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Community cohesion and youth employability


Fostering community cohesion and employability skills.

The Florentine area of Italy, which has a long tradition of creativity and craftsmanship, is renowned for its production of garments and luxury leather goods. It is a key manufacturing location for Burberry and the location of Burberry Manifattura, our leather goods centre of excellence. In recent years, the region has faced challenges from youth unemployment and economic migration. These have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Over the past five years, The Burberry Foundation and Oxfam worked in collaboration on a programme to help foster community cohesion and social inclusion among local communities. The programme raised community members’ awareness of and access to services in the local area, while also focusing on facilitating integration. 

The programme’s three-fold approach to fostering community cohesion included in-school mentoring and inclusive education; providing vital services via community centres, and funding a network of community facilitators who worked on the ground and at help desks to reach vulnerable individuals. 

From 2017-2022, the programme ran school mentoring schemes both online and in person in 15 Tuscan schools, reaching 1,506 students and 327 teachers. It provided training for teachers on introducing a new style of inclusive teaching to their classes, helping them to overcome challenges around working with students with different social and cultural backgrounds and varying levels of Italian language skills. 

The mentoring programme brought about positive changes in schools, with teachers from Sassetti Peruzzi in Scandicci noting in the annual evaluation report that students’ school performance had improved, as had their self-esteem, motivation and class inclusion. 

The Burberry Foundation also partnered with four local community centres to help them to expand their day-to-day services. Over five years, the centres provided services to 12,789 people. As COVID-19 related restrictions eased in the summer months, the community centres took to the outdoors to ensure young people could continue to interact and socialise after months of social isolation. 

A network of 22 community facilitators enabled Oxfam to reach the most vulnerable community members. Over the course of the programme, these facilitators provided vital support over the phone, online and in person, where possible, to over 7,000 people. Access to Community Facilitator services was particularly vital for vulnerable people during FY 2021/22 as many public services either closed or reduced their hours. Community facilitators played a central role in addressing the needs of programme beneficiaries and helping them to access vital online and offline services. 

A study by Oxfam concluded that community facilitators and community centres are tools for effective social inclusion, which complement and reinforce each other in effectiveness, efficiency and accountability towards the community. This gives them growing authority and recognition in the communities in which they operate, as well as guaranteeing a deep bond of trust with the people they assist. 

From the different experiences examined during the learning process study, it became clear that a community centre’s potential to be a community welfare actor is enhanced by further spaces where inclusive activities can take place for people and families. 

Flexibility on the part of the centres and the facilitators was identified as crucial to responding to evolving needs. Adapting to challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic and to the evolution of needs in general was recognised by those interviewed, as was the ability of the partnership between the centres and facilitators to combat multidimensional poverty and inequality. 

Community centres and facilitators have the potential to empower community members living in difficult conditions to act to change their personal circumstances for the better. 

Oxfam Italy 

  • 96% of beneficiaries* stated they had better knowledge of services in the community
  • 96% of beneficiaries* stated they felt able to access services in the community
  • 99% of beneficiaries* stated they find community facilitators and helpdesks a useful service in the territory
  • 96% of training session participants* stated they felt more equipped to support users once training had been completed

* denotes the results of a sample of direct beneficiaries surveyed in FY 2021/22

The Burberry Foundation funded two additional programmes focused on supporting employability within the circular economy. Both programmes work with communities that sustain the luxury industry while also tackling the industry’s systemic waste issue. 

Elvis & Kresse is a B Corporation dedicated to giving raw materials a new life. It is committed to transforming perceptions of waste and inspiring people to protect the environment. 

Progetto Quid addresses the challenge of excess fabric in the fashion industry while also providing disadvantaged people with training opportunities, apprenticeship programmes and direct employment. 

The programmes have provided opportunities for 256 vulnerable and/or under-skilled people to learn a new craft and develop workplace skills to help secure long-term employment either within the creative industries or other sectors. In addition, Progetto Quid goes beyond employability skills by addressing the welfare needs of highly vulnerable people. It provides the security of a stable environment and support in procuring official documentation, both fundamental to ensuring vulnerable individuals have an identity and a place within society. 

Over the course of its five-year partnership with Burberry, Elvis & Kresse programme hosted 452 events focusing on its innovative approach to leather upcycling. Over 1,600 participants explored the topics of environmental entrepreneurship and how to actively contribute to delivering a circular economy. 

Elvis & Kresse engaged young people by inviting 164 work-experience students and 43 apprentices to work alongside environmental entrepreneur Kresse Wesling MBE. Furthermore, Elvis & Kresse donated 50% of profits from the sale of products made from Burberry leather manufacturing cutting waste to the Barefoot College, a charity which empowers women from remote villages in developing countries, where access to electricity is limited, to become solar engineers. Elvis & Kresse enabled a total of 72 women to train as solar engineers and over 4,000 people in their communities to benefit from their engineering skills. 

A key learning from this programme and of the Communities strategy as a whole, is the importance of responsiveness and adaptive management. For instance, Elvis & Kresse exceeded its beneficiary events target and was able to offset the impact of COVID-19 restrictions by providing comprehensive online work experience placements.

Elvis & Kresse

  • 87% of beneficiaries had an improved knowledge of leather manufacturing and the circular economy*
  • 60% of apprentices entered employment in manufacturing, creative industries or the Makers Movement

Progetto Quid

  • 100% of beneficiaries improved employability related skills, including communication and problem solving
  • 100% of beneficiaries speaking languages other than Italian improved their proficiency in the Italian language
  • 23% of beneficiaries obtained documentation to prolong their permits as legal residents and workers in Italy

*denotes the results of a sample of direct beneficiaries surveyed in FY 2021/22