“We are influencing public policies on employment and social inclusion of marginalized groups.”
Photo Credits: EPIC Slovakia
Epic is playing a crucial role in Slovakia when it comes to social entrepreneurship. Established as a non-profit organization, in 2012 in Slovakia, EPIC has its parent organization EPIC Assist seated in Brisbane (Australia).
What is EPIC Slovakia doing in particular?
Among the most important tasks, EPIC is influencing public policies on employment and social inclusion of marginalized groups to the high extent as the members of the team are professionals in the topic. Secondly, Slovakia is having hard times with the (youth) employment in the regions especially. EPIC Slovensko is working on initiating and assisting in preparation and implementation of programs that are targeting the people on the local level mostly and therefore conducting different workshops and education sessions are aimed to increase the employment in the most vulnerable areas.
Social entrepreneurship is tacking the most burning issues. In Slovakia, marginalised groups and disadvantaged people are being the target. Hence EPIC Slovensko is also raising the awareness on employment of people with various types of disabilities as well as providing individualized employment services designed for disadvantaged groups.
How do you teach and inspire the best? Start by yourself!
That is exactly what has EPIC SLOVENSKO done when establishing its own social venue employing the people with the hearing impairment: Deafinitely Clean.
Deafinitely Clean was originally a student project within the Socrates Institute’s educational program, which is being implemented by OZ Živica.
How did the idea of Deafinitely Clean start?
Deafinitely Clean was established as part of the EPIC non-profit organization in the autumn of 2015. Katarína Pazmanyová, the author of this project kidly offered the idea to the nonprofit organization EPIC, which fitted in perfectly into the activities and values of EPIC. Deafinitely Clean has become a full-fledged component of the “Promoting the employment of people with disabilities”. In the autumn of 2017, it has reached out to clients who have been facing difficult situations finding a job position mostly because of their social exclusion. In this respect, EPIC has established cooperation with the humanitarian organization ADRA Slovensko, which has contacts with people who have received asylum in Slovakia, or some type of legal protection. Cleaning services can be for these people in addition to obtaining financial support, also by way of gaining experience and contacts in a new environment.
In what regard is this project exceptional?
In addition to opening up the labour market for the people with hearing impairments, the aim of the project is also to create a bridge, between the world of the deaf and the world of others, perspectively the inclusion of other disadvantaged groups as well. Deafinitely Clean has the ambition to provide people with disabilities the job of meeting the world of listeners, exposing themselves to mutual communication and stress-free recognition of disability due to disability.
The work and help of a deaf client is being offered to the customer in an attractive presentation of the “Cleaning without unnecessary small talks”.
On the contrary, thanks to the service, people often get the first direct experience with a deaf person, and they have the opportunity to learn how to communicate with the world of the deaf. EPIC believes that such an experience can contribute to a more sensitive perception of the world of people with disabilities by the majority. Deafinitely Clean wants to highlight the presence of the deaf and their everyday life in the common world.
We would like to apply a similar principle to other target groups – people in the integration process or clients with other health disadvantages, tells us the EPIC team.
What are the responses and experiences of clients and service providers?
There are the clients for whom the cleaning service is a way of getting an additional payment to the disability allowance, which is usually not sufficient to cover the cost of living, or as an improvement to another form of earnings. For some clients, especially younger or younger students, Deafinitely Clean is one of the first working experiences that can motivate them into the future looking for other job offers. With customers, EPIC maintains regular contact and open communication to give them space to express their opinion on the quality of services, needs, or potential issues that might have occurred. There is, however, a regular business relationship here and the customer often finds a way of communicating with the client, as gestures, reading out from the lips movements or simply written speech can be used. These contacts are often not only in the form of a service rendered, but also a kind of enrichment for both parties. Talking about the customers, one of the important motivations of taking the services of Deafinitely Clean is also an added value in the form of a good feeling.
What are the challenges the project is facing?
One of the biggest challenges is the relatively frequent fluctuation of clients-cleaners, as for many of them it is a way of preparing or temporary employment. For this reason, Deafinitely Clean has lost the jobs positions in a long-run that we have not been able to fill in back so fast. Therefore, in addition to new orders, we are constantly looking for new clients – cleaners.
EPIC works very intensively in the regions as well. What would you like to advise to young people in regions that tackle the problem of unemployment and want to run their own social business?
One of the main benefits of social business is that it responds to local conditions and at the same time delivers an innovative approach. Young people often know how to combine inspiration with their own ideas and bring something that is new, different and at the same time has the potential to “get people on board”. In order for a social enterprise to be meaningful, it should respond to needs and should also know the background in which it will work and in which it will look for customers. If these things can get combined together and good energy is put into “the recipe”, the idea of a social enterprise could work out and be beneficial to all.
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