Roma communities' entrepreneurial potential for inclusion
How to answer societal challenges of Roma inclusion? How can Social Entrepreneurship support the inclusion of Roma communities?
The segmentation of Europe’s labour markets along Roma and non-Roma ethnic lines results in poverty, social exclusion, and lower labour market status for the Roma1. Roma labour market integration is not only a human rights imperative but can also “economically benefit both Roma people and the communities they are part of” 2.
Yet, in some cases, the employment situation of Roma seems to have deteriorated, partly due to the general increase of unemployment in the past few years3.
The SERCo study focuses on the problem of social and economic inclusion of Roma communities by applying the concept of social economy as an innovative solution to reducing the risk of poverty, to enhancing entrepreneurship, and to promoting social economy as an effective instrument for integrated development of the Roma communities.
Moreover, SERCo study recognizes that social entrepreneurship can be a solution to the issues of Roma people, since it:
- allows hiring people in vulnerable situations;
- helps resolving some of the existing needs of the community;
- facilitates the qualification on the job;
- uses local resources and allows the development of more entrepreneurs;
- supports traditional crafts;
- increases the qualification and education level;
- stimulates solidarity and lead to the improvement of the relationships between the members of the community;
- represents a self-help method.
According to the report Social Economy and Roma communities, challenges and opportunities co-financed by European Social Fund (2012), “at European level there are no consensus over a definition of social economy”.
There are different definitions of social economy. For instance, the Euro-centred perspective, which is based on the Francophone approach (XIX century), generally understands social economy as “the study of all efforts made to improve the condition of the people” (Gide at Moulaert and Ailenei, 2005: 2040).
As Moulaert and Ailenei (2005) specify in their article “Social Economy, Third Sector and Solidarity Relations: A Conceptual Synthesis from history to Present”, social economy represents an Hybrid Typology that refers to a wide form of initiatives and organization which shows that the economy is not limited to the market but includes principles of redistribution and reciprocity.
Moreover, social economy is a good tool to promote the common good and mostly people’s self-worth who are involved in such initiatives. Broadly speaking, the social economy idiosyncrasy is far away from materialism but close to cooperation and solidarity positions. In fact, experience has shown that the intention of social entrepreneurs is, most of the times, motivated by an intent to promote more democratic societies in which women’s roles are considered to be the social motor, and social equality and sustainable development are principle aims (Lévesque, 2001).
There are indeed many social initiatives about production, commercialization, consumption and financing which income is re-invested in the community through a democratic logic as the promotion of equality and the human respect. Likewise, work co-operatives and collective services are based on new organizational forms that are focused on principles of redistribution and reciprocity to establish a collective well-being and recreate social bonds between the people within their communities (Lipietz, 2003).
For this reason, it is important to consider social economy and social entrepreneurship as a way of young Roma motivation that can contribute to contemplate new economically benefits for their communities and neighbourhoods. All in all, the impulse of social economy may offer new labour market opportunities to Roma community, developing new skills and training capacities to those who are more vulnerable, promoting community improvements in the fields of health, education, employment and housing, and promoting capacity building and engaged citizenry.
Thus developing social entrepreneurship in Roma communities is a challenge not only to facilitate the inclusion of Roma in the society, but also to promote their social inclusion and the development of a profitable enterprise, that would benefit the Italian community.
Some of the main aspects that will be highlighted by the study are the following:
- Creating bridges between the communities and the institutions.
- Addressing the basic needs to Roma communities by the Public Administration (water, garbage etc.)
- Facilitating the Roma’ access to the job market
- Providing trainings, starting from the very basics.
- Developing the interventions, not at a level of operators, but mostly in forming teams of lawyers and other experts, who can attend and influence the Consulate in Rome etc.
The key internal issues towards social entrepreneurship, that the study has identified, are cultural, and related to gender and family hierarchy (such as the role of woman within the community). They are due to discrimination and prejudice, or because of lack of real interventions from institutions. Moreover, the competitiveness orientation of the labour market and the lack of documents, the prejudice against Roma and their inadequate educative level expose Roma to different levels of social and entrepreneurial exclusion.
Potential solutions, assessed by this study, are to enable the cultures to work together for a common goal to provide support from institutions and public administration, to put housing and job opportunities as priorities, to create interventions with experts ex. Lawyers.
Finally, setting-up and operating a social enterprise requires a specific set of organizational, communication, cooperation and management skills that are very often not developed in the Roma community or even worse can be contradictory to their culture and attitudes.
- FRA-European Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014) Poverty and Employment: the situation of Roma in 11 EU Member-States, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
- European Commission (2011) An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020, COM(2011)173, pg. 2.
- European Commission, Directorate-General for Justice (2014) Report on the Implementation of the EU framework for National Roma Integration Strategies, European Union.
- To promote social economy as an effective instrument for national and EU Roma social inclusion strategies
- To promote capacity-building and personalised support for sustainable social enterprise creation in Roma communities
- To provide Roma mediators with the necessary skills for supporting the planning, establishment and sustainability of social enterprises within Roma communities
- To encourage mutual learning, exchange of good practice and collaboration between all relevant stakeholders, with an emphasis to Roma communities, policy-makers, public authorities and NGOs
- To raise cultural awareness through the direct participation of Roma communities and stakeholders
- Analysing and comparatively assess the impact of social economy within Roma communities
- Providing specific policy recommendations at national and EU level
- Generation of practical guidelines and resources promoting social economy initiatives in Roma communities
- Developing a culturally-informed joint transnational training programme for Roma mediators
- Supporting lasting cooperation and establish a Network for Roma Social Economy
- Needs Assessment Report [national and comparative]
- Mapping Social Entrepreneurship in Roma Communities
- Practical Compendiums on institutional barriers for social entrepreunership and business ideas, applicable within Roma communities
- Guidelines for Roma social entrepreneurship and Policy Recommendations
- Two ‘train the trainers’ circles (Roma mediators), mentoring with potential Roma social enterpreneurs: mutual and flexible learning (moodle) and 4 training modules
- Mutual learning and exchange of good practices: 6 roundtables on exchange of good practice
- Coordinator: University of Piraeus Research Center (Greece)
- ERIO – European Roma Information Office (Belgium)
- IDEA ROM Onlus (Italy)
- AMALIPE – Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance (Bulgaria)
- AEPMR – Association for Lifelong Learning in Rural Areas (Romania)
- FPC – Fundació Privada Pere Closa (Spain)
- FOUR ELEMENTS (Greece)
- TMAF – Tolerance and Mutual Aid Foundation (Bulgaria)