In Spain, more than 8.5 million people suffer from social exclusion. The Integra Foundation works as a link between businesses and social entities. Thanks to their work, almost 13,000 jobs have been created.

Social exclusion affects 18% of Spanish people, in other words, more than 8.5 million people, half of them who find themselves in extreme situations. This is 40% more than a decade ago. The assistance provided by institutions and organizations is fundamental to getting them out from this cycle.

That’s why, the Integra Foundation understood from the beginning what its role had to be: to be a bridge between companies and social organizations that provide assistance to this segment of the population. Integra have worked for the last 18 years to offer new opportunities. “We help people with difficult backgrounds to find work and reintegrate into society”, Ana Muñoz de Dios, the foundation’s director, says.

Integra was born at a moment of full employment, but there were still people who left out of the labour market because of their past. Ana Botella created the foundation in 2001 in order to work together with companies that, with social organizations, sought to provide opportunities“, she explains.

Almost two decades later, 12,600 people are employed thanks to Integra. Out of them, 1,260 people have found a job in 2018. “We are more than a source of recruitment. People come to us from social organizations, when they have already served sentences, or come from rehabilitation programs. We also welcome women who have been victims of gender violence, or disabled people”, she says, “when the social workers think that an individual is ready to be integrated into the labour market, we are in charge not only of carrying out the training process, but we focus on becoming a place that makes them stronger as we help them to realize their abilities and strengths in order to help them successfully pass an interview”.

Foundation Integra was born as a network made up of nine companies committed to hiring two people every year. “Breaking the barrier of two workers was our first milestone. Step by step, we’ve been increasing the number of companies and locations. As of now, we have a network of 89 businesses around Spain”, she says.

Ana Muñoz de Dios assures that the success of the foundation is due to its people. “They need a first chance. They always say the same thing: ‘In jail, I can eat and sleep, but the streets I can’t. If nobody gives me an opportunity, the only thing left for me is to go back’. The only thing they need is to get a foot in the door and somebody to offer them an opportunity on equal terms”.

The selection process involves companies offering their open positions to Integra, which then submits the CVs of individuals that suit the position. Companies don’t know anything about the individual’s past. Of course, they know that they are coming from the Integra Foundation, but nothing more. “It is essential that the opportunity offered meets the same conditions as the rest. Employees don’t want to be judged according to the worst moment of their lives, but rather according to their talent. It is fundamental for them not to be treated with pity or fear”, according to Muñoz de Dios.

The clearest example that judgements must be put aside is that every company that has hired people through Integra are completely satisfied with their efficiency and commitment.

The foundation works on a number of projects. One of them is Santander Bank’s “From Women to Women”, where fifteen of the entity’s female employees conduct individual and group sessions with fifteen women that have been victims of gender violence. The goal is to reintegrate them into society and the labour market. “Now they have taking another step forward to being integrated into Santander or their employer’s company“.