smart start project

When the production of the Association started to grow and become substantial part of the Association’s income, 11 members of the Association who are persons with disabilities, decided to establish a social cooperative, titled Social Cooperative “Prijateljica” (Girlfriend).  The cooperative, founded in 2011, is today producing and selling small series of pre-ordered carefully targeted souvenirs, decorations and gifts made from gypsum, paraffin, wood and plexiglass. The cooperative also uses recycled materials like candles.

210 disabled persons are members of the association, together with 46 supporting members and 30 volunteers. The purpose of the association is to contribute to development of social and economic system which would recognize and respect the dignity and needs of the persons with disability. The association provides prevention, diagnostics and therapeutic services (logopedic, Snoezelen and neurofeedback therapeutic methods), transportation services as well as education programs and working therapy programs.

Established as a model social enterprise for employment of disabled persons and other socially marginalized persons in 2011 as a spin-off of a EU funded project ESCO – Education for Social Cooperatives – New Opportunities for the Disabled Persons implemented by Autonomous Centre ACT, Humana Nova it produces and sells high quality and innovative textile products based on ecologic and recycled materials for Croatian and international markets.

The enterprise practices economic democracy and all employees are owners, managers and workers of the company, employing young, disabled and 50+ women with experience in civil sector and EU projects financial management and reporting. All profits are reinvested in development, education and employment of persons with disabilities.

Since its formation, it is one of the most stable companies in the group, creating income and profits for the enterprise and for the group, but also for the community. Namely, part of the profits of the company is given back to the community by annual call providing financial and in-kind donations to civil society organizations in Croatia, as well as co-financing community developmental projects.

Founded as a non-profit association Autonomous Centre ACT in 2003 by a group of young activists involved in civil society development, eco-social economy, free culture and socially engaged art, the association soon started to spin off social enterprises.

Association main activities are divided into two main programs: (1) Nature Protection Program and (2) Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development Program.

Also, DEŠA organizes social entrepreneurship fairs and events etc. where it sells and promotes its and other social entrepreneurship products.

The business was also involved in promotional and marketing activities as well as educational activities for promotion of entrepreneurship in sector of rural economy, rural tourism, women entrepreneurship and traditional textile products promotion and for commercial mushroom collectors.

Facing lot of challenges in developing a sustainable business model, the social enterprise started to pivot itself to what founders have as their strongest capacity: project development and management, sectorial knowledge and fund-raising.

The purpose of the Foundation today is to promote civil society development through financial support to civil society organizations and the support of intersectoral cooperation as well as providing financial assistance to students especially those with social and economic difficulties.