“The most common question we get is some kind of question like that,” she tells The Local in the organization's offices in central Malmö. “It's more about why we do it than how, and I'm more into talking about how we're doing things. But the question is good. I think it's proper to ask that question.”
FC Rosengård is most famous as the football club that has won the Sweden's top-tier women's league Damallsvenskan a record ten times (twice as FC Rosengård, three times as LdB FC, and five times as Malmö FF Dam). As Malmö Boll & Idrottsförening, it was also the club where the young Zlatan Ibrahimovic trained as a boy before going on to glory at Malmö FF.
But over the last few years, Boost, the initiative the club started in 2003 to find jobs for the parents of some of its players has grown into one of the largest non-governmental groups working on unemployment in the city.
“We have an organization that is actually as large as the whole football organization itself. I think it's even larger if you look at the budget,” Engstrand says.
Indeed, so successful has it become that during last year's election campaign the centre-right Alliance parties in the city pledged to close down Jobb Malmö, the municipal arm of Sweden's state employment services, and hand over all of its duties to FC Rosengård.
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Since 2011 Boost has sent 2,200 young men and women on to work or full-time education by providing a one-stop shop employing teachers, therapists, recruiters, and coaches, who can build up their confidence and motivation.
“Full-time education is actually the result that we really, really want,” says Engstrand. She fears that the clients who are currently managing to get jobs in today's booming economy without needing to improve qualifications risk becoming long-term unemployed in a future downturn.
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Boost receives its clients from Malmö's social and employment services, but about half of those who come have asked to join the programme after hearing about it from others.
Engstrand says it is important that Boost receives a mix of people, some already more or less employable and some far from the labour market.
“Our idea was that even if you are a hard case, you should be able to come here and feel like everybody else,” Engstrand says. “So we worked very hard with getting Boost a good reputation and a good image so you don't feel that it's stigmatizing, so you don't feel like 'this is where everybody that is really bad comes'.”
The appeal for politicians is that the programme appears relatively cheap.
“A place here at Boost costs only 25,000 kronor ($2,700). That's the total cost of going to therapists, going to teachers, help with their grades, and going to coaching,” she says.
“So that's maybe what the Alliance parties were talking about: If we want to do something about youth unemployment, we can send everybody to Boost, because for 25,000 kronor, they actually succeed.”
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Sweden's centre-right opposition parties visited Boost in August last year. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
But despite a high-profile visit during the election campaign by Sweden's opposition leader Ulf Kristersson, Engstrand is in fact adamant that organizations like hers can never realistically supplant the role of the state.
“I think it's very positive for us to get the attention, but I don't think it's very well thought through,” she says.
“You can't compare what we do at FC Rosengård with what the whole municipality of Malmö does in labour market initiatives.”
FC Rosengård has a very specific niche in helping prepare people take advantage of the education, training, and recruitment services provided by the municipality.
“We see ourselves in the middle, as an intermediary, because we have something that the others lack,” she says. “People who live in the segregated areas of Malmö don't trust the system, they don't trust society, they don't trust the public sector. But they do trust us.”
Filippa Engstrand looks out over Rosengård from the roof of her offices. Photo: Richard Orange/The Local
From the rooftop of her offices in the old offices of the Pågen bread factory, she points out over the steam of the factory towards the troubled areas of Rosengård and Nydala.
“We're less than 15 minutes away from the places where most of our clients live,” she said. “I think we're in the real centre of Malmö.”
The Boost programme is now being wound down after seven years, partly because the booming economy over the past two or three years has meant that many among Boost's target group have been able to find jobs.
Engstrand is now focusing on setting up a successor project called Match, which, like Boost, is partly funded by the European Social Fund.
The idea is to focus on the physical and mental health problems which she says FC Rosengård has frequently seen among its clients.
“Approximately 50 percent of the young people who come to Boost, or perhaps more, have issues with their health. They have anxiety, depression, cognitive behavioural issues, and maybe addictions.”
She has already hired 12 therapists and trainers, who started working on the project in February.
The project was formally launched on April 12th and the first participants will join on May 1st. Engstrand hopes to reach 620 people with the project by 2021, improving their mental and physical health and so removing a key obstacle to joining the workplace.