This profile was prepared when Raúl Contreras was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Raúl is reshaping traditional economic tools to demonstrate that marginalized groups can be profitably and sustainably employed. Current Spanish “insertion firms” benefit from a government subsidy for employing vulnerable populations but fail to improve the long-term outlook for their beneficiaries. Through the social holding company IUNA, Raúl is applying standard, competitive business practices to insertion firms that effectively prepare employees for main-stream employment. Central services, such as sales, training, financing and marketing that independent firms could not afford are provided as central services by the holding company. Raúl is developing other profitable business models by focusing on the sectors in which insertion makes more business sense; that is, those that are manual labor intensive and do not require highly qualified employees (e.g. messenger services, gardening and construction). His goal is to create models that allow the mainstream economy to become the agent for the insertion of these groups into the labor market.