Since the 80ties as a result of the closing process of Psychiatric Hospitals, the struggles against isolation in prisons or total institutions, fighting for the rights and jobs of people with disabilities, the Italian social entrepreneurs started to develop social cooperatives in order to create jobs, a better life, active citizenship. First slowly than rather quickly, social entrepreneurs came up everywhere, not only on Italy. They normally act in the general interest of the communities for a more sustainable and inclusive development….they create not only jobs in many economic sectors and social and democratic capacities for members and workers and specially for people with lower social opportunities…
“Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change. Rather than leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps….ASHOKA”
The Brand Le Mat
The brand LE MAT – social entrepreneurs in tourism and the first manuals telling about a new specific know how have been experimented and developed since 1985 in Trieste (North East of Italy) by a group of young social entrepreneurs who started to manage a small, quite old and damaged 1 star hotel: HOTEL TRITONE.
“In those times we did many socially useful jobs as cleaning, public gardening, transport but we wanted our social entrepreneurship to become more touchable, visible, shareable, traceable open to everybody, we wanted to attract new people, have new friends and clients and show our abilities and we wanted to influence the local development. So we thought that tourism would have been an interesting sector to develop! We decided to search a Hotel and we found a small and old one owned by the local bank. There were 18 rooms without bathrooms, old beds, no space to welcome and to serve breakfast but the position was beautiful. So we decided to restore, to find the money to invest and after 3 very hard years HOTEL TRITONE opened again, 3 star middle size standard accommodation, 16 rooms with bathrooms and space to serve a very good breakfast. It was a hard but exiting work! We discovered to be good in welcoming and including people from abroad We discovered that Travellers like SPECIAL PLACES, SPECIAL PEOPLE, SPECIAL VALUES. We discovered to be able to tell our stories about social entrepreneurship, active citizenship, empowerment and recovery. And we discovered that we need Manuals, procedures, rules and we need quality control. Sharing our experience with other hotelier, experts and new aspiring social entrepreneurs we learned that the secret of our success (social and economic) wasn’t only our enthusiasm but the assembled know-how and the discipline in applying procedures. We learned how to be an innovative touristic product and how to create and to maintain 6 good and interesting jobs also for people with experience of mental illness. We decided that ACCOGLIENZA and SUSTAINABLE TOURISM had to be our job, our business model!. We developed our competences, the organization, the marketing concept…We knew to be
UNIQUE but we had to stabilize our product, the services…We wanted travellers to come back, to guarantee always the same quality…"
So the Le Mat brand was developed until 1999 only in Trieste although in the meantime many other social entrepreneurs across Europe had started to set up restaurants or small hotels, hostels. The big European Equal Initiative gave us the opportunity to try to develop LE MAT as a FRANCHISOR for Social entrepreneurs and social co-operatives all over Europe. We proposed the philosophy, the results of our local experimentation, our drafts of Manuals to a partnership of more than 24 social entrepreneurs, experts, development organizations and at least to 5 European partners.
And we wrote a project about replicating social innovation throughout SOCIAL FRANCHISING. The name LE MAT was created looking to the tarots: the “foolish”, “the mad man” is like a Jolie, without this card it is very difficult to win.
The brand LE MAT has been developed in a collective work throughout the distillation of many different experiments of social entrepreneurs.
In 2005 the LE MAT central organization was founded: a not for profit organization where different social co-operatives, single social entrepreneurs and “social” travellers give their know-how and experience creating the value of the brand and sharing the ownership. LE MAT quite soon became famous in the European countries because FRANCHISING for SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS was something new. Many experts started to speak about SOCIAL FRANCHISING and LE MAT became a member of the European Network of Social Franchising ESFN: “The potential gains offered by the scaling up of successful prototypes into other places, have largely been neglected. There are, nevertheless, those exceptions to the rule that show the following: Systematic replication with local adaptation not only leads to greater efficiency and faster expansion. A well-organized replication process can lead to intelligent project networks with positive qualitative effects.”