Podcast Episode: Passion4Social
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
MM - Michael McEwan
TC - Thiago Carmo
MM On this podcast I went to hear about an organisation called “Passion4Social”. So I spoke to Thiago Carmo, the marketing manager and senior designer of the organisation. Okay, so “Passion4Social” is a creative agency with a difference. Can you tell us what the difference is?
TC Sure. Well, “Passion4Social” is a creative agency that we say is with a difference, because we are a social enterprise and our mission is to create sustainable employment for people with disabilities and the ones that have a long-term health condition. So our mission is employing and giving training and opportunity for people with disabilities in general, and that’s our difference. We operate in four tiers, which is starting, quality, process and support. So we offer a very high standard of services to the clients but our difference from the other agencies is exactly the social mission, the social change that we want to create.
MM So I take it the aim of the whole organisation is to get more people with a disability into work but also not to look at the disability and look at the person?
TC Yes. I would say that our social impact is in different areas. So we have different levels of social impact. The first impact that we aim to have is in the individual. So every single employee that we have, we coach them, we give them confidence to work, to feel prepared to go to the market and have another job. That’s the first level of impact that we have. The second level is of course taking the name of “Passion4Social” to the clients and when they hire us they can see the high standard of services that we have. So doing this we are breaking a preconception, so a kind of prejudice, that people with a disability are not talented or they are not competent enough. So in delivering five-star services we will make the client think, “Well, they have disabilities and they are still delivering a good thing. Maybe all my concepts that they couldn’t do it are wrong.” So in showing them that we can do much more and that we can do good or even better than the other agencies, we will help them to break this barrier, break this concept or this paradigm, a paradox if you want to say, and then they start believing and saying, “Okay, people with a disability have talents. They have competency”, and they start considering to hire these people. The third level of social impact that we want to create is exactly that there is a diversity. So we want to show the diversity of our team, the diversity that we all can work together, because our mission is employing people with disabilities but we have a very big ethos in the diversity, and it goes across all the company. We have twelve people right now and in these twelve people we have immigrants, we have LGBTQ+ people, we have people with disabilities, we have more women than men, which is different from the market. You usually in companies have more men than women, so we have more women, and everyone works together with a very common sense of diversity. So this is something that we want to bring to the market and show that our processes to work with people with disabilities can work in a way that any company could be employing people with a disability.
MM How do you find people then? Is it a case of kind of like interviewing people? So if you’re looking for a person with a disability, where do you kind of like market your organisation or your company?
TC Yeah, that’s a very good question because I think that’s the biggest challenge that we have because usually when we go to advertise our vacancies or our positions or our freelance opportunities, usually we just put out an advertisement on Indeed and other channels of jobs and it’s very difficult to find people, and so constantly we are working on some partnerships to help us to reach people with disabilities. So one of the things that we do is our social medias are always talking about people with disabilities and how people with disabilities can overcome the barriers, how we can offer different things using these services. So that’s one channel that we started getting people. So as a new company it’s more difficult to get the reach that we need. The second part of the partnership is having contacts like yourself, Michael, Martyn Sibley and other individuals that are doing their jobs around people, that you have access to other people as well with disabilities. So it’s a way of reaching these people to get them to know that “Passion4Social” exists and that we are willing to take on-board more people with disabilities than big ones who work in the creative industry. So we are open for CVs, so if anyone is hearing this please send us a CV. Enter in the website and send us a CV. We are always building up our talent pool, and the other strategy that we also have is reaching institutions or organisations that work with people with disabilities. For example, Inclusion Scotland is one of our partners that we just hired one apprentice through, because they advertise it, they reach the people and then we type up a shortlist for the candidates, then we can interview, then we select one apprentice to work with us. I would say that these right now are the strategies that we have. They are not fully developed mostly because of the size of the company and the reach that we have as a company, as a new start-up. We are going to be two years old next month, so we are very, very young yet, but so far I think we are succeeding to approach people. Nowadays we have 40 to 50% of the team with disabilities. That’s what we want to keep, 40, 50, 60% working with disabilities, just to show that our mission is up-to-date and being accomplished.
MM Now I know I met you a few months ago to speak about if you were happy to be interviewed by myself, and thankfully you said yes, but we were speaking about the disability employment gap, and on the website it tells us about the employment gap. So do you feel as though there’s a big kind of gap within the third sector but also other organisations as well?
TC I would say that the employment gap for people with disabilities is mostly because of the lack of opportunities, and when we talk about that it’s not just job opportunities, it’s opportunities in general. So if we think about a person with a disability that needs to go to school when they are young, it’s very difficult because the schools were usually, at least in the past, they weren’t accessible, and because of the lack of accessibility you had to go to a special school that had the accessibility that was required, and by that you have to travel to more distant places or you spend more time to get there, and at the end of the day you get more tired, and getting more tired you don’t get your full potential to deliver back to the school, then because of that your scores in the school go lower. So that’s a chain of situations because of the lack of equal opportunities, or at least an equity of opportunities, and I would say the employment gap is exactly the reflection of this lack of opportunities in the younger ages, and this goes and goes. Most of the employers, they have this barrier in their minds that people with a disability, they don’t perform or they don’t have the competence for the job they are applying, mostly because they interview lots of people, and some people with disabilities don’t have indeed the requirements because they didn’t have the opportunities that they should have had before. So that’s the gap that we want to close, which is giving these opportunities for them to develop themselves, and when they go to the market they can have a better opportunity. That’s the gap that we want to close, is giving the opportunity, giving the confidence and saying, “Look, these people can do if you give the opportunity.”
MM Mmm. I suppose it’s a bit embarrassing for Scotland as a whole in 2020, the year 2020, and we’re still talking about this disability employment gap, and it should have been shut years ago, but also to be honest with you there shouldn’t really be a gap.
TC Yeah. That’s the thing. The gap happens mostly because of the lack of opportunities in all senses, from studies to the first job. For example, if you take a small company that is going to hire a person, they want that person to be the best person with the lowest salary, and if you’re going to hire you’re going to hire someone that has more experience. It happens that most of the people with disabilities don’t have the experience because they never had the opportunities, and then you start a vicious cycle that never ends, and that’s exactly the mission of “Passion4Social”, is trying to turn this vicious cycle into a good cycle, to change this dynamic that the job market has. Even myself, being an immigrant in Scotland is very, very hard. When I was looking for a job opportunity I couldn’t get any because I didn’t have the experience in the UK, and I had twenty years of experience overseas, United States, Belgium, Canada, Brazil, where I’m from, and it doesn’t count. So it’s the same situation. Employers must change their minds about diversity, about opportunities. All of our employees, most of them didn’t have all the opportunities in life that we are giving them. They are performing so well and they are performing with so much commitment that rarely other companies would have the same commitment and the same interest they have in working for us. So that’s exactly what we want to show the market, that it’s possible to give opportunity, and perhaps you are not going to perform for the first three or four months but after that you’re going to compensate this time with more and more performance down the line. So that’s something that employers in general should think about.
MM You touched upon that you’ve got so many people with disabilities working for “Passion4Social”, but now I’m going to speak about what kind of work you do. Can you tell us a bit about that please?
TC Yeah. “Passion4Social” is a creative agency that works in marketing socials in general. These solutions involve graphic design, involve web design, involve content creation, social media campaigns or even management, also digital marketing, and the latest department that we have is for website accessibility tests. So if someone has a website they should have an accessibility test to see the range of people that you can get, especially because if you think that 20 to 25% of the population in the UK have a disability, we should pay more attention to this market because it’s a very, very big cut in the market and most companies forget about it, so they forget to be accessible in their website. So we have a very big range of services to offer the client. For example, for websites we have clients like Hibernian Football Club, the NHS, and for example with the graphic design we work for several third sector organisations where we do the branding, we do the logo type, we can do the stationary, we can do infographics, we can do annual reports. For the digital marketing we can manage social media, we can create the posts, we can write blogs, we can also create the emails for the posts, we can create campaigns on Facebook, Instagram or on LinkedIn or any other social media platform where you can boost your company to be more or to reach more people to see your brand, and we also have the branding parts of the brand storytelling, which is something that we do. Not many companies do, but it’s something that we do. So we deliver brand storytelling workshops that help big organisations to understand all the work and the people with disabilities that we have in our team and all the departments. So we have the website team, we have the social media team, we have the website accessibility test team. Everyone is in a different department.
MM So basically we’re doing this interview during the coronavirus, and obviously you’re working from home as well as me and thousands of other people all over Scotland, so how has “Passion4Social” been adapting to the coronavirus and have you come up against any kind of like obstacles?
TC Yeah. That’s a good question because in this sense we haven’t been impacted at all because our business model started with working from home. So because we were already working for and with people with disabilities, we designed our business model to be working from home. So we started working from home since day one, and everyone works from home. So in our team everyone is spread. We have people in Glasgow and Livingston, Edinburgh and East Kilbride and Stirling too. We have people all over Scotland and we haven’t been impacted with the coronavirus in this sense because everyone was used to working from home, especially because we’ve designed our systems and our way or work, our processes to work from home. So we have project management too. We record every single thing that we do and someone needs to - it’s that thing, we just go to the top and check there - and we have this flexibility thing as well, so everyone works when they can. So if you like to work in the evening, you work in the evening. If you like to work on the weekends, you work on the weekends. If you like to work only the mornings, you work in the mornings. So we are very flexible with this. The entire company was used to being flexible and to work from a distance, so working from home. So if we think about the coronavirus, we didn’t have this type of impact. I think the only thing that we are missing to do with the coronavirus was the physical meetings or the face-to-face meetings that we used to have once a month or once every two months. That’s more the social part that we do, with more meetings, having a chat, having some physical contact. That’s the only thing that we miss but the job itself didn’t change anything.
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