.
Moreover, through the SIAMO Umani campaign, the cooperative aims to promote social cohesion with the host community and contribute to a positive narrative about refugees. By valuing and enhancing refugees’ skills and capabilities, SIAMO concretely demonstrates that refugees are not a burden, but an asset that can enrich host communities. Within the cooperative, refugees and Italians are working side by side, demonstrating the value of co-working.
The objectives of the project include:
- Creating and promoting skills-training and employment opportunities to contribute to the social and labour inclusion of young, predominantly female refugees. SIAMO pursues this objective through training activities, co-working, and the active involvement of refugees in the implementation of all activities, starting by enhancing their skills and abilities.
- Protecting the rights of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection, paying particular attention to vulnerable populations (women, victims of violence, persons with disabilities).
- Promoting social cohesion with the host communities through initiatives aimed at solidarity and the implementation of measures to combat discrimination, racism, and xenophobia. The project contributes to the result by broadening the support base, organizing events open to the local community, and contributing to a positive narrative on refugees.
SIAMO advocates for a different way of doing business and engaging the private sector, by promoting a model of social enterprise which encompasses the protection of human rights and the environment at its core.
In order to support SIAMO Umani activities, the cooperative uses:
- Financial resources derived from the cooperative’s income, grants, and donations. Furthermore, as a social business, profits from sales activities are reinvested into the cooperative.
- Material resources (equipment and spaces) are made available by the Salesians of Don Bosco
- Human capital constituted by the cooperative members’ expertise and skills
Main activities of the Good Practice
The project SIAMO umani consists of three different activities:
- The design, production, and sale of original and eco-sustainable gadgets, gift ideas and favours for weddings, anniversaries and corporate events. The activity is aimed at creating job opportunities and enhancing the artistic and manual skills of young refugees, especially vulnerable women. The realization of the favours was accompanied by the organization of artistic-creative workshops for the selection of young people and the design of prototypes. Since 2015, when the activity started, several innovative product lines have been designed and created with attention to environmental standards and ethical and responsible consumption. Today the activity is managed by Sohila, the first refugee member of the cooperative and a young Iranian art-designer.
- The management of a distribution point of organic and local products within the network “L’Alveare che dice sì!”. The food assembly aims to encourage local farmers and small businesses, promoting short supply chains and organic production, and encouraging a responsible, healthy and fair way of consuming. The distribution place of food and crafts is also a space that promotes meeting, discussion, and the emergence of relationships. The young refugees that the Cooperative involves in this activity learn sustainable production and distribution methods. The activities of logistics, sorting and distribution of goods allow refugees to interact with customers, thus encouraging a gradual process of integration. Today the distribution point is co-managed by a young Italian and a young refugee, showing in practice how enriching a co-working experience between people of different cultures can be.
- The provision of training opportunities through workshop activities aimed at promoting entrepreneurship among refugees. The SIAMO Umani Business Lab consists of a 35-hour training course addressed to 15 young people (10 refugees and five Italians, 70 per cent of whom are women). Training workshops are held with the support of experienced trainers, focusing on topics related to personal branding, product design, sales strategies, and communication. The aim of these workshops is to support the acquisition and improvement of business skills useful for effective labour and social inclusion of the participants.
- Youth Centre - Salesians of Don Bosco
- Jesuit Refugee Service
- Alveare che dice sì
How challenges were overcome
Challenges encountered includes:
- Difficulties for refugees to be constant in the attending of activities.
- Difficulties for the cooperative to pursue a model of economic self-sufficiency, due to high taxes on labour in Italy.
- Inadequacy of the Italian normative system dedicated to the employment of refugees.
The following actions have been put in place to overcome the challenges:
- Follow-up and tutoring mechanisms to increase refugees’ attendance rate to the activities.
- Sponsorship of Italian language courses, advanced professional training, and on-the-job training for refugees employed by the cooperative.
- This year, the first refugee has formally joined the cooperative, acquiring a member status.
Results of the Good Practice
- Creation of employment opportunities within the cooperative for 18 youth refugees, out of which 10 are women, since its foundation.
- Empowerment of youth refugees through the creation of jobs and participation in the management and decision-making mechanisms of the cooperative.
- Empowerment of a refugee woman who became the first refugee member of the cooperative.
- Facilitation of the sociocultural integration for both refugees and the host community through the involvement of 22 participants (refugees, migrants, and Italians) in training workshops with SIAMO umani Business Lab.
- Enhancement of talents and abilities of refugees through skills development, mentorship, and workshop activities.