This year, the Prize to the Individual went to Georges Belinga for “his entrepreneurial approach and positive attitude toward immigration” through Koop SF 34. A recognition that Belinga feels like an accolade to “work carried out by our organisation and to the innovative model that is being developed in San Francisco”.

– Training and integrating young people is one of the requirements that is highly valued in businesses if they are to be worthy of our awards. Do you think the prize will help the winner in the future?
Undoubtedly the Novia Salcedo award has an impact at local, national and international levels. This award enhances awareness and, in the end, it is an endorsement of a job well done. In our case, a humble business incubator launched by migrants in the most humble neighbourhood of Bilbao, its impact is twofold. It not only acknowledges the work done by our organisation and by other institutions and organisations that support us, it also acknowledges an innovative model that is being developed in the neighbourhood of San Francisco. Therefore, thanks to the Novia Salcedo Award, we can transmit the message that this neighbourhood is a story of success, innovation and dialogue. This is usually a good recipe for success.

-This year, we added a category that rewards the Public Administrations. Do you agree that public-private partnerships favour youth employment and integration policies? In particular, how does your organisation perceive this?
Without a doubt, I believe that there is a fruitful public-private relationship in everything that relates to employment. It is necessary and essential and I think the results are remarkable. In our case, we understand that our relationship with the institutions – the City Council, the Provincial Council and even with the Basque Government- has been essential. They have made it possible for us to promote joint educational and employability programmes.

-Young people, women, green economy, circular economy… are fields that we very much appreciate in the Novia Salcedo Foundation. Do you see these as essential aspects in developing modern organisations?

These are clearly the pillars of the new economy; a green, circular, and sustainable type of economy that involves women and young people. Regarding these categories, at Koop SF 34 we find that there is another pending issue for the new economy and this is clearly immigration, which has arrived to alleviate many of the sustainability issues of our economy but that, unfortunately, is suffering due to bureaucratic problems.

In your experience, what do you think would be one of the requirements to boost entrepreneurship among young immigrants? And jobs?

The main requirement is to get work permits for the people living among us. It is a surprising situation that entrepreneurs and workers are needed and, at the same time, they cannot be used or become self-employed because they do not have the work permits they need. Another requirement for increasing the employability of young migrants is to create specific training programmes for them, to identify the sectors to which they can contribute most, and not train everyone to do the same jobs. For example, Koop SF 34, with the help of the City Council, the Provincial Council and the Basque Government, is training people in international trade, fashion, gastronomy, tourism, leisure activities…

Regarding self-employment, at Koop SF 34, we are finding that the entrepreneurial rate among migrants (those who can work) is higher than among the general population and the reason lies mainly in the fact that they cannot find jobs. Therefore, if we are unable to integrate young migrant workers we shall be forcing many of them toward frustration and marginalization and others toward self-employment as the only way to live a decent life.

-Finally, why did you opt to submit your candidacy to the Novia Salcedo Awards?

I never thought that Georges Belinga was worthy of a prize; I saw the Novia Salcedo Awards as a way of raising awareness for a project and a neighbourhood. Furthermore, it is a way of thanking all our people, institutions, companies and organisations so that they will continue to support us. Finally, after years of hard work, we will have a date on which we can sit down and celebrate success; the success of a neighbourhood but, above all, of Basque society, which has learned to tolerate, accept and support a project of this nature.


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