A Greek Business Consultancy Company and NGO Working for Skill Development of Young People With Mental Health Issues

Cooperation between ASSET Technology, a Business Consulting company established in Athens Greece, with EPAPSY – Association for Regional Development and Mental Health for the establishment of Social Cooperative “Heliotropio”

The establishment of Social Cooperative Heliotropio, for youth with low skills and mild mental health problems, in the north and east part of Athens, with aim their social integration through employment (in protected working environment).

Partners’ contribution
⦁ ASSET Tec: Know how for the business part: training and consulting – skills for employment, volunteers, networking for employment opportunities
⦁ EPAPSY: Target group, know how for the target group, volunteers, networking in the field of mental health.

ASSET Tec cooperated closely with EPAPSY and established the Social Cooperative Heliotropio, actively involving local Municipalities in the scheme. The target group was young male and female with mild mental problems, during the process of their integration or reintegration in the society. Geographically it covered Athens region, and specifically the city’s north and east part.

The support from Asset was in the set-up and administration of the organization, as I was the first president, while Asset Tec staff contributed with their professional knowledge and experience in a voluntary basis.

-We provided this support for three years until the new enterprise, Heliotropio, was enabled to start functioning as an autonomous organization. Then we stepped back and support it in the logic of self-organizing, said Mr Georgios Kouklakis, Asset Tec Director.

The original budget for the Cooperative establishment has been quite low, at about 5.000 euro, and it was funded by the contributions of its members. Asset Tec also bought some shares. Heliotropio managed to get contracts in local level, such as the cleaning of school buildings, while other activities such as hand made products were developed. The total amount of the money that the organisation was gaining was paid back to the young male and female as salaries.

There were no other operational costs or salaries for managers or the administrative staff. These were all covered by volunteering offers within the CSR context. So, all the income was given as salaries to the young beneficiaries. The more income, the more people were enabled to work and get paid.”

Impact and Success of the Cooperation

⦁ The cooperation was very successful taking into account the results achieved. Heliotropio, during the first three years of operation, managed to promote more than 100 youth to protected job placements. The difficulties we faced were a lot because there are high unemployment rates, lack of in time payments of salaries due to cash flows shortages, and also because the youth with low skills and mental problems is a quite sensitive target group.

Another indication of the collaboration’s success is the project’s sustainability. Heliotropio started its operation in 2008 and remains active all these years till today. It bypassed the taboo of hiring people with mild mental problems, and it can be described as a most successful example of employment integration, according to the Project initiators.