12 September 2012 zichtbaarzijn

By Ben Haagsma

Many young persons with (physical) disabilities receive a form of technical training by technical schools, but they do not succeed to turn these newly acquired skills into a successful little enterprise or a stable job. They often lack the entrepreneurial skills and attitude, or they do not get sufficient coaching or advice, or they work too much in isolation. Upon the request of the Liliane Foundation (Netherlands) Fair & Sustainable Advisory Services was asked to assist the “Union des Personnes Handicapées du Burundi” (UPHB) in developing a new Center that would be able to close this wide gap between skills training ánd successfully establishing an own enterprise or getting a stable job.

Inspiration for this new Center was acquired by talking to different persons and institutions, such as successful entrepreneurs (with a disability), existing technical schools, micro-finance banks and resource persons. Looking for existing successes of entrepreneurs with a disability was the key approach: what can we learn from them? What do they suggest for such a Centre? The approach consisted of individual interviews and a joint workshop, which discussed preliminary findings and ideas. The final plan was made together with a small team of the national staff. FSAS supervised and guided the entire process.

The envisaged Center will offer a range of services, covering training in business skills, coaching on the job, advising, linking with micro-finance banks and entrepreneurs, facilitation of learning and sharing experiences, and lobby & advocacy. This Center is complimentary to existing technical schools that focus on technical training only. This constituted also the explicit wish of these training facilities.

The Service Center will deal with four different target groups:

  1. Most importantly, the young persons with (physical) disabilities themselves who will be supported with the various services.
  2. The existing technical schools and their staff, who will be supported to improve their curriculum and coaching method towards persons already trained.
  3. The entrepreneurs and micro-finance banks that will be approached to change their attitude towards persons with a disability and make their services better available.
  4. The authorities will be actively approached in order to change their attitudes and policies so that persons with (physical) disabilities will get a fair chance.

An important mind shift has been realized: now the emphasis is more on the demand of the market instead of the supply driven approach that characterized technical training so far. Moreover, persons with (physical) disabilities are no longer seen as vulnerable persons, who have to be assisted with charity. Instead, they are seen as persons with their own competencies and skills, perfectly able and competent to start and develop a successful business. There is an interesting parallel to helping small farmers to access markets for their products and earn a decent income and living. The same business principles apply for persons with (physical) disabilities. 

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