Development Cooperative Etri | Lenka Puh | Interview
Development Cooperative Etri from Slovenia actively promotes an inclusive society, which they believe is the only path to a balanced development and progress of society. They want to become an example of creating jobs in local communities in areas where the cross-sector cooperation it is necessary. The main purpose of Etri career rehabilitation is to create an integral model of rehabilitation for those who are excluded from the job market and society in general. It connects people with new fields of innovation that require the strongest adaptation of people’s habits. These fields are connected with areas of ecology, ergonomics and ethical economy. We spoke with i-genius member and Developer & Marketer, president of Etri, Lenka Puh to discuss the importance of Etri’s work.
i-genius: Why is there a need for Etri?
Lenka Puh: The unemployment rate of people with various disabilities presents one of the main problems in the modern society. We promote an inclusive approach for all individuals, which is the only path to a balanced development and progress. Good examples of cross-sector partnerships are always needed and Etri is one of them.
i-genius: In what way is Etri a social enterprise?
Lenka: The essential objective of Etri business model is creation of sustainable partnerships with local communities and businesses that integrate social innovations. From society excluded individuals need redesigned professions. We act according to principles of social responsibility in the whole specter of our activities and create new sustainable jobs. Since 2011 we have created 38 of them.
i-genius: What is an average working day like for you?
Lenka: It is usually very dynamic and therefore never boring. Meeting new people that have similar goals can be very uplifting. I consider myself to be a pioneer in many ways so also obstacles and stress are common elements of my daily working life. But staying positive all along the way has turned out to be the most important principle in my recent entrepreneurial 25 years.
i-genius: What difficulties have you experienced setting up Etri?
Lenka: One of the major difficulties we have experienced so far were connected with governmental procedures. We nearly lost hope that they would see the potential in us. Gathering the most appropriate team members was also a big challenge we have been facing recently. But we always find a way and take next steps.
i-genius: What innovative working practices have you developed for Etri?
Lenka: We make sure that individuals who need redesigned working places actually get opportunity in real life. They are flexible and made according to principles of ergonomics. So we try everything to create a friendly and safe working environment for them, mostly within their local community and, naturally, for a long term.
i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow and develop Etri?
Lenka: I consider myself to be the concept and idea manager of the whole Etri community. My team sees me at the driving force of the development segment in the cooperative and the main broker of all interdisciplinary projects that are connected with the areas of ecology, ergonomics and ethical economy. Seeing potential in cooperation with local communities, companies with social impact and NGO’s has been the main driving force in fulfilling our mission.
i-genius: How you have ensured that Etri has become a sustainable business?
Lenka: The main step that we have done so far is connecting ourselves with business sector and becoming more and more independent from governmental assistance. By doing so, we have also built strong bonds with those companies that value the importance of delivering a significant social impact. And spreading this awareness is still a demanding task. But we are learning how to improve this by simply doing it.
i-genius: How do you best relax and detox from work?
Lenka: This is easier said than done. At the moment I’m living one of our mottos: changing human habits. I’m attending a thorough coaching program that teaches me how to relax and help my burn-out diagnosis to stop taking away my energy. And I truly recommend it to others.
i-genius: Tell us a bit more about career rehabilitation.
Lenka: It helps solving the problem of unemployed and disabled individuals by giving them a change of having a working place according to their skills and abilities. It offers a specially qualified professional mentorship to create a sustainable working places for them – in their local community. Career rehabilitation is often quite unique because it connects different areas and can adapt to current market needs.
i-genius: How do you measure the impact of your projects/work?
Lenka: At the moment we are still developing the parameters of how to measure it more specifically. We are of course proud of every new individual who manages to co-create a suitable working place and improves his/her quality of life. We have already started promoting the benefits of healthy working place to other companies and have only received positive feedback so far.
i-genius: Where would you like Etri to be in 5 years time?
Lenka: We imagine ourselves to become a well-known community broker that successfully interconnects business according to actual needs of more and more social responsible consumers. Our network will be even more strongly attached to strings of new economy also on international level and provide the needed support for business models with social impact.
i-genius: What advice would you give to those starting up a social business/project?
Lenka: Before going into such a life-changing project I would truly suggest to ask yourself if you are willing to make such a sacrifice and are prepared to measure the results systematically and all along the way. Having a team spirit and being devoted to your mission is crucial. Those starting a social business without any entrepreneurial experiences have to be even more cautious: do you have a clear picture about the finances? Do you have a good entrepreneurial mentor and a community that will help you develop and offer you the needed support?
This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius ‘Innovation & Sustainability’ interview series. If you would like to develop a particular aspect of your business or address something you are struggling with, then why not take our ‘Social Entrepreneur and Business mentoring’ sessions with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!