Rinkeby is one of Stockholm’s most stigmatised suburbs due to a long-lived legacy and image of unemployment, segregation, violence and crime fastened onto its image. This is as much a long-lived reputation as it is a reality. Unemployment rates are more than double that of the Stockholm average (7,1% in relation to 3%); the average wage is 236 200 SEK per year (the Stockholm average being 363 700 SEK). Furthermore, wages are particularly low for women (the average in Rinkeby-Kista city district being 206 300 SEK), around 57% of the wage of the average Stockholm resident. In 2010, Rinkeby was ranked as having the 4th highest crime report among city districts with low income and education in Sweden, well above the national average (more than 200 reported crimes per 1000 inhabitants, as compared to the national average number of 125).
One of the owners of family-owned housing company ByggVesta, U.S.-born Laurie McDonald Jonsson, became aware of Rinkeby’s socio-economic challenges when planning investments in construction of rental apartments in the area in 2014. This construction process was part of a larger development programme, involving a total of 225 rental units in the area while covering the E18 main road running next to Rinkeby. McDonald Jonsson declared that if ByggVesta was to invest in housing in Rinkeby, merely building and maintaining a stand of apartments was not going to be enough; an investment in social sustainability was likewise necessary.
Good practices & solutions
First, Byggvesta conducted a customer survey to residents in Rinkeby reaching around 1000 respondents and made several additional visits to the area to learn more about the needs and wishes of residents. Following that, ideas for a project aimed at confronting local challenges were brought forward from residents. Finally, during Sweden’s National Holiday in 2014, residents were able to vote for one of several ideas to be realised with the aid of ByggVesta. There was a strong demand for a new niche for local unemployed women – many of whom have children – at becoming more self-dependent. A majority of Rinkeby’s inhabitants have either migrated from or are children of migrants from various countries outside Europe. Ultimately, inspiration was taken from Yalla Trappan in the suburb of Rosengård in Malmö that has similar demographics and socio-economic challenges; the idea was to start a co-operative enterprise of women from Rinkeby cooking and catering food emanating from the countries and food traditions that they have experience from.
ByggVesta hired a project manager and initiated a PPP-style project; funding was granted by Tillväxtverket while Coompanion provided expertise in co-operative social enterprises and project management. Local social entrepreneur Blå Vägen, performing education of local unemployed and helping them reach the job market, also added an extra layer of local knowledge about particular challenges and needs of the target group.
ByggVesta itself had a large network of relevant partners for Yalla Rinkeby from the start, facilitating challenges of gaining funding and proper expertise needed for the task. Using these contacts is seen as essential to the conduction of the programme. Coompanion, itself a co-operatively owned consultance firm, specialises in supporting work-integrating social enterprises (Swedish: ASF). Among their commonly used tools for this is etableringsanalys, establishment analysis or feasibility assessment. A private language educational company provided 4,3 h of Swedish lessons each week to participants in Yalla Rinkeby, since some of the participants did not speak the language. Other activities for long term impact include CV workshops, a Swedish-only policy in the kitchen area, practical education in professional kitchen procedures and catering and education in digital tools. Knowledge on sustainable food production, raw foods and healthy living is also added as part of the education, provided by an employee of ByggVesta with expertise in local small-scale cultivation (Swedish: kolonilotter) at Järvafältet green area.
The food production and marketing proved an easy aspect of Yalla Rinkeby: “The food is selling itself”. Yalla Rinkeby was represented at the local Järva Politikervecka in June (established in 2017), a forum for political, public, private and civil organisations to exchange knowledge and discussions.
Outcome & opportunities Yalla-projektet
A survey aimed at the participants shows that 6 out of 7 goals were met or exceeded expectations. The goal that was not met stated that 30 participants should take part in project activities whereas the outcome was 26.
Statements from participating women show that they experience higher knowledge, empowerment and self esteem with regards to working life. Furthermore, the project has provided them with a sense of community and social capital amongst each other.
Yalla 2.0 started in January 2019 – a Tillväxtverket funded project in order to expand Yalla Rinkeby. The goal is to be able to train 40 women per year. Furthermore, a Yalla Café will be opened in Rinkeby to reach more customers and increase profit for the co-operative. Another stated goal is to further support ecological values by educating actors within Yalla Rinkeby and promoting local cultivation. The idea is that Yalla Café will be a destination café that attracts all Stockholmers. From a PPP perspective, ByggVesta as a housing organisation has been enriched with knowledge of societal sectors and branches that they hitherto did not possess, e.g. further strengthening their expertise in designing spaces and facilities, but also marketing strategies. “In the beginning, this would seem like an odd business for a housing company … [but] now many want to work with us!”.
Lessons learned & recommendations
The Swedish Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen) is a key actor for initiatives such as Yalla Rinkeby; however, it was a challenge to recruit participants in the start of the project. A good collaboration with The Swedish Employment Agency is very important in order to secure the long-term business model for projects such as Yalla Rinkeby. Allowing the business model to evolve into a long term sustainable solution needs to take its time. ByggVesta has more than a 100 year perspective for its property and would be happy to see Yalla thrive alongsside that timeline.The dependence on individuals is ever-present in PPPs like Yalla Rinkeby; it is necessary to clarify designated contact persons and their roles at an early stage as well as continuously throughout the process. Commitment is easy to find, consistency less easy; therefore, expectations need to be realistic and clearly expressed, with regards to both partners and participants.
Engaged partners and stakeholder groups
Rinkebyresan: ByggVesta, local residents.
The Yalla project: ABF, Berlitz, Blå Vägen, ByggVesta, Coompanion, Ericsson, Familjebostäder, Koncept Stockholm, women in Rinkeby. Huddinge, Sollentuna, Solna, Stockholm and Sundbyberg Municipalities.
Yalla 2.0: ByggVesta, ComHem, Coompanion, Electrolux, Stockholms Samordningsförbund, Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan, Swedish Employment Agency, unemployed women, World Chefs. All municipalities in Stockholm County.