Triodos Bank’s Executive Board provides a perspective on the wider world it operates in, its impact and activity in 2017 and its prospects for the future.
Which challenge was the inspiration for your project?
Centrum Ganspoel’s mission is to supervise people with visual and multiple disabilities in a place which is most suitable for them.
The central campus of Ganspoel is beautifully situated amongst fields, but it is also very remote. We increasingly came to the conclusion that for a group of young people the combination of attending school and staying on the big central campus did not really fit with their capabilities. This group needed to take part in social life, just like young people without a disability: being able to practice sports in a local sports club, go to the bakery on their own, go out for a drink; in short, to take part in everyday life.
That is why we felt it appropriate to relocate this group of young people to the centre of the town Tervuren. This created an opportunity to live in the town centre, within walking distance of leisure facilities and in a street adjacent to the shopping street and church square.
What was so innovative about the way this problem was addressed?
The innovative aspect of this project is in the approach to the target group. Inclusive housing projects for adults have been around for several years. But not for young people. Children from different provinces attend school within Centrum Ganspoel, which means accommodation is usually also required. To deliver the best tailored assistance the project required a tailored infrastructure and a bespoke location.
What was the impact of the company or organisation on the sector in which it operates?
The Welfare sector for people with a disability is currently going through fundamental changes with personal finance being the main focus of attention. At the moment this only applies to adults, but this will be extended to include young people at a later stage. The project is already completely aligned with these changes and was cited as an example by the Belgian Minister for Welfare, Public Health and Family, Vandeurzen, in a recent speech.
What was the impact of the company or organisation on the community?
The town council has supported our project from the start and has cooperated with our team. As well as an active volunteer policy judo instructors from the local club have received information about doing sports with people with visual disabilities. Local businesses offer internships for the youngsters. Local residents and supporters were also invited to the opening of the new housing. The young people involved are now no longer referred to as “the youth from De Pit” but they are actually called by their name, and as members of the association.
When the council was planning mobility works, they consulted with our staff in order to create new footpaths with tactile markings to guide blind people. When installing new traffic lights, they took people with a (visual) disability into account.
The arrival of this group of young people has had an impact on the policy of the council. They have definitely benefited from it, but so have all the other residents and visitors to the town, with or without a disability.
What was the impact of Triodos Bank on the company or organisation?
Triodos Bank trusted us to deliver on the financial part of the project. That meant we could focus completely on the content and added value for our clients.
We are currently starting with a new project, this time on the central campus of Centrum Ganspoel. We are delighted to be able to work with Triodos Bank for a second time. In addition to the social benefits, we would like to make sure the current project is sustainable from a broader perspective, for example with regards to the techniques and materials used in construction.
How does Triodos Bank share the vision behind the project?
Triodos Bank supports the aim of the project: achieving maximum inclusion for people with disabilities. I believe we have succeeded very well. Perhaps total inclusion is still a bit premature, but that is because this is not yet a well-known story in broader society. But the young people we work with are definitely fully integrated in the local community.