“Unemployment is Spain’s big chance”. This sentence is shocking and might look as a sarcasm or an insult to the millions of people who suffer the tragedy of unemployment. Nevertheless it contains a truth, as is shown by two innovation projects with unemployed I will explain.
The quotation appears to come from a German entrepreneur who is settling down in Spain. He uttered it in a technology course for entrepreneurs and to his audience’s astonishment he said that unemployment is Spain’s chance because “it’s the time when people can change their mind to learn other things than those that have become obsolete and have led to the present crisis situation. If those unemployed were working in they could never change”.
A Citilab experience shows how you can use unemployment to turn around a dramatic situation. Building on the methodology developed in the project to generate social integration and technological innovation with elderly, Dolors Solano, one of the pillars of SeniorLab, has created a training concept for the unemployed in order to help them to radically change their attitude. Dolors uses technology as a mean to change their skill profile towards new digital careers.
The most interesting aspect is how participants have evolved as a team. There has been mutual support, shared knowledge and collaborative creation. All that by attending to their interests as users and working on projects with individual meaning for each course members. Dolors Solano has made clever use of action learning, action Development, group dynamics and participatory action research.
The questionnaires of the project reflect satisfaction rates of over 80%. But more important is what participants said. They expressed that they were expecting just another boring computer course. But they have found tools that allow them to develop both professionally and personally. They are modest people, out of the digital culture and a generally with a low level of qualification. They went in with low self-esteem; skeptical. And they leave the experience wanting to learn more and to start their own projects.
The second project where we can glimpse that unemployment is a chance for Spain is Marketing Zero at Rivas-Vaciamadrid. The Marketing Zero concept was designed by Mariana Ferrari. It uses various on and off line for an effective marketing strategy at (almost) zero cost. Mariana Ferrari and ValueCreation are currently working with the city of Rivas-Vaciamadrid to help local SMEs and entrepreneurs to set up marketing efforts at low cost, but with high impact. The fact is that at each session more unemployed show up. First at the municipality’s initiative, but now more determined. The reasons? As they explain “send a CV means to say ‘I am unemployed’, I am one more among millions.” “What we want,”, they add, “is learning to sell our services and our knowledge in a professional manner to those that need it via social networks and marketing techniques.” This is a new approach and a new way of understanding the nature of work.
The German entrepreneur is right. Without the crisis and unemployment, those attending the Citilab had remained at their low administrative positions in their packaging or temporary jobs in construction. I am not how successful they will be, but it is certainly now have a chance of finding employment in the digitization process Spanish economy goes through. Also, those unemployed attending the Marketing Zero workshops could not have overcome the idea of dependent employment and change it by the idea of become professionals of value.