The “Inclusive SMEs in Europe: i-SME” started on 1 February 2021. The project is scheduled for two years and is co-financed by the European Commission.
Project partners from eight EU countries are committed to the common goal of not only encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to become more open to employing people with disabilities (PWDs), but also to extending the practical tools and existing infrastructure for successful professional inclusion. The existing solutions per country will be carefully analysed and the best European practices selected to be later presented in project partner countries and on the EU level, in order to be brought closer to the SME leadership themselves. The project partners are:
- International Academy of Management and Technology – INTAMT (Germany),
- National Institute for Health and Welfare – THL (Finland),
- Dafür (Austria),
- Disworks (Netherlands),
- Specialised Mediation Team GTB (Belgium),
- Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises of Spain – CEPYME (Spanien),
- Business cooperation center of Southern Lithuania – PLVKC (Lithuania)
- Portuguese Federation of Vocational Training and Employment Centres for People with Disabilities – FORMEM (Portugal).
The starting point of the project is the fact that many employers are still reluctant to hire people with disabilities. This is especially the case for small and medium-sized enterprises: In contrast to large and especially global companies with strong HR resources and clear CSR policies, SMEs employ significantly fewer PWDs in percentage terms. The reasons for this reluctance were predominantly the lack of best practice examples as well as inaccessible information on how to facilitate recruitment and adapt the working environment. This lack of ‘knowing what is possible’ and ‘knowing what to do’ is confirmed by numerous studies focusing on SMEs and the recruitment of PWDs.
Based on the previous activities and findings of the project partners a systemic approach will be implemented at local, regional and national level in the course of the project to reach out to small and medium-sized enterprises, encouraging them to rethink existing employment models and open up to the employment of people with disabilities. The project aims to motivate SMEs to take active measures to provide better quality employment opportunities for people with disabilities, as also stipulated in Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
In particular, the project’s focus is on providing detailed examples of successful employment of PWDs to SMEs as well as country-specific guidelines on how to integrate them into the workplace. Among other things, a web portal is planned where SMEs can find well-founded, structured information. To raise their awareness about the existing possibilities, a far-reaching dissemination campaign on and offline is planned, based on catchy messages and recommendations from entrepreneurs with “inclusion experience” in their countries.
Our consortium welcomes all organisations and individuals interested in the i-SME project and invites you to follow us on social media.