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TEDxLakeComo 2010 - Bruno Pozzobon su mercato ed imprenditoria sociale

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First of all, I believe that the concept of social cooperation ought to be explained as not everyone knows what it stands for. In most cases when talking about social cooperation, one is thinking about voluntary work, but social cooperation is no longer composed exclusively of it. Social cooperation is increasingly managing welfare services on behalf of public agencies. It certainly is an important experience that has been going on for 30 years, but it still represents, at least in the Veneto region, job insecurity. Insecurity as those who lack ideas, or that haven't become enterpreneurs are still employed in short term contracts and, therefore, suffer from job insecurity. About 20 years ago our we had this idea of trying to promote a co-op company which was to work as a partner in the local welfare, while attempting to innovate its services by following a basic concept: disadvantaged people can be given any and all services, but if one doesn't help them out of aid they'll never gain a sense of personal dignity. So we have tried to get the the territory, the local authorities and the public ones involved in a project that didn't aim to allocate people to daycare centers and to provide a quality service (in which, possibly, the work that was done during one day was destroyed and started over the next day), but that instead aimed to realize a project in which the disadvantaged were to be rehabilitated through reinsertion in the workforce. And there we have one more aspect: in Italy as well as in other European countries, workforce reinsertion has always been seen through the lens of imposition, that is that companies were obliged to hire disadvantaged people. In most cases companies do hire the disadvantaged, but don't invest further on the person, thus giving one some dignity, but rather they consider that job opening as a form of taxation. So, as we were aiming to rehabilitate and to get past this perception of mandatory tax and to reduce job insecurity, we tought: let's try to start some daycare rehabilitative activities in which the disadvantaged person, while working with the psychologists and with the educators and operators, produces something that can be sold. And so we have started rehabilitating. We didn't give ourselves economic targets but, rather, rehabilitative ones. Over time we have achieved one goal: we have noticed that these seriously disturbed people (we work in the mental health sector) were latching to this rehabilitative model and they were coming and were present every day. They are present every day. So we have understood that, by discovering a system that respects the relations with the person, first of all these person were no longer creating nuisances in the territory. Secondly, they had started respecting rules, that is working hours, and their working along with normal people, that is in a normal situation. We have noticed that throught this "normality", as we might call it, while these people were used to spend 40,50 or 60 days a year in hospitalization to the present day we have registered a dramatic decrease of the hospitalizations, a 85-90% decrease, clearly only among the persons we take care of. In these instance the rehabilitation is being paid throught the missed hospitalizations, so that neither the Hospital, nor the Medicare nor the Municipality are paying for it, but the person is paying for it trought the reduced hospitalizations thus becoming a revenue producer recovering from a illness. Secondly, we tought: if we want to keep on working in this rehabiliation actvities, we'll better aim to reinsert our clients trough workforce reinsertion else sooner or later our model will be questioned, hence the need to go past the job insecurity characteristic of social cooperation - so while running this risk we began the first workforce reinsertion experiences cooperating with the "normal" companies on out territory, which had responded positively to the idea of attempting these experiments, but we later have discovered that even if the disadvantaged persons were inserted into normal production cycles in companies that have accepted to run the experiment, actually the ones who were not accepting them and have started creating problems (clearly the disadvantaged ones were made fun of) were their very colleagues, the workers. Because of that experience we resolved: let's make our own businesses! So we have started our first workforce reinsertion co-op, now 13 years old; we have started by creating cooperatives that welcome normal people willing to work with disadvantage people, and we also aimed to face directly the market. And when I talk about market, I don't mean to talk about the "already known" market, that is the part that is already managed by social cooperation, like public services, from garden maintenance to cleaning and porterage. We were thinking about industrial activities that would have forced the cooperatives to face the so called "normal market". We have discovered that it is possible and indeed after 15 years of rehabilitation activities, after 13 years of workforce reinsertion on the 31th December 2009 these were the outcomes: 18 workforce reinsertion co-op companies employing 1,300 people over a local population of 100,000. Presently the social co-ops that are cooperating closely in Castelfranco constitute the biggest company in the territority, a company that in the year 2010, this second year of crisis, will experience a 13% growth. The last year was closed with revenues for 42 millions Euro, this year we will close with about 50 millions Euro, and we have also discovered one more outcome: the companies that underwent restructuring, in this last period, have begun to grow, but they will not grow internally. These company are looking for new external partners. Well, we are proposing ourselves as partners to these companies for managing the new flows, as we are confident that it is possible to do business while practicing solidarity, that is by having the least fortunate work, as in the last two years, we have resolved that it is important to hire not only the rehabilitated disadvantaged people, but also the least fortunate ones. But who are the least fortunate? They are those people who were fired, whose redundancy payments or benefits have ended the fifty years old ones nobody any longer wants, and with these people we are facing the market. We are not the best ones, let it be clear. We use the partecipation and confrontation model. From the partecipation in sharing the model to making our associates aware, thus creating responsability in our work, in our products and in the quality of the product we offer. That's the mechanism that is allowing us to stay in the market and to keep on growing. Why did I, why did we accept to come here today? Given the reports I have heard so far today, I was about to call in sick but I believe that this model is an exportable one. I believe that our very own experience could be useful in other territories, in other districts willing to try this kind of experience. Let me remember you that in these difficult economic times the public authorities are increasingly likely to make less resources available also because they don't have any. A disadvantaged person costs social services about 7,000 euro/year. A rehabilitated person that is hired and is sent to work is no longer being assisted, but becomes a tax paying revenue producer and that is, I believe, the guiding idea for those who want to try social cooperation and social enterpreneurship, I belive they can try following a similar path. Lastly, I believe that the social enterprise is the one that produces economy and invents solution in the territory. In last days, thanks to Region Veneto that has acknolwedge a project, we have proposed the Region to pay 30% of the cost of the salaries for those Municipalities that will create activities that will involve these zero income persons. The work with have done with the Municipalities was to convince the Municipalities to talk to the people that have no income (that would need to be sustained anyhow) and tell them: we would rather do those jobs that you don't consider interesting but you could help enhancing the territory, the environment, the living conditions. Instead of merely assisting these people, you are going to give them the dignity of being workers. Therefore the social cooperative acts as an enterprise in the territory and faces the private markets, but keeps on working in cooperation with public authorities so as to give work, dignity, strengh to the least fortunate. Thank you.

Video Details

Duration: 16 minutes and 19 seconds
Year: 2010
Country: Italy
Language: Italian
Producer: TEDx
Director: Gerolamo Saibene
Views: 72
Posted by: tradottiinitaliano on Dec 19, 2010

Bruno Pozzobon è il fondatore e il presidente della Cooperativa Sociale L'Incontro che si occupa di servizi alla persona rivolti agli anziani e alle persone con disabilità psichiatrica grave tramite un modello innovativo di rieducazione e riabilitazione degli utenti psichiatrici che passa esclusivamente attraverso il lavoro. L'Incontro si amplia e favorisce la nascita di altre cooperative che dal 2002 sono aggregate nel Consorzio In Concerto. Si ringrazia Gianluca Finocchiaro per la traduzione in inglese.

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