Translated from the Italian by "La Bottega"
“La Bottega”, in Lissone (Monza Brianza district), is a very special place, full of tradition, which welcomes everyone, teaches how to make different jobs, while allowing people to learn the most difficult task: living and wellbeing. The full name is “Società Cooperativa Sociale S.r.l. Onlus La Bottega” (visit the website).
In 1993, the Fondazione Stefania onlus founded “La Bottega” to promote the employment of disabled people, young and adult, in order to contribute to their education and, above all, their social inclusion after the secondary school.
Today, the cooperative offers an experimental service that is going to become an institutional ‘Servizio Formazione Autonomia’. From the beginning it has been a well-known productive, supportive and sustainable reality. Here a specialized staff has been working to prepare fragile subjects within a protected environment and to develop the skills needed to empower them to enter the labour market.
Everyone is welcome: subjects with personal and relational issues, with intellectual or psychophysical disabilities, people with addiction problems or foreigners that might not recognize themselves in a professional and citizen’s role. “La Bottega” helps everyone improving levels of autonomy and responsibility.
BEING DIFFERENT: A RESOURCE
Jewels and handmade potteries produced in an artisanal workshop are unique and unrepeatable; in the same way at “La Bottega” people, always different for personal qualities and stories, show their own immense singular value. Being different is a real resource for growing together: at ”La Bottega” no one is out of the game, nothing is wrong or to be thrown away! Everything can be repaired, reused and even enriched!
This idea is confirmed by Andrea Burberi, training manager: "In the past, by ‘Bottega’ people meant a place where to store all sorts of objects. We have created a co-working space made up of laboratories and departments, where people with disabilities and volunteers work side by side, learning one from each other”.
Starting with only 20 people, the first pioneers, today the group has increased significantly including employees, social and therapeutic internships, school traineeships, volunteers, external groups of disabled adults from other nearby centres: the regular employees are only 14, including 12 so-called ‘protected categories’; for some activities 3 additional people are involved on agreements with external companies.
‘LEARNING BY DOING’ ACTIVITIES AND EDUCATION
In each department there is a particular activity managed by Masters of Art and expert volunteers: assembly; ceramic; jewellery; leather; carpentry; bicycle repairing; career guidance and restoration.
The production system foresees a wide range of sectors: from the assembly of plastic materials, suitable for individuals that need structured activities, to craftsmanship that varies according to customer requests and personal taste (see Richard Sennett, the Craftsman).
The production is economically self-sustaining: as in any shop, everyone can feel oneself a real seller, dealing with customers and providers, collaborating with local companies and with municipalities.
This way the learning process takes place by experience, especially through informal and non-formal moments, providing an expertise that is linked to a self-discovery process. It brings individuals to a better awareness of their competencies, both specialized ones and across different sectors.
Because managing routine activities in daily life are an important goal, especially for fragile individuals, there are laboratories and training sessions on basic skills to be learned in domestic contexts, in leisure time, etc. Moreover, the educational style is tailored on different disabilities with individualized training courses and professional support.
BEYOND WORK, LIFE
A man is not only one dimension, working is not enough for him.
For a good quality of life, it is necessary to develop those life skills that make human able to respond effectively to everyday life challenges: support in building social relations, supervision through personal meetings, mentoring, respecting different pace of each person, encouraging progressive responsibility towards greater autonomy in free time and at work. All of these are essential parts of the individuation process; it aims at reaching a realistic self-image relating to true resources and limitations.
Andrea Burberi and Franco Dell'Olio, pedagogical supervisor, underline that more often people come out of the education and training system, marked by experiences of failure, in the social sphere, because of bad company. This happens in the working world as well, with professional breakdown. Consequently, these life stories have not been able to get a full awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses.
Fondazione Stefania launched, in 2013, the experimental ‘SELF’ program, aimed at improving social and work attitudes in young adults who have already completed institutional training experiences and who seem not fully equipped for a possible employment. The goal remains social inclusion, exploring the possibilities for development to arrive to a professional role.
The SELF Service uses skills activation and monitoring strategies in multiple learning contexts. Therefore, the tutoring is focused not only on technical competencies but also on relationship skills and autonomy areas.
Every individual need to be part of a social relation network that rises the quality of life and that makes it possible to re-define oneself in a relational context.
Standard therapeutic and clinical approaches are not enough. It is by doing that at “La Bottega” individuals build relationship that help them to grow and to face new demands of a professional role, thanks to the pedagogical support provided by the team.
There is a wide set of supporting tools: i.e. guidance groups of trainees, personal interviews, monitoring of internship entry and exit phases.
OPPORTUNITIES HUB AT LOCAL LEVEL
Burberi expresses optimism concerning entrepreneur availability that shows different levels of sensitivity and that is today keener at introducing fragile individuals among their human resources. However, he admits, that companies shouldn’t be left
Marco’s experience is significant (Marco is a dummy name), who after completing high school carried out a traineeship at a small family-owned carpentry company. At the end of the traineeship, the recruitment didn’t follow. Marco, back home, falls into depression and takes a year to obtain a driving license. Meeting by chance people working in the cooperative means a rebirth for him that brings back optimism and self-confidence. Following a new internship, the company appreciate him and thinks to hire him.
Stories like this one teaches that socially oriented cooperatives, like the “La Bottega”, want to be a guide for fragile citizens but also bring a benefit for the local society in a continuous exchange.
Being both workshop and an educational community, “La Bottega” offers many inclusive opportunities for internal operators and the territory, to regenerate collective spaces and to build together socially responsible communities.
Article translated from the Italian by "La Bottega" association
Edited by Annalisa Fabris
Italian Epale Ambassador in Lombardy Region