Fostering Employability of youths living with disabilities

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I have been spending some weeks away from Kathmandu visiting my family back in Milan and I took this visit as a great opportunity to network locally with some interesting realities working at the intercross between social inclusion, development and corporate social responsibility, CSR.

One of the organizations I met with is Sodalitas, a membership based organization whose Latin name means “solidarity” in English set up by Assolombarda, the umbrella entity representing business groups in Lombardy of which Milan is the capital.

Obviously Sodalitas has been embracing the CSR sector but in a very interesting way, working as a bridge and enabler connecting its members with a variety of not for profits organizations, working hard to create synergies and new understanding.

The outcomes are a great variety of initiatives and projects jointly implemented by Sodalitas, its members and the not for profit sector.

One of the greatest areas of work has been work inclusion and fight to the unemployment as Italy has been facing a tough economic crisis together with many other European countries, a situation that only now is getting better.

Within this area, what most struck me was a project called Inclusive Mindset that is focused on fostering the employability of youths living with disabilities in the country, supporting, on the one hand, private companies to gain knowledge and a new understanding of disability and social inclusion and, on other hands, helping youths with disabilities to get connected with job opportunities.

The project has not only been running Inclusive Job Fairs matching demand and supply but also it has been investing on training and capacity building through the “Inclusive Mindset Academy”, a learning facility.

The Academy not only offers a learning pathway for business executives about social inclusion but also acts as a discussion forum where HR managers can share their best practices with all the challenges and complexities related.

In short Inclusive Mindset that has been funded and run by  Sodalitas, Fondazione Adecco per le Pari Opportunità, e INNPRONTA offers the opportunity to create an interest on a difficult and complex matter as the links between social inclusion and employability.

Creating a momentum is a precondition to set in motion a drive for action: first of all we need to demystify many misconceptions and false myths about disability.

What is needed is to have the right attitude and open mind to learn and realize that social inclusion among the job force is a moral imperative that can also makes economic sense for a business.

The fact that  Inclusive Mindset has been very active in sharing best practices and case studies is really key in changing mindsets, showcasing that positive changes in the work practices are possible and can benefit the company as well as the employees who start appreciating the value of diversity within the work force.

The funders and organizers are complementary to each other, bringing on board different levels of expertise: with Sodalitas acting as “playmaker” and facilitator, Fondazione Adecco per le Pari Opportunità, the social arm of the human resource giant Adecco putting its own technical knowhow and with INNPRONTA, an innovative communication agency, working on the “pitch”, offering the key message to bring around corporations.

Obviously the legislative framework is also supporting such initiative as in Italy like in all other member nations of the European Union, private sector entities of a certain dimension have to take action to hire persons with disabilities.

In Nepal few years ago the Association of International NGOs, AIN, the network representing all the international not for profits, has been promoting, thanks to the strong interest by some of its members on the issue, two Job Fairs. Obviously organizing job fairs alone is not enough as most of the times, is very hard to turn such events into real employment opportunities.

Having organized such events was itself a great achievement for Nepal even if the job opportunities created were very few, something that can backfire by discouraging youths with disabilities from seeking employment within the private sector.

This was also the learning of Inclusive Mindset and that’s why the learning dimension is really a pre-condition for successful action to improve social inclusion in the job market.

Indeed, the truly innovative aspect of Inclusive Mindset has been the capacity building and learning offered, free of cost, to all the private corporations involved in the cycle of classroom based learning that is interactive, practical and based on real case studies.

Employment opportunities for youths with disabilities in Nepal will not materialize overnight, it will take time but we need to start slow and with small and incremental steps.

Having a bunch of local corporates attending workshops and debate forums will be a huge step towards a stronger and fairer workforce in Nepal.

Taking the long way in learning social inclusion can be more impactful than shorter term actions, no matter how noble in their intents.

International not for profits, perhaps bilateral and multilateral donor agencies should be part of a partnership that have private companies in the driving seat together with organizations run by persons with disabilities that themselves need training and capacity building on the issue.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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