Case Study Report
Cramars Soc. Coop.
Development of case study
This the report resulting from a group meeting organized with the formal staff on the 1st of August 2019. The meeting took place at the Cramars premises, after having a commitment with the president of the Cooperative about who should be involved in the interview. The president and formal legal representative chose the following staff person:
- The coordinator as part of the educational staff
- A supportive non educational staff (secretary/reception)
- The company manager
- A teacher/cultural mediator
The group section was managed by Sara Danelon. who shared the project aims and then started with the interview following the DivCap check list. All participants agreed to record the interview. In a second moment, as a one to one interview, we involved also an external teacher, dealing with almost all courses in Cramars, and teaching ICT. This second interview took place in Cramars the 7th of August. The interviewee was A.
Description of the organisation
Cramars is a Social Cooperative type A
The main objective of the organization is to train people, even in a disadvantage condition, to enable them to find employment and improve their situation.
From the Statute, Cramars has as its object, the carrying out of all those activities necessary and finalised to the realisation of the professional training and to the professional elevation of the workers, which as an example:
- the offer of educational, training, welfare and school services for people who are in and out of marginal or disadvantaged or who risk social exclusion;
- the creation of vocational training courses, individual or collective, for the promotion of culture, training and professional updating, always aimed at combating phenomena of social degradation and favouring occupational integration in areas where the greatest risk of new poverty arises;
- promote any formative and recreational activity, establishing links and promoting exchanges with other national and foreign educational and training realities of any order and level;
- create initiatives to encourage the qualification for work placement of young people, women and adults in general to counter the phenomenon of the so-called new poverty;
- develop educational guidance policies aimed at young people and adults, also aimed at seeking new employment opportunities; · support the inclusion of unemployed people, also with a long-term contract;
- promote and manage initiatives related to active labour market policies;
- promote and manage innovation processes in the social, economic, entrepreneurial, territorial and technological fields.
The services will be mainly aimed at those in a disadvantaged situation. The cooperative may carry out any other activity related to the corporate purpose and in any case aimed at pursuing the corporate purposes as well as carrying out all the business and contractual operations deemed necessary or useful for the realisation of the corporate purpose. According to the website the activities carried out are the following:
- TRAINING – Professional training for the people of Upper Friuli and funded by the European Social Fund;
- SOCIAL INNOVATION – Experience of change processes based on strategies and ideas that Cramars proposes to the territories; · LOCAL DEVELOPMENT – Projects involving territories to act, react, plan and manage complex situations
Cramars is an independent institution. It has a legal subordination as social cooperative and for this reason it must follow the legal provisions regarding its administrative / financial management and the type of target to be involved in the activities provided for by the statute.
There is no written statement of the company’s mission.
From the teacher’s declaration which external teachers have to sign when being hired by Cramars, it is clear that although there is no written mission, there is an opening towards “the other” and everyone within the cooperative is tolerant and shows a positive attitude towards neighbours. In the group discussion during the interview it is defined that what is lacking in Cramars is the CHARTER OF VALUES which also becomes a document of SOCIAL COMMUNICATION. From the point of view of the website of the institution, there are some courses that are advertised only with figures or images of women (e.g. the course of personal care assistance). The group realizes, during the interview, that in fact it would be better to use images of men or of people with different backgrounds, which is actually defined in the training projects but does not emerge on the website. There are no internal guidelines for school managers and employees that provide equal opportunities and equal treatment for all, there is an internal regulation, but it does not deal with this topic. It is proposed, during the meeting to make a CHARTER OF VALUES, to be shared also with external teachers.
Being a small entity, this does not have a complaints office. Usually, if there are internal problems, these are solved directly with the person with whom you have problems or by reporting the problem to the president. With regards to users, complaints are made directly to course referents (each course includes the involvement of a coordinator and a tutor, as well as a contact person for the secretariat). During the first day of the course, students got the list of referents to involve in case of problems (between classmates, with teachers, within the organization), the referents are presented to the students. No cases or complaints of discrimination have ever been reported. Diversity has a broad meaning in the eyes of Cramars: Starting with gender diversity, going to age and competences diversity (which often compromises the balance in the classroom), than we have diversity in motivation (apprenticeship versus qualification courses), language diversity (for comprehension), economic diversity and sometimes with groups of disadvantage people and courses coming from the social assistance institute, diversities are in behaviour, comprehension, body limits, problems of addiction, etc.
Institutional in the migrant society
Cramars courses are funded by the European Social Fund (ESF). In most cases, only the unemployed can access to it, other courses are also for employed but in all cases between 18 and 65 years old. In most cases, to access the courses you must be resident or domiciled in the Friuli Venezia Giulia (FVG) region, but there is no discrimination on the origin of the students. On some courses there are specific limitations that depend on the tender or the type of financing. Having said that, we can define that the main diversity that the FVG-region worries whether or not a person is employed.
Cramars evaluates the composition of the class group only when there are limitations foreseen by the fund: minimum / maximum age, entry knowledge, diploma / degree possession, etc. Only a few specific calls focus on activities specifically related to having a refugee status. The fact of being migrant is no general criterium.
Cramars has carried out only some specific training activities for immigrants / refugees in collaboration with social services and with host organizations such as the Caritas Diocesana and the Balducci institute.
The courses completely dedicated to migrants, in Cramars represent about 0,5% of the total courses offered (but the percentage changes from year to year). It is difficult to define exactly the percentage of migrants participating to the courses because in some courses migrants are 80% and in others 10%, with an average that does not exceed 10/15% per course.
In some cases, specific actions to support migrants are available, e.g. the cost of the means of transport is reimbursed; where possible, attempts are made to propose lesson calendars that facilitate their presence in the classroom; some teachers made additional lessons if they had difficulties in understanding; we try to locate the course closest to the users. There are also specific calls or accompanying measures. These services (not to be discriminatory) are offered to all users in difficulty, independently if they have or not a migrant background.
Human Resource Management
Cramars employs 11 permanent employees and annually a total of about 50/70 as external collaborators (who are mainly teachers or consultants).
Among the Cramars employees there are no people with a migration background, but the fact of having a migratory background does not exclude working in Cramars; the evaluation for recruitment is made on the basis of the competences obtained, in the case of requested work, the call is made in a neutral manner and followed by a selection made with a defined structure and based on contingent needs.
No special treatment is provided for foreign staff. From a religious point of view Cramars is a institute not based on religion or belief and refers to the national collective agreement regarding national holidays. The office is officially closed 1 or 2 weeks in August and during the Christmas holidays.
The institution collaborates with social services, with associations that deal with the reception of migrants. Whenever possible Cramars sponsors associations and actions that favour migrants (e.g. sponsoring the ship called Mediterranea)
In the statute the reference to collaboration and agreements with migrant associations and organizations is included, but what we can do concerns obviously only the training and the possible integration of migrants at work, asylum seekers or political refugees, through generic or specific training internships.
The external Cramars staff who deals with training, is mostly Italian (if there are foreigners, only language teachers are involved or technical and engineering professionals, that are living and working in Italy since long time). The staff, especially the external one, before entering Cramars is evaluated in its specific competence for the subject he/she teaches.
The classes are almost always mixed (Italians and foreigners) and the external contracted staff and those who obtain a second or third contract must pass the assessment of the students, which includes taking into account the needs of the class and be professional.
With regard to the support given to foreigners, in some specific courses they were given assistance from a cultural mediator, in others a linguistic help, in some cases the teachers performed extra hours to help the group of those who could not understand the topic (migrants or not). Every given support is not given for practice (unless it is decided by the fund that pays the course) but it is decided and defined by tutors and coordinators when a problem arises.
Personal Impressions of interviewed people
The company is willing to change.
Recognition of gaps
There are some missing parts that have been detected (missing of a mission, missing of a process in dealing with diversity, sharing mission and social information about the company).
During the group interview some formal information has been clarified e.g. where the staff can find the statute, the fact that online it must inform the public (by law) that the cooperative is social and as such “must” inform on the social report that must be public. So, the group interview approach allowed the exchange of information and clarification of doubts.
We had a long discussion about what diversity means in Cramars, which is different from the DivCap project.
Ability to balance the group
Fortunately, an element of the group has moderated and aligned its intentions working with diplomacy in redefining and redirecting or answering questions differently.
There is a strong imposition on what is better and what not in Cramars coming from the side of the management (from the experience in working in Cramars).
Openness but closure
Despite demonstrating openness and willing of change there is a sort of reticence, on the part of the management, which restrains or puts a barrier regarding the proposals.
Things are taken for granted
Many things are taken for granted (e.g. that all the staff knows the company statute).
Difficulty balancing responses
Being a group interview there were people who had more influence in the group and did not allow others to express themselves freely.
Commitment with mission statement and diversity policy
Cramars is a social cooperative and as such those who enter Cramars as staff are introduced in advance on which targets they will be dealing with and which will be the difficulties they will sometimes face. All the Cramars staff is a member of the cooperative.
Only two of the interviewees, the two trainers, one internal Cramars employee (recently hired) and the external one (ICT teacher), are not members of the cooperative, but what emerged from the interview is that it is clear that Cramars is an entity that deals with diversity and takes care of others and the “different” and as such they are proud to work at this institution. So there is a kind of introduction ritual in the cooperative which confirms when one is really a member of the team. However, it is clear that there is no written policy on diversity that should somehow be formalised. Nonetheless, before entering the classroom the teachers are informed and instructed by the tutors (and this is provided by a structure given by a process that is followed as ISO 9001 certified) or by the course coordinators, if there are issues or difficult situations that they will face during the course. In some cases, anticipatory solutions are envisaged to problems that may arise from some “different” users because they are followed by social services, unmotivated, with limited linguistic understanding, etc.
What should be changed?
- There are some possible changes, concerning the organization and responsibilities of the staff, to ensure that all strong decisions are not taken exclusively by the manager.
- The staff should somehow take responsibility without always referring to a superior who solves problems.
- A manual with case studies or good practices would be needed to allow, in the event of problems, to understand how the problem was addressed and solved.
- We should provide to Cramars’ external staff and trainers specific rules, a job description and a mission that is clear and well defined.
- It is necessary to consider and accompany what is the “different” individually for his/her specific problem.
- Avoid differences in treatment of users, to avoid considering them “diverse”.
- In our institution we try to do everything possible to open all the entrance doors. Trainers should be trained on these issues and made aware of them.
- It would be interesting to share our cooperative values with the external trainers so that these values also become their values.
- In the discussion made during the interview with the group it is defined that what is lacking in Cramars is the CHARTER OF VALUES which also becomes a document of SOCIAL COMMUNICATION that must be shared also with external teachers.
- In Cramars website www.coopcramars.it it would be better to use images of men or of people with different backgrounds, which is actually defined in the training projects but does not emerge on the website.
What should not be changed?
- The welcome approach with all users.
- The fact that when they enter Cramars they are considered as people who need a service
regardless of their appearance.
- Internal discussion on documents and changes to be made.
- Exchange of views on objectives and implementation methods.
- The environment and the serene atmosphere that one breathes working in Cramars.
The language regarding diversity within the organisation
Here I give the example of the start of the goup interview to show the language regarding diversity: The interviewed Cramars’ staff has sat in the room depending on the formal position they hold in the company, and I could have asked them to mix themselves in their sitting positions.
At a certain point I had the impression that not everyone understood the technical language of projects. I asked: “Are you all able to understand me using the technical language of projects?” I had to rephrase the explanations about the project in a simpler way and by using as examples the activities that will be implemented by Cramars.
At the beginning of the interview I was asking myself why the president of Cramars was “attacking” me while I was explaining the project. Why? I stopped her and reminded her that Cramars formally agreed on the activities foreseen by the project, by signing a contract. The staff more recently hired by the company was often silent, and I should have asked them more direct questions.
Significant differences in the way people are looking at and thinking about the diversity in the organisation
- What is everyone’s position in the office – I know the position, type of contracts, etc.
- Are there differences in values related to Cramars activities of each interviewed person? Information and ideas about the company values are not very different among the interviewed persons.
- With different positions and a different amount of working years in the company, the view and logic are different, but we can share what we know about Cramars and the company’s values.
While the interview took place, it was clear that there were 2 stronger persons taking part to it: the two persons who have decision making positions and work in the company since a longer time. Even if the relationships are different and could influence the answers that the interviewees gave, for the meaning of the interview we need to have all personal/individual information independently from the relations.
Arrangements and power relations
As the interview was set as a group one, it happened that the newer resources hired by the Company felt shyer when answering the questions with the presence of the President in the room. There seems to be a bit tension in the team between those who coordinate and simultaneously work for a longer period in Cramars. It might be important to avoid that experienced workers are getting more power than newcomers – also a pattern of adapters and followers in the team might be avoided.
Motives and motivations to work on diversity policy in the organisation
Are there some interviewed with less motivation then other to work on Cramars, to answer to this questionnaire? – Recognize it through answers, empathise that different positions and motivations are a good result for our interview.
Possible benefits for the learners
The diversity policy for learners could represent a mean to be considered equal. That is not only related to cultural diversity but also and above all to the diversity of skills, to be chosen or not chosen in a selection interview to enter a training course (there have sometimes been complaints about the selection method and having a well-defined selection structure and a process that underlines it, would also formally justify choices – a selection structure exists but is not formalised in Cramars). The putting in transparency of these modalities would allow the users to feel “equal”.
In some courses some “diversities” emerge because the social services or assistance agencies ask us to insert people (even if only to experiment them in a “normality” group) that have cognitive problems, integration problems, etc.
In these cases it is difficult, but we should find a way to define these needs with the class group without making the person feel different and stigmatised, as it already happened in some cases, Finding a way for a real equality could set the stage for change.
Being a social cooperative the “different” becomes a normality for us, in fact we always try, when a choice is possible, to have mixed groups because there is mutual help; we listen to the individual needs and try to solve them (be these economic problems, comprehension, exits needs, etc.); we monitor the classes through individual feedbacks, information gathered by the trainers, the class group etc. to avoid problems and to be as welcoming and professional as possible, we try (even if not foreseen) in many cases to accompany the students in the search for a job or in a post-training course; we give the possibility to use the structure during the free hours, to be able to have lunch in the structure, use the ICT room when available, etc.; we try to communicate in other languages. That what’s in it for them.
Stage of the organisation
|7. intercultural organisation|
|6. intercultural diversity management|
|5. cross-cultural HRM policy|
|4. inflow of migrant workers|
|3. intercultural service management|
|2. service to migrants|
|1. monocultural organization|
Scroll over then names of the stages to get a definition of them
- My organisation has migrants among its clients.
- In my organization an intercultural training has been done aimed at improving sales to migrants.
- My organisation has a policy aimed at improving sales or services to migrants.
- My organisation employs (a) migrant worker(s).
- My organisation has a policy aimed at the influx of migrant workers.
- In my organisation there has been an intercultural training on how to improve intercultural cooperation or leadership.
- My organisation has an intercultural personnel policy.
- In my organisation, intercultural policy is a natural part of diversity policy.
- In my organisation, intercultural policy is a natural part of general quality policy with regard to sales/service provision and personnel.
The result of the 7-stages model highlights the fact that Cramars is an institution in which “diversity” is not a topic dealt with on a formal level. From a statutory point of view and for the type of contract the institution is a social cooperative and takes for granted the opening to “diversity”. If we talk about the migration target, Cramars does not have a high number of foreign “customers” as it is located in the mountains, a place not very attractive for a foreigner. This is the reason why the organization does not have a policy aimed at improving sales or services to migrants and, while opening the selection of possible candidates to all the public, there were no opportunities for hiring foreign staff. However, there are sometimes some clients with a migration background using the services / products of Cramars. From these contacts, there is a growing need for intercultural policy and /or intercultural training opportunities to improve this service . Currently there has not been an intercultural training on how to improve intercultural cooperation or leadership and there is no intercultural personnel policy, but at the other hand there is a kind of general diversity management, which means that management and staff are focused on gender differences, disabled people and sexual minority groups. As already mentioned above, the fact of taking it for granted did not make the decision makers think of including it in the list of activities to be carried out and formalized it externally. For this reason, some simple recommendations are made available for the development of a company that accepts and includes diversity at a transversal level.
Change and consequences
What is change here actually?
Currently the change in Cramars was not made in relation to users or to the process but in relation to the general philosophy and the direction that the institution wants to take in the future, for the development of new activities. Last year some Cramars stakeholders were asked to give feedback on how they saw the Cramars of the future, after several meetings it emerged that Cramars must work not only on training with all types of users (especially the most disadvantaged) but also in relation to local development and social innovation. Now Cramars is in a phase of transformation and pays more attention to follow calls and write projects and to train staff to support this kind of development and change.
What does it mean for the education process?
This means that the topics on which the courses will focus will also include such developments and new initiatives, also because in the future more and more users will belong to a disadvantage category. Cramars will be more focused in involving users who come from marginalised areas because they also belong to “diverse” category, even though it’s not the diversity as considered in the project. Diversity might become a theme which gets more attention in the courses.
Regarding the process it will be necessary to acknowledge these activities more publicly and then focus more and better on targeted communication towards the new “customers” and the new “bodies to be involved”. It requires training the staff and / or inserting this in new staff and maintaining the quality of the services that are currently offered.
What does it mean for the management?
- Verify the competences of the staff, define who should go into training.
- Organise and think about new products to offer.
- Define who will do the projects and follow them.
- Define who will carry out the activities on the territory.
- Creation of alliances with the bodies involved in these activities (social services, various associations, municipalities, etc.)
What does it mean for the staff?
- Redefining their skills.
- Participating in training courses.
- Reorganising their work program.
- In some cases, sacrificing their free time.
What does it mean for the learners?
Nothing will change for them, but some of them may feel more recognised and accepted!
What does it means for the organisation?
A big effort in the process of change is trying to be more effective, keeping the main objective in mind and not forget the fact that training cannot be sacrificed, given the fact that it represents 80% of Cramars’ revenues.
In dealing with diversity, Cramars is a beginner; many steps are needed for the company to be considered an intercultural organization. To do it, it is necessary to consider the size of the organization, the staff involved, the area in which the company works. Here below are some possible suggestions:
- To put in writing a mission statement that is visible to everyone especially on the website, but also for all internal and external collaborators; in the statement, also the nonverbal values should be explicated. The institution is a social cooperative and as such includes implicit values which should, however, be made explicit for a wider audience.
- To sell courses to migrants and “diverse people” the company should have more contacts and give precise information to associations involving this type of target. It might be useful to understand, also from a distribution point of view, in which language to write them and in which places to distribute flyers useful for promoting the courses.
- Discussion in the board on how diversity becomes an important element to be treated, e.g. include it in the topics of the courses
- Know in detail the numbers and the type of diversity that the institution hosts (to understand how much the institution can invest in the theme of diversity)
- Find the funds to invest in the best management of diversity
- Create a valid structure for the selections, and explain to all Cramars’ staff how to make the selections, share the most important criteria
- No possibilities because Cramars is using an external entity to deal with administration
- Organise training courses on “diversity” – and share the contents with those who cannot attend the courses
- Make a list of good practices (not only to be shared in closed groups but also among all workers, through monthly meetings or internal exchanges) depending on the department and the type of work performed; good practices can be of different types, if shared they can give added value and useful answers to all
- Join some training courses or invite experts to cope better with diversity within the institution and with clients – psychological aspects, contribution to guidance, diversity management, involvement of “different” users in courses, etc.
Professionals (being mainly professional external trainers)
- Develop an assessment questionnaire for teachers (to know teachers’ problems, how they dealt with the classroom, etc.)
- Ask teachers about their needs to help students considered “diverse”.
What is the right approach for this way of changing?
What we can do for a further development is sharing possible improvements within the Company to go on in the next step. Of course to do it we will need to share all our thoughts and solutions with 24 them, make them aware about some missing parts (e.g. mission statements – external clarification about the company position , etc.) and ask them what they are able and willing to do (because this will be a progress work that will involve all company internal and external staff). Changes should be considered as a positive factor. Stimulate each other to change, learn and acquire new skills. Keep quality under control. Consider the fact that without change there is no growth and without growth there is the possibility that the company will have to lay off some employees. Consider the fact that by doing so we truly follow our social and statutory objectives. We can start from easy to reach, short term goals to then define together long-term corporate goals. In the process we could assess the results of the small goals to then together define next steps (if needed). We will need to consider, of course, the size of the institution, defining what “diversity” is for the institution, understanding what kind of diversity and inclusion the institution wants to focus on, by what means and with what budget. Priorities must be set from the beginning; they should follow as priority the needs of the company and then the direction the company would like to take.
We should start from the small and very easy changes and share it with all staff (by working with small groups e.g. to define the mission). The project could make available some good examples or templates in which the staff and the collaborators could comment, add feedback and improve the important points related to the type of “clients” or collaborators they are dealing with. Mainly, for this process of change we recommend the blueprint approach of the colour model of De Caluwe & Vermaak4 which demonstrates colour thinking as an accessible expression of different change management traditions. The blueprint approach that involves a rational process: think first and then act according to a plan and create the best solutions. This approach is work project-based and followed by strategic analysis that, during and after the process, could be measured and permit all the staff to get knowledge about diversity.
Being a social cooperative whose members are the staff, the change process should be developed by bringing interest together, nothing can be imposed but only shared and agreed, that is why the solution needs to be found together with all participants and it will be a result of an experimentation. Of course, the process should be not only monitored but also supervised from a responsible person that can support the staff by following procedures in a nice atmosphere. This can be a piloting phase that will not grant results. The risk could be that not everybody will understand the process and the value of the experimentation or measures undertaken and developed.
The improvements which should be taken into account are especially related to the internal and external communication of the companies’ values that once finally defined should be put into practice, perhaps through the help of a handbook or a checklist that allows, at the end of the working day or week, to verify if and how these values have been experienced and demonstrated to the outside. It will be also useful to verify what and how it could be done better. This would allow not only to contribute to the personal awareness of the staff, but also to make their own the idea of the importance and the awareness towards the subject “diversity”.
Commitment with Management and Staff
The manager had already planned a revision of the processes, definition of a mission that could be transmitted outside of Cramars, a change that could facilitate the management and wants to commit itself to define everything through an involvement of some elements of the staff that can take the initiative forward.
The company is interested in adopting diversity management for a corporate philosophy of internal approach and to the user and also to provide a neutral and inclusive approach to anyone and to support its inclusive vision of the world.
The staff will have to adapt to the needs in some way. Some are happy with the change as this can help them deal with everyday problems.
The strategy is to exchange the point of the situation made through interviews by DivCap with corporate decision makers and to describe with them some possible solutions and also collecting their ideas about it and understanding what they will want to implement based on the context and company values. Then define who will be the referent/s and define the timing of development of activities. Once the activities are planned, communicate it in a joint meeting to the company staff and begin the testing and monitoring of the planned activities. For Cramars we first can focus on interaction – the possibility of understanding in work groups what are the problems related to the diversity that the various groups face and what are the solutions they put into practice. There will be no new products and services implemented, but products and services that are already in use will have to be improved by passing through the sharing of a new company mission, finding a way to verify it. The staff must consider and “manage” the problems linked to “diversity” in a thoughtful and comparative manner.