First European Ford Resource and Engagement Centre Celebrates First Year

CRAIOVA, Romania — Craiova's pioneering social entrepreneurship centre — an initiative of the Ford Motor Company Fund — is celebrating a successful first year of helping young students become budding entrepreneurs and set up their own social enterprises to support the community.

Three GoBike staff with bicycles, logo on T-shirt
GoBike staff ready to help the next bike share customer.

The European Ford Resource and Engagement Centre marked its first birthday in October with a special event attended by Stuart Rowley, President, Ford of Europe.

And what a year it has been! A total of nine separate projects are helping to enrich the lives of residents in Craiova, home to the Ford Romania plant, and the surrounding Oltenia province.

It is a beautiful region nestled between the Danube, the Southern Carpathians and the Olt river, yet life for many in the area is not without its challenges.

In just 12 months of operation, the first-of-its-kind centre is helping to address local needs relating to health, wellbeing, education, the environment, agriculture and social mobility.

Each student team is supported with a seed grant from the Ford Fund to kick start their project, office space at the centre, mentoring, and design thinking workshops from the Henry Ford Entrepreneurial Academy (HFEA).

Stuart (pictured at the centre known as Centrul de Resurse si angajament Ford in Romanian) said: "This centre is the only one of its kind in Europe. I have met some great young people who are initiating socially focused new enterprises out of local universities. It is a great example of how Ford can contribute and give back to the communities in which we're operating and investing."

He hailed all the projects making a real difference in and around Craiova, including such eco-friendly initiatives as EcOil-Cuv, which involves the collection of waste oil for recycling into organic soap, and GoBike Craiova, offering rental bicycles at an affordable price. Over 100 members have already joined the GoBike club and are regularly using the service.

Stuart Rowley, President, Ford of Europe, far left, with other Ford executives in Romania's AgeleSS building
Stuart Rowley, President, Ford of Europe, far left, with other Ford executives in Romania's Ford Resource and Engagement Centre.

The Centre of Learning Assistance for School and Society (C.L.A.S.S) is an afterschool programme designed to integrate children from disadvantaged backgrounds, supported by language courses. Currently 20 children attend every day including five children from foster homes. Parents are already commenting on seeing improvements in the children's engagement and development as a result of attending C.L.A.S.S.

AgeleSS — Shoes, Sneakers and More upcycles old shoes to provide affordable footwear while reducing the negative environmental impact of discarding millions of pairs of shoes per year.

The Academy of Science, Knowledge and Skills helps encourage more young people to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers with hands-on workshops, a STEM summer camp and links to local businesses for real-world experience.

Three members of Centre of Learning Assistance for School and Society sitting at children's table
Centre of Learning Assistance for School and Society volunteers.

Green Nature for Healthy Life, known as GRENA, is establishing greenhouses to increase crop yield, developing new plant varieties that are adaptable to interchangeable climatic conditions, supporting smallholder farmers and providing healthy lifestyle workshops.

H4H — Human for Human is a human-centric rehabilitation centre providing greater access to information and advice, physical therapy, speech therapy, psychosocial education and supporting the personal development of young people.

NAO uses autonomous, programmable humanoid robots for engagement with autistic children during therapy sessions, while MarCo is making waves as a truly innovative marketing and communications enterprise, supporting the centre's social enterprises and community focused non-governmental organisations that require tailored communications and public relations support.

The centre is a collaboration with Asociatia Pentru Educatie SV Oltenia (EDUCOL), a local not-for-profit organisation that seeks to maximise entrepreneurial training and employment opportunities for young people; and the City Hall of Craiova, which is providing premises.

Female presenting Green Nature for Healthy Life
Presentation of Green Nature for Healthy Life.

As well as supporting young students, the centre has welcomed in other non-profits to run programmes for the local community. In the spring, more than 800 students from primary and secondary schools visited the caravan of science — an interactive travelling exhibition that uses experiments, workshops, games and a healthy serving of fun to help kids of all ages better understand what STEM is about.

The Centre is part of a $1 million investment by Ford Motor Company Fund, working with its international grant making partner GlobalGiving. A further £$100,000 supported the refurbishment of the building before it opened its doors in October 2018.