Participation in LeadCyprus Summer Camp 2019: Why is inclusion in the labor market good for business?

Last week Christos, Marika and Michael participated in the LeadCyprus Summer Camp in Cyprus, a week full of presentations, discussions and workshops around business, startups, employment and… inclusion.

The event was organised by our partners CyprusInno and by Cyprus Enterprise Link and took place in 6 different cities across Cyprus. Project Phoenix was assigned a slot in Pafos to hold our panel discussion on “Why inclusion in the labor market is good for business, and good for the economy?”.

We had a great and diverse lineup: Stanna Wieclawska Kyriakou, a business development consultant, activist and educator and adviser for Project Phoenix spoke about both her personal experiences with disability and the work she has done with refugees in Cyprus. Coming from a family of refugees herself, she emphasized the importance of education and inclusion from both the newcomer and the local communities to lead to integration. She also gave a great example of how someone normally only sells to one segment of society can open up to other segments if they have someone on their team who knows how to approach this new market.

Andros Zacharia, “accountant by profession, toastmaster by passion” explained to the audience and other panelists that yes – inclusion in the labor market is important, but we have to first develop and grow as individuals before we can really create a sustainable society. To the question whether companies can benefit from migrants in their workforce he said that “refugees and migrants are hungry – hungry to prove themselves, to build up their lives again. This can only be positive for companies looking for motivated and dedicated team members”.

Next on the panel was our very own Project Phoenix Fellow Toba Noori from Afghanistan, who shared with us her experiences when coming first to Cyprus and looking for employment and being turned down time after time. She now works for the large supermarket chain AlphaMega, a company she says actively pursues inclusive hiring practices and for the first time in Cyprus she feels appreciated and valued by her employer. She told us about her idea for a project that she would like to develop together with Project Phoenix, and how her own passion for food and cooking could help her employer to innovate what they have on offer.

Our friend Hasan Siber, serial entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of Colive Oil, and company that works with small family farmers from both sides of Cyprus to create a premium quality olive oil, had a lot to offer to the audience about how a business like his already benefits from having a diverse background. He offered some reasons why this has been difficult to achieve in Cyprus, and why companies are still hesitant to make changes in the way they operate.

Last but not least we had a special guest: Charis Michail joined us from Cardet to make the panel complete. Charis has a lot of experience with educational programs both at a national and European level and it was great to hear his enthusiasm on how important it is for Cypriot companies (and everywhere) to think outside of the proverbial box, and to look beyond the traditional way of doing business. He provided several examples of how project that were made up of diverse teams had a higher success rate than those that didn’t.

Finally we opened the floor to questions with a statement by Kevin Brown and Katerina Andreou from HR Innovate:

“Coming from the outside allows the individual to have a unique perspective on processes because the individual does not always become stuck in the “this is the way things are done” mentality. Rather, it is because of this perspective we can ask, but why? If in the moment the answer to the question – why do we do it this way? is – just because that is the way we always do – we can find an opportunity to create, build and possibly change the course of humanity.”

Thank you to all panelists, participants and of course the organizers for a great panel and an inspiring event!