So Stay Hotel was established by the Social Innovation Foundation in cooperation with the Municipality of Gdansk (PL) and business partners in 2016. The hotel was created to change the lives of young people who grew up outside of the family, in care homes. The innovative hotel's operational model - the first in Poland - combines a market approach with social responsibility. Young people gain qualification and experience under the guidance of professionals on the working site, which is highly valued in the open labour market. Youths participating in the employment programme are provided with housing support organised by the Foundation. This support gives young people opportunities to leave care facilities and start an independent, adult life.
At the starting point the practice shows how the three sectors can work together on meeting the challenges important to the city and the citizens. It is an example of a social enterprise where young people who have individual problems getting education and vocational training in the public school system can get qualifications on the work site while earning an income and starting an independent life.
Supporting young people to succeed in adulthood prevents them from returning to the welfare system. Young people learn a profession and get their first professional experience under the guidance of professionals. They learn in real working conditions. Acquiring experience and practical skills allows them to gain a first job in the open market. At an early age they are given the opportunity to build a belief in work values and life responsibilities.
Participation in the internship and first job programme at the hotel is also linked to housing assistance organised by the Foundation (assisted living). Individuals (trainee, apprentice, hotel worker) in difficult housing situations have the opportunity to rent accommodations on preferential terms, in premises managed by the Foundation. To secure this, the Foundation created a three-sector cooperation with the municipality and business which enables it to acquire apartments from the city's municipal resources, and repair and equip them in cooperation with business partners and young people themselves.
So Stay Hotel and the programmes combined with it (vocational training, job coaching, social housing) as a Good Practice refer to URBACT principles by the holistic approach in its mission and in the daily execution of this mission. It was designed and is managed now in the participatory, co-creative way involving civil, public and private sectors and the users into the whole process (public property managed by civil society organisation as a social enterprise, coached and mentored by business sector representatives and involving youngsters themselves). It aims to be the remedy for poverty combating and social exclusion of the socially challenged young people. It has an influence on physical, economic and social spheres of the city of Gdansk and is oriented for driving change in the city towards the sustainable urban living. So Stay Hotel is also an answer to Gdansk socio-economic strategy, especially social policy objectives. The motto of the hotel is “Responsible for Business - Responsible for Community”. This is an action field strengthening the development of urban community residents, creating opportunities and conditions for harnessing the potential of residents, regardless of their birth status and education.
The opening of So Stay Hotel was preceded by a three-year participatory process in which young people helped to shape the mentoring concept. Young people took part in the EU-funded project “POMOST na rynek pracy” (“Bridge to job market”) where they had an opportunity to take part in internship and skills development, as well as workshops, study visits and professional training. Study visits at the “Pan Cogito” hotel helped the young people to find out about the managerial competence needed to run a hotel. A team of five young people helped to create a working structure of So Stay and was the core of the first team of the hotel vocational training programme. Some people from this group have since found employment on the open labour market. Young people’s learning process during the planning, testing and creating phase of So Stay was crucial to developing the Hotel’s working frame as it is now. On the other hand representatives of the business sector, especially of the Craftsmen Chamber and restaurant owners, were supporting the Foundation to build a business model for this enterprise.
It has made a difference in the physical, economic and social spheres of the city life.
Physical: an old, devastated building and its surroundings, located near the city centre, was regenerated and got a new image, raising the quality of public spaces in the neighbourhood.
Social: after two years of operation the results are:
• Five people have found employment on the open job market (outside of So Stay);
• 10 people ages 16-18 have completed an internship programme and continue their formal education;
• 10 people (50%) from the So Stay staff are employed in the professional development programme, including one person in a managerial position;
• 12 young people are living independently, receiving slight non-financial support from the Foundation.
Economic: the business model of So Stay Hotel and the social housing programme enables socially challenged youngsters to start their self-sufficient independent life without any support from the welfare system.
The practice will be interesting for other European cities due to its transferability, including:
• The integrated approach to assisting young people in the transition to adulthood and independence (mentoring, paid internships, assisted living);
• The integration of potential benefits in the business, civil and public sectors;
• Cutting the operational costs of assisting young people and eliminating their dependency on social benefits and the welfare system;
• A sustainable social business model.