Furniture for Freedom
It is an initiative of inclusive businesses for people deprived of their freedom who become qualified and work in the production of furniture in jail. The main goal for them is to become qualified carpenters and help financially support their families.
Tell us about yourself/your team.
For the last 20 years I’ve been working in the commercial area of multinational enterprises like Sony, Samsung, Lego and Masisa. I have a degree on Marketing and studies on Social Entrepreneurship in France. It was a big change in my life and career when in 2008, working for Masisa, I was appointed Head of Development of Inclusive Businesses. In that path I discovered my strong social vocation. It was a like a revelation to experience that you can improve underserved people’s lives through market mechanisms. Having the chance to know the reality of excluded neighborhoods and prisons, made me truly want to search for solutions.
What makes you an intrapreneur? What are the skills, capabilities, and personality traits that make you an intrapreneur?
I feel I’m an intrapreneur because I enjoy looking for creative solutions to challenges, problems or situations. As an intrapreneur, I’ve been always results-oriented and had very clear goals. I think that one needs to be constant and flexible to move forward, despite the problems that may appear. As a leader, I like to form motivated, results-oriented and well coordinated teams of people who can feel the owner of the projects and responsible for their roles. It also requires a kind of empathy and tolerance to know how to relate with any kind of stakeholder.
About Your Organization
Argentina, C, Buenos Aires
Primary country where this project is creating social impact
Additional countries or regions
Buenos Aires, Paraná, Rosario, Coronda
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Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Growth (your pilot is up and running, and starting to expand)
The Need: What social or environmental problem are you trying to solve?
In Argentina there are 60,000 people in prison, 50% of which has their sentence. 55% of them don’t have a profession or a trade; the 80% were unemployed or underemployed when they got into jail. The 29% of them has little or poor education and only 10% of the prison’s population receive professional or technical training. 22% of their families don’t receive them at home when they are released and the 47% is received in a negative and violent familiar environment, with criminal records and psychiatric history. The 58% of the people released from jail don’t come back to the same place where they live before, and more than 40% don’t have a job. The outcome is that one of three reoffends in the criminal context.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
From Masisa we create a virtuous inclusive businesses ecosystem. We visit jails near a timber distributor and offer them to create or develop a creative and yet productive carpentry workshop. With a carpentry teacher we trained 20 inmates in the production of slab furniture. The distributor delivers the pieces of wood and the inmates manufacture the furniture. Then, the distributor takes the products and makes the payment to the penitentiary services, which make a bank deposit to each inmate and their families’ bank account. The distributor sells the furniture and delivers parts and pieces to start manufacturing again.
Through this model, inmates learn work habits, a trade, use their time productively, increase their self-esteem and improve their familiar and penal legal status. One they are out of prison, they can start their own carpentry micro-enterprise.
The Solution: Why is this solution innovative for your company and industry?
This is an innovative solution in many ways. It is the first time in Argentina a timber multinational company gets involved with training workshops in prisons and generates a sustainable productive enterprise. This project allows the articulation and dialogue between different sectors such as: penitentiary services, inmates and carpentry distributors.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities.
The Project makes a big difference, giving an opportunity of education and work to people with few opportunities to reintegrate into society. With the money they earn, they can help their families and learn work habits while they are serving the sentence.
My primary activities are:
1. Interviewing the Penitentiary Directors to show them the project and get their approval and support.
2. Presenting the project to the Masisa’s carpentry distributor closest to the prison and showing its social and economic advantages.
3. Reviewing and designing the furniture to manufacture in jail.
4. Organizing the inmates’ furniture manufacture, providing a carpentry teacher, material goods and tools.
5. Organizing the furniture manufacture with the prison’s chief of carpentry production.
6. Coordinating a well interconnection between materials, products, payments and the timber industry.
7. Collaborating with the timber distributor to increase the products’ sales in order to generate more jobs and more people can be involved in the program.
8. Replicating the model.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
Our rivals are big supermarkets that sell furniture in boxes ready to assemble, at low prices. There are also small companies that employ people in jail for low salaries and without adding other value to their work, such as paper bags’ production. Since only the 10% of the penitentiary population works in our program, I don’t see any short-term threat to the project. It takes a long time to get to know the particular characteristics of these contexts.
This Entry is about (Issues)
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world.
When we visited a jail for the first time it was a “shock” to me. We spoke to the inmates and drink mate, meanwhile they commented us about their need to “do something” inside the jail; “when they do something, their minds fell free”. Many people want to work but they can’t, because the penitentiary service lacks the resources to train and/or employ them. One of them told me: “Outside I have no home, food or education; here I have all of that”. That comment made me thinks about how this population’s context of poverty and exclusion led them to use drugs and commit crimes. We were offering carpentry in courses Masisa, so I thought that we could take them to prisons. The challenge was to generate a sustainable and productive enterprise to give continuity to the project. It was a great surprise and motivation for me when Masisa had the courage to accept my proposal.
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
I think that the impact of this project is huge, because it has solutions to several perspectives of the problem, with a lot of positive way outs of jail.
140 individuals deprived of their liberty were trained in the manufacture of furniture and today, 110 of them are working inside the jails.
People who participate in the program learn new work habits, use their time productively, increase their self-esteem, help their families, save money for the future, improve their penal situation and learn a trade for their lives outside prison.
The penitentiary service reduces the violence in jails and performs its social function of reinsert people into society. That way, the rate of reoccurrence diminishes by 70%.
Masisa’s distributors are glad to serve society, being part of this kind of project and getting more profits.
What is your projected impact over the next 1 to 3 years?
My projection of impact for the next 3 years is:
Year 1: to incorporate 4 prisons with 100 trained and working people.
Year 2: to incorporate 10 prisons with 250 trained and working people
Year 3: to incorporate 20 prisons with 500 trained and working people. To create 5 productive outside centers to employ people released from jail.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
Government policies are the principal threat to the project, since they often change the regulations and people in charge. My plan is to sign agreements with the National and Provincial Ministry of Justice in order to have legal support to continue the project. I also have to get important partners such as BID, CAF, PNUD, Ashoka and consulting support to scale the program. A communication plan is also important to gain visibility and will help the project to grow.
What is the benefit or value you're creating for your business?
Through this Project, Masisa increase their sales to the distributors participating in the program. With a low investment the outcomes are economically positive.
Working together with our clients, we create a stronger bond and Masisa’s employees are proud of their company is collaborating in such a complex fight against crime and reoccurrence.
How are you leveraging internal resources (funds, time, knowledge, etc.) to support this initiative?
We need to get new partners in order to scale the project.
We hope to get a satisfactory answer of the international institutions we submited the proposal.
Expand on your answer, explaining the long-term funding and support plan.
At a long term, we can create a social enterprise dedicated to the program, with a brand with its own products and get in Argentina other types of funding
Tell us about your partnerships across your company and externally that are key to your project's success.
In the company I work with the sales sector in order to find the appropriate distributor for the project. Outside the company, I am related to the penitentiary services, the distributors, and sometimes with GNOs that collaborate with us. In the future, we’ll have to be related to retailers too.
What internal support have you gotten for your project? What kind of push-back have you received?
Since the first moment Masisa trusted my project, offering the necessary resources to start with. Roberto Salas (Masisa’s CEO) considered this project the most inclusive one, among the other projects of the countries where Masisa operates. Francisco Estruga (Director of marketing) keeps on encouraging me. I feel total support and trust of Masisa to develop my project.