Network D Strengthening the national social economy (the third sector), in particular the services of interest to the community, with a focus on improving the quality of jobs.
Project name Partnership for Vocational Activisation of Roma through Social Economy Tools
Project number D0406

Project description

The target group of the project is the Roma minority - a social group which is amongst those in the greatest danger of exclusion, the most frequently discriminated against and the least active group on the labour market. Typical problems of the Roma include poverty, low level of education and poor professional skills, unequal access to the labour market, social stereotyping and prejudice resulting in discrimination.

The final beneficiaries of the project include Roma people and long-term unemployed non-Roma people from the local community, who will find jobs in social cooperatives established under the EQUAL Community Initiative as their members and/or employees.

Preference will be given to women, especially single mothers and people living in the most difficult conditions, in large families where none of the adults has a permanent job or permanent income other than minimum social welfare benefits. The cooperatives will also employ very young people (under 25 years of age) as in the Roma community they usually have the skills necessary for office jobs, such as computer and internet skills, the ability to use other office equipment, good command of the Polish language and knowledge of mathematics. The employment of some people from the oldest age group is also planned, as they are acquainted with certain traditional Roma professions and will be able to pass on these secrets to the younger generation.

Social cooperatives will be established in Szczecinek, Cracow, Olsztyn and Witnica. The profile of their operations will be determined after conducting an analysis of the skills of their potential employees, as well as a market analysis. Such profiling of the cooperative's activities and founding it upon traditional Roma skills, such as the making of frying pans, Roma-styled clothing and jewellery, handicrafts or Roma cuisine, can help a cooperative discover its market niche and succeed economically, at the same time contributing to the change in the perception of the value of the Roma culture, as well as overcoming stereotypes and prejudice.

Founder groups of 10 members are planned for each cooperative. These people will be trained by professional coaches in managerial and business skills and the specific nature of managing a cooperative.

The key objectives of the Partnership are to contribute to the integration of the Roma into the Polish labour market using the tools of social economy, in accordance with the national and European policy regarding the integration of groups at risk of social exclusion, and to combat inequalities and discrimination on the labour market. The project activities are also aimed at creating a comprehensive strategy for integration of the Roma into the Polish labour market (and potentially also in other countries) using social enterprises and at developing a more general model of vocational rehabilitation of ethnic groups at risk of exclusion (including migrants) on the labour market. The operational objectives of transnational cooperation include: developing
model solutions for the establishment of such enterprises and management thereof, and for auditing skills of the community at risk of exclusion, developing managerial and business skills within these groups, analysis of ethnic enterprises, and creating tools to foster their development and to support them.

The main project output subject to validation is "the model of vocational rehabilitation of the Roma through supporting the establishment of integration-oriented social cooperatives". Its key characteristics include founding the cooperatives' profiles on already existing skills within the Roma community, providing access to market information, business training, additional vocational training and mentoring. Another important characteristic of the model is the fact that the Roma

will be given the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process related to the enterprise, which will help them identify with it and treat it as their own enterprise, both in economic and psychological terms. One of the support methods for the integration-related aspect of the cooperative is to involve people from Polish-Roma marriages in the founder groups.

The model components include the methodology and tools to carry out skill audits within the Roma community and a plan of business training for Roma founder groups of "Virtual Cooperative" social cooperatives, based on the "Virtual Enterprise" training programme developed by the Fundacja Inicjatyw Społeczno-Ekonomicznych (Foundation for Social and Economic Initiatives). This training programme involves both the processes of combating adverse psychological effects of remaining outside the labour market for a long time; fighting stereotypes, as well as business skills, marketing essentials, and the development of a basic business plan along with a feasibility study for the future cooperative by the group and their coach.

One of the project outputs is a model of a Roma integration cooperative along with guidelines, recommendations and the definition of the most significant specific issues and possible solutions. This will take the form of a special report and the "Manual of Good Practices for Ethnic Social Enterprises", published as a book and available online. A supporting product is a TV film produced by experienced documentary film-makers, available on DVD. All elements of the project output will be available in Polish and English, and in some cases also in the Romani language.

The dissemination policy for the outputs delivered by the Partnership includes, inter alia, the distribution of a DVD film about the project, organising working meetings, conferences and seminars, cooperation with the media by enabling journalists to prepare interviews, reportages and other material, to participate in the opening ceremonies of the cooperatives and in study visits, as well as by providing up-to-date information on the websites of partner organisations.