Santiago Hernández: the success of connecting entrepreneurship with the neighbourhood

1st March 2024

Success Stories

Santiago Hernández: the success of connecting entrepreneurship with the neighbourhood

Santiago Hernández is an entrepreneur who is deeply involved in his local community, combining his role as director of the Hotel Princess in Barcelona with the presidency of Barcelona Forum District. This non-profit business association includes around 40 organisations who aside from their usual activity also find time to promote improvements that enhance the lives of the residents in the Barcelona district of Sant Martí.

The origins of this project date back to 2010 when Hernandez and a group of entrepreneurs became aware of the devastating consequences the crisis was having on the local area around the Forum and Diagonal Mar. "It used to be an industrial area and it is still a local working class neighbourhood", he explains.

In this context, the recession hit the neighbourhood very hard. After the boom, the real estate market toppled like a house of cards and the neighbourhoods near Diagonal Mar were badly affected. "We saw how the people around the hotel were protesting and we decided to take action".

A project to improve the lives of local residents

"We thought about what we could do, as we are also part of the neighbourhood's ecosystem", he explains. They proposed donations and aid but came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was to offer jobs.

To make this project a reality, they contacted the local authorities. "At first, they looked at us strangely", explains Hernández, "because when we started we were one of the few organisations that did this".

Little by little, the institutions got involved, starting with Barcelona City Council. And now, the success of the initiative has been such that over the last 14 years, some 800 people have found work.

Commitment to responsible tourism

This is just one of the many initiatives carried out by Barcelona Forum District related to responsible management. One of the most successful is the collection of marine litter from the beaches of Sant Martí.

"Thanks to the participation of a sponsor, we were able to achieve record figures. Up to a thousand kilos of waste was removed in just an hour and a half. An activity they also repeated on the banks of the Besòs River, demonstrating the environmental commitment of the organisation.

They also participate in events that take place at the Forum, such as the Primavera Sound festival. "We are looking for a way to give a helping hand", says Hernández. Thus, through collaboration with social organisations, they provided personnel from vulnerable groups to cover the catering staff. In addition, they organised an "Operación Triunfo"-type contest in the district's schools so that young people could learn about other job opportunities.

Through the “Leisure time with the family" programme, jointly promoted with the La Caixa Foundation, they offer very vulnerable families the opportunity to enjoy a stay in a hotel in Barcelona. For many of them, it is an opportunity to see Barcelona beyond their neighbourhood. "It was amazing to meet people who, despite living in the same city, had never seen the sea before", he recalls.

"We are generators of ideas on a social scale", explains Santiago proudly. And he adds: "It's not the same living in the Eixample as its in Besòs-Verneda. We have detected a need in our community and we have acted on it".

The programme shows how, if there is the desire take action from management and a team of people willing to get involved, companies can be drivers of responsible management.

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