Àngels Guiteras Mestres is the manager of Asociación Bienestar y Desarrollo – ABD (or Welfare and Development Association), an NGO formed in the early 1980s to respond to drug addiction.
What does ABD do?
We develop projects and services to try to address the vulnerable situations that can lead to social exclusion.
Our team of more than 1000 professionals and volunteers implements a huge variety of projects targeting drug addiction, HIV/AIDS, childhood development, integration of immigrants, gender equality and social inclusion of vulnerable groups such as the elderly. We have registered offices in Catalonia, Madrid, Andalusia and the Balearic Islands.
We created the ABD Foundation in 2011 [alongside the ABD Association] to optimise social action and to help improve people’s quality of life.
What does the third sector landscape look like in Spain and in your region?
The third sector in Spain is very large and diverse, especially in Catalonia. The Catalan third sector platform, La Taula, was established in 2003 and now has 35 umbrella member organisations. Combined they have more than 3000 members — associations, foundations, cooperatives and other types of entities.
“Strong investment in the social sector is the key to combatting inequalities”
What are the main challenges these third sector organisations are currently facing?
To push for more and better social policies, and to become stronger as a sector.
Since the beginning of the economic crisis, third sector organisations have suffered serious economic cuts that have affected the overall wellbeing of society. Far from having passed through it, this economic and social crisis has settled in the most disadvantaged classes and the growing abandonment of them by some administrations and economic sectors has only increased the problem. More public recognition and strong investment in the social sector is the key to combatting inequalities. There is still a long road ahead.
When did ABD first join Euclid Network?
For us, Euclid Network is an interesting way to meet other entities and share knowledge of leadership and social entrepreneurship in Europe. It fits in with ABD’s objective to boost our international work.
Why is that international element important to your organisation?
Because it helps us to get to know other organisations and allows us to carry out joint projects and seek financing for them. Networking across borders strengthens us and gives impetus to new and shared initiatives in the framework of a social Europe. Working in cooperation with others and diversifying funding sources is one of our strategic objectives.
In general, the third sector in Catalonia is starting to become more international in its focus. For example, some organisations deliver contracts in other countries and have offices there, and others offer technical assistance. And so this strengthens us as an organisation and broadens our horizons.
“Intercultural communication can take a bit more time. For Southern Europeans an informal coffee together can help.”
What would your advice be to those wanting to work with Spanish partners?
Two things: one is the importance of choosing partners who are professional and transparent, and who can demonstrate this with annual reports and financial audits.
The second is about communication. In general in Spain we communicate in a very direct and clear way, and we can understand each other more easily if others also use that type of communication. Intercultural communication can take a bit more time. For Southern Europeans an informal situation such as having a coffee together can help.
Catalonia recently held a referendum on independence. How does this highly charged political context influence ABD’s work?
The current political situation affects us all in our daily lives as citizens. Our organisation is diverse and there are different points of view, but we’re united in the focus on our mission. It’s similar across the third sector more broadly — organisations focus on their social objectives and generally support the “dret a decidir” (right to decide) principle.
In my own opinion, we need a government that prioritises more investment in social projects and better social policies.
The social and economic crisis is still causing difficulties for the most vulnerable people and that’s why we’re trying to implement innovative projects responding to those needs. For example, our Fuel Poverty Group or our Active Community project: both involve volunteers supporting people on low incomes who have difficulties paying their electricity bills, and also help with some other basic needs such as clothing. The Fuel Poverty Group also provides training to help people find employment as energy efficiency technicians.