Italy is a country with a long and very strong tradition of the welfare state. It is a country where the historical tradition of the Catholic Church, and a strong left movement have shaped many different ways to face societal problems. In fact, Italy has one of the largest number of social cooperatives in the world and, following the milestone of law 381/91, this model of coops has already had 20 years of life.
Social innovation is time and context specific. That means it can mean different things in different context. What might not seem innovative in one country, may be ground breaking in another. The political and cultural background is important to understand. There are also a wide variety of organisations involved in this field, each have different perspectives. So, the purpose of this page is to demonstrate a variety of views on what social innovation means to different kinds of organisations in Italy.
The voices from Italy:
In 2011, Marco Traversi, CEO of Project Ahead, provided us with a general overview of what social innovation in Italy looked like at the time, including the rise of social innovation as a response to the financial crisis:
"There is a growing debate about the topic, mainly due to the crisis of public finance which has lead to heavy cuts to the public budget for the sector—a new experience in the Italian reality. The substantial absence of private investors in the sector has produced a crisis in the management of services at the local level and has also led to the failure of many social coops which are some of the main social services providers in the country. Social enterprises and, partially, social innovation are considered as potential answers to the crisis."
His contribution also touches on Corporate Social Responsibility and the role of government. Click here to read in full.
In 2014, AICCON added on with their own contribution, suggesting that "a big challenge addressed by social innovation is to build a shared value for the whole society". They note that "An Italian peculiarity is the role covered by the social co-operation within the Third sector in fostering social innovation processes. Italian social co-operatives are more and more orienting their business models and activities to engage communities in a huge way and to co-produce with them in a social innovation perspective starting from the understanding of their social needs."
They also selected key projects that illustrate social innovation in the country:
- Community-based innovation: Social Street
- Social Housing: VIA PADOVA 36
- Green economy & Social services: ENERGIA SOLIDALE
- Work integration: SPRIGIONIAMO SAPORI SOCIAL CO-OPERATIVE
- Community co-operatives: BRIGANTI DI CERRETO
- Digital social innovation & re-qualification of community assets: IMPOSSIBLE LIVING
- Microfinance: PERMICRO
- Innovation in Bank services: UBI COMMUNITY SOCIAL BONDS
Learn more on the above, along with more key actors and promotors of social innovators in Italy here.