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Alstom Foundation, NESsT and CONCORDIA Bakery are launching their partnership to support the professional integration of young people working at CONCORDIA Bakery.

In March 2017, Alstom Foundation, an organization that is actively involved in improving living conditions in the communities surrounding the sites where Alstom is operating, selected NESsT to help scale social enterprises in Romania. Together, we signed a one-year partnership with The Humanitarian Organization Concordia, member of NESsT portfolio since 2014, to support CONCORDIA Bakery, a social enterprise that employs young people from vulnerable backgrounds.

Through this partnership, NESsT and Alstom will invest in infrastructure development for CONCORDIA Bakery and will offer business consulting to enable the management team to consolidate their strategic proficiency.

The official launch of the partnership took place in May 2017 at the premises of the social enterprise through a baking workshop. Among the participants were Barry Howe, Secretary General of Alstom Foundation, Alstom’s local management team and Sonia Oprean, Senior Manager at NESsT Romania. Alice Stavride, Director of CONCORDIA DEVELOPMENT, Mădălina Constantinescu, Management Accounting, Nicu Petrache, Teacher and Baker Chef and around 20 students of the bakery vocational school represented the CONCORDIA team.

While guests were struggling with cutting the dough and designing the biscuits, Ana, a future young baker, explained the learning process in the school:

“We learned a new method: we write the recipe on the flipchart, together with the working processes, then we place the name of the responsible student for each process. When the working process has ended and the product comes out from the oven, we gather around the flipchart together with our teacher and each student presents the process they were in charge of. Afterwards, we have to evaluate what we liked more, what we disliked, and to share reflection points about what we have learned and how we are going to apply it in the future. We like the fact that we have the freedom to create how we organize ourselves, how we design the flipchart, and we are also free to draw. The teachers taught us that we can make useful products in a way that also bring us joy.”

Mr. Nicu Petrache, a teacher with many years of experience, shared from his experience the transformation of a young student into a good baker:

“When a sculptor looks at a rock, they don’t see a mere rock. In their mind, they already have a vision about the future sculpture. When the young students come to us, we see their potential, but we try to capitalize on their individual talent. We are trying to teach them a craft, while also trying to encourage them to have a vision about their own future. When they will work elsewhere, we hope they will remember to make a product that is useful and necessary to so many people. We hope they will create it with pleasure and dedication.”

The Humanitarian Organization Concordia hosts five vocational schools for baking, carpentry, cooking, attending to restaurants and horticulture. CONCORDIA Bakery is the first social business capitalizing on the training of the vocational schools to produce quality products. The social enterprise was founded with the purpose of offering a transitory working place to the best graduates from the bakery school. This experience prepares students for the open labour market.

The young people come from vulnerable backgrounds and are extended personal and professional support by the organization in order to reintegrate them into society.

Building on the positive experience with the bakery and its extraordinary impact on youth, the management is exploring replication of this model with the other four vocational schools. The impact of the organization could grow significantly by offering more jobs to graduates of all the vocational schools.

The challenges of scaling a social enterprise are diverse and the NESsT and Alstom partnership helps this organization to overcome these challenges. The management team of CONCORDIA is exceptionally perseverant, professional and displays a special interest for continuous improvement. Even with these favourable premises, there are many difficulties in sourcing the right talent for growing the team, in analysing and optimizing the portfolio of products, and in identifying new segments of clients. All these operational issues place pressure on the management team.

NESsT and Alstom Foundation’s support is crucial at this stage when the organization should focus on redefining its business strategy.

The Alstom Foundation is pleased to implement NESsT’s proven methodology with Concordia in what is the Foundation’s second project in Romania. The youth are enthusiastic about the training that they are receiving as it will be a valuable springboard for their future careers.

For those interested to know more, The Humanitarian Organization Concordia hosts a Visitor’s Day every year. For more information, check the organization’s website.