International Promotion of Sicily to the World – PRISM
The nonprofit association PRISM is a qualified development agent which provides expert assistance relating to the development policies promoted by transnational bodies, in particular by the European Commission.
PRISM has had a lot of experience at European youth work and non-formal learning and has participated in a range of mobilities and training courses under various EU programmes. Their particular focus has been on social entrepreneurship, social startups, project cycle management, nonviolent community development and cultures of peace.
In 2013, PRISM opened an information centre to provide free legal advice and support for asylum seekers entering and living in Sicily (Italy). This centre is run by a professional lawyer and a team of intercultural mediators.
In 2014, PRISM founded a new branch in Senegal (Ziguinchor) with the aim of fostering cooperation and the exchange of good practices in the area of youth work.
These projects have given us a wealth of experience in project management, as well as in developing and delivering innovative learning packages.
Project team: How do you personally understand the term of “Europeanisation” and how do you imagine it being implemented in your organisation?
Alessandro Melillo: I am quite familiar with the term Europeanisation, having grown up in a European environment at both a personal and professional level.
I was born in 1979, by which point European community had already become a reality. I am part of the so-called ‘Erasmus generation’ that has always experienced Europe as a single country providing opportunities for us to train and work. Alongside this, Europe also gives us the chance to form friendships and enjoy fun with peers from countries across the continent.
From a professional point of view, the only work that I would feel happy doing today is that of a European project manager. I can honestly say that for the past 10 years I have lived and breathed Europe. Europeanisation is the process that enables every single European citizen to develop this same sense of belonging to a wider community.
It’s easy for me to confirm that Europeanisation is a central pillar of my organisation. We spend everyday engaged in European work and sharing our ideas and experiences with other European colleagues. We continually influence each other with our skills and can improve our areas of weakness through shared experiences with support from our colleagues across the European community. Most of all, we are able to work together to find a working solution to the problems we face together. That, in my opinion, is a further positive asset of Europeanisation.
Project team: What kind of European work is PRISM engaged in?
Alessandro Melillo: PRISM was founded in 2012 and has been involved in numerous European projects from the very first day. Our areas of experience include formal and non formal education, youth, international cooperation in developing countries, rights and citizenship and economic development. So far we have been involved in the EU programmes Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP), Europe for Citizens, ENPI, Erasmus +, COSME and others.
In the future we aspire to further strengthen our professional relationships with international partners (both at a EU and non-EU level) and also to expand into the sector of international business which will be something new for us.
Project team: What are the biggest challenges that your organisation has faced in its European work?
Alessandro Melillo: The biggest obstacle we have experienced in our European work has been finding new members of staff. In Italy it is not easy to find professionals who are prepared for work in an international environment, one of the main problems being a lack of language skills.
Even the younger generation is poorly prepared for international work. I believe that this limitation is linked to the national education system, since crucial training is often lacking and little time is invested in internationalisation strategies.
Project team: In which areas of your organisation has Europeanisation had the biggest impact so far?
Alessandro Melillo: Because European and international work are the mainstay of my organisation, it’s difficult to pin down specific areas that have been influenced most by our European or international work.
We have however been able to effect some tangible changes in other organisations where we are based in Sicily and the Sicilian hinterland, an area which is not generally used to working with international groups. In light of this, the various European projects that we have been involved in over the past few years have enabled us help local business owners (mainly hoteliers and restaurateurs, but also young people and others) to communicate, interact and cooperate with citizens from other European countries by showing them that we all belong to the same large community, regardless of national differences.
Project team: What would be your advice to other organisations so that they can better manage their Europeanisation or internationalisation process?
Alessandro Melillo: Globalisation, whether you like it or not, has forced the world of work and the market to expand and to interact and compete at a broader level. Any business or organisation that wants to succeed in this day and age cannot escape these trends, even if the focus of its work is primarily regional. I believe that a vital first step for most organisations in properly managing a Europeanisation and internationalisation process is to develop an interest in others who can share perspectives, skills and experiences with us that they have gained from personal and professional paths very different to our own. I have benefited both individually and professionally from interactions in the course of my work with colleagues from all corners of Europe and the Mediterranean regions, and all that I have learned from them I have been able to reinvest in my organisation. Being involved in European projects necessitates a certain professional ‘competition’ that goes beyond a national level. This competition has undoubtedly increased the quality of our work and products. Bearing all this in mind, the best advice that I can give to other organisations is that they need to be ready to open their doors to the world by regularly interacting with international colleagues and competitors. Be inspired and inspire others in turn. I believe that that is how Europeanisation and internationalisation should take place.