Inclusion according to Wineaut

The fascinating union of passion, inclusion and territoriality through a social innovation project conceived during the pandemic and based on the experience of one of our colleagues.

Nov 2023

Massimo Striano is a Lead Production Quality Specialist at Avio Aero's Brindisi facility, where he works every day to ensure the highest quality of processes and products such as engines and engine parts for aircraft and helicopters.

In his personal life, Massimo is married to Irma and has a son named Samuele who is 22 years old and is autistic. Massimo also works as the sole director of Autnotout srl: a social enterprise he created during the pandemic that values autism as a resource, in partnership with the historic winery Cantine Risveglio of Brindisi.

Massimo, how would you describe the WineAut project?
"Wineaut is a project to place adults with autism in the singular work context of a winery: a welcoming, healthy environment where there are empathetic and helpful people and in which they feel accepted, respected and included in all aspects of wine production. The project aims to tell the traditions, culture and history of our area through the eyes, voices and minds of people with autism, overturning the concept of normality. Wineaut is about aggregation, friendship, a desire to be together, smile and share stories, and it is also a replicable business model that invests in diversity as a resource."

On the left, Massimo Striano with his son Samuele.

Why this project matters to you?
"Wineaut is an idea of mine which started as a school-work alternation project initiative I devised for my son Samuele, when the pandemic put a tremendous strain on the already fragile school resources and opportunities for students with disabilities, and remote learning suddenly replaced direct contact in classrooms, deeply undermining, if not severing, every possibility of physical interaction, exchange and communication between students with disabilities and their peers.  The possibility of carrying out activities in our winery was a lifeline to cling to with tenacity and confidence, in a friendly and pressure-free context, thanks to which it was possible to slowly rebuild those contacts and the process of sharing and desire to be together that was so abruptly interrupted. With school over, going to work in the winery remained a regular fixture for Samuele. The activities increased, diversified, became more and more complex and engaging, and with them came increased enthusiasm, and a sense of personal gratification in feeling that he was making an important contribution to the success of the project itself, all in his own time and within his abilities. So simply going to the winery became for Samuele something more than a way to use his time constructively, it allowed him to learn and make new friends. It became an opportunity and an idea, a model to be extended to other people with autism."

Wineaut started in 2020. How do you organize the winery's activities?
"The beneficiaries of the project take part in the winery's routine activities. This is an important achievement and not at all taken for granted. To date, the people involved in the project are four boys with autism. Usually, at least in the most challenging situations during activities in the winery, such as those requiring the use of machinery, there is a need for just as many people to serve as mentors. There is also always a supervisor in the winery who plans activities according to workloads and monitors them, taking care of the purely technical part. The strength of the project, however, lies not in the number of people assigned, but in the fact that when the boys are in the winery, inevitably all the winery staff get involved, as do the customers who are there at the time."

The Wineaut harvest of wine grapes in Apulia.

Through the activities of the Diversity Equity & Inclusion Council, and specifically the Disability and Advocacy Network, Avio Aero has always promoted diversity inclusion and fostered integration. How are you involved in this?
"The Brindisi plant, where I work, opened its doors to sports and fun for children with autism spectrum disorder and their families during ‘World Autism Awareness Day’. On that occasion, two Brindisi sports associations - Asd Giochiamo Insieme and Brindisi Rowing Club - made their sports equipment available, involving everyone in a merry afternoon of games, celebration and fun, using sports as a tool to overcome all barriers. When the ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ is held on December 3, Avio Aero will host another dedicated event."

What future developments do you aspire to for your project, and how can each of us contribute to the success of yours and all social innovation projects?
“Wineaut is today a registered trademark and its first wine label is called "Zero", a sparkling white Chardonnay which immediately aroused the interest of important local entities: for example, the Torre Guaceto Marine Reserve Consortium has included it in its ethical and zero km slow food line. We thought we'd start with this wine because it represents the spark of our project: it is the ideal choice for convivial and informal moments with friends and praises feeling good together. As for the future projects, access to funding calls will be important: we would like to set up a food truck to promote the project in a sort of roadshow across Puglia. And then, maybe, think of a wine shop: now the drawer of our dreams is open and little by little the dreams are coming to fruition transforming into ideas and initiatives. For example, our kids got to work rubbing shoulders with those from Sbrisolaut on the occasion of a local event in Putignano (Apulia). It’s been a great chance for ideas and experience sharing, and maybe in the future to start a collaboration”.

Samuele Striano during bottling operations.

“We learnt that limits are meant to be overcome, that's the biggest lesson we learn from our kids every day”

What do you think is the most effective way or model of raising awareness, or of simply sharing, for autism in society or the world of work?
“Social channels, if well conveyed, can certainly offer an excellent opportunity to share, as long as they are combined with a commitment to being personally involved in outreach activities on the ground, for example, by participating in events. In our case, for example, we received excellent feedback and much praise when we took part in a festival in a town in the province of Brindisi. It was priceless to see our young people smiling as they passed among the tables, offering their wine and interacting with the people there." 

What have these first three years taught you or helped you to understand?
"I was taught that limits are meant to be overcome. That's the biggest lesson we learn from our kids every day."