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Showcasing social innovation in Turin

​As part of our Cities and Regions network, we want to highlight amazing innovation happening in the urban context. Francesca Rizzo, who is leading our cities and regions network, has been working on case studies to show just that. Below is an example, from the city of Turin. 

  1. Background of the regional example
  • Case study title: TORINO SOCIAL INNOVATION (www.torinosocialinnovation.it)
  • Location: City of TORINO (Piemonte Region, Italy)
  • Short description of what it sets out to do: The city of Turin is an example of a flourishing SI ecosystem supported by a set of policies, strategies and instruments to stimulate the development of new enterprises capable of addressing social needs in different fields (education, employment, mobility, health, inclusion).
  • History and mission (incl. contextual factors that have given rise to it developing in this way): The idea of developing Torino Social Innovation (TSI) as a systematic approach to SI can be linked to structural factors present in the city context before 2010, as well as to contingent factors that, since 2010, have been exploited in favour of this policy. The crisis of Turin’s automotive sector, one the largest European automotive districts, started in 2007/2008. The crisis brought about a re-organization of the different production plants present in the city territory and a decentralisation of many productions linked to the sector. This event caused unemployment levels in the city and the municipality to spike and become the biggest challenge for the city. In 2012, a new office was set up in the municipality that joined the City’s Office for Labour and Economic Development and the European city office. This proximity generated a flow of knowledge and a communality of problems. The opportunity of collaboration came with the European Social Fund, which was opening up the opportunity for intercepting funds to be invested in social challenges through social inclusion - especially in peripheral cities areas. The policy was of immediate interest for the city, who shortly thereafter decided to exploit it combining the support of new forms of entrepreneurships with the need to bring cultural and social offerings in the city’s peripheral areas. Other contextual elements that were fruitful for TSI were: the opening in 2012 of the first Italian Fab Lab thanks to the presence of Arduino in the city (Arduino was firstly developed in Ivrea, a small town close to Turin, the historical venue of Olivetti and where the Interaction Design Institute of Telecom Italia settled in 2007). The presence of these actors in the city opened - especially to young people - the possibility to participate in different experiences of SI out of the public administration.

In this context, the municipality took on the role of platform or faciltator and took on the initiative of establishing a new line of funds for SI.

It was than decided to open TSI as a service to connect these different actors and many more, to avoid competition among them and to create a network able to satisfy different needs. TSI is today working as a hub of information and continuous dissemination.

Who is leading the activity and where is it positioned (e.g. local, national or regional government)?

TSI is a public program promoted by the Municipality of Torino (Servizio Fondi Europei and Innovazione e Sviluppo Economico) in partnership with 40 local organizations.

TSI-FaciliTO is TSI’s main measure, a service supplied by the Municipality of Torino with the contribution of other local partners to sustain socially innovative young start-uppers from all of the country. In support of TSI_FaciliTO, Open Incet (www.openincet.it) - the first Italian centre of open innovation - was inaugurated in Torino in October 2015. Open Incet is a place where citizens, innovators, enterprises, and institutions engage with each other and find together the solutions to social challenges. It is an example of public private partnership, involving the local administration and 9 private organisations with complementary competences and networks, both local and international: Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini, ItaliaCamp Association, Consortium Focus Piemonte, the social cooperative Foorcoop, the consortium of social cooperatives Il Nodo, the association Make a Change, the company SET, the start-ups SIT, Conform and META.

 

  1. Relationship of the initiative to the SI network/ecosystem
  • Do partner organisations or other agencies play a role in running the initiative? The TSI ecosystem is supported by two kinds of partners who work to implement research, new entrepreneurial activities and social and youth policies. “First level partners” include: the incubators of the Polytechnic and the University of Torino, the Province of Torino and Codex, which provides tutoring and managerial advisory. Those defined “second level partners” provide complementary services. For example, Ufficio Pio provides grants for the testing phase; Fondazione Michelin Sviluppo contributes with grants for each job position created by social entrepreneurs that apply for TSI-FaciliTO; Sharing Torino provides social housing services at discounted fees for social innovators coming from abroad, and finally SocialFare provides a free acceleration programme under the call Foundamenta. All together, the partners provide financial resources, technical support, advice, experience, spaces, and visibility to start-uppers.
  • Does the initiative rely on input from network and/or community actors?

TSI, in its initial phase, was developed by the Municipality of Torino to exploit funds coming from the EU government in support of youth employment and the economic regeneration of the peripheral areas of the city.

By the time the EU funds were granted, fertile grass-root initiatives had developed in different creative communities in the city, which were developing innovative spaces to meet young people and engage them in innovation processes.

The first Italian Fab Lab was established in Torino, Arduino, which along with Officine Creative and other similar initiatives in the city, work to encourage the city’s creative communities to meet city needs.

What does the initiative set out to do, and how does it enhance social innovation?

TSI-FaciliTO provides information, technical and financial support for proponents of innovative ideas able to create blended value – both social and economic – in different fields, such as: education, quality of life, mobility, social inclusion and health. Proponents could be aspiring entrepreneurs, spin-offs or enterprises less than 4 years old. TSI-FaciliTO is a mix of services provided by two kinds of partners. The aim of TSI is to sustain social entrepreneurs, their creativity, their digital competences and their perception of social improvements. The main objectives of TSI are:

1. to foster a culture and awareness of social innovation;

2. to support the development of creative communities;

3. to sustain new forms of the sharing economy; and

4. to simplify the development of business projects for an economy that is more dynamic, inclusive and sustainable.

The Incet centre’s main mission meets TSI’s specific objectives to sustain creative communities that accelerate the local innovation ecosystem of the City of Torino by applying systematically an open innovation approach and its methodologies. Open innovation implies the engagement of all the quadruple helix stakeholders (public, business, academia and the third sector/citizens) in the generation of innovative solutions. The 1,200 sq/m centre’s focus will be on: idea generation and animation, enterprise creation and growth, internationalisation and networks development. The range of activities will include: service design, solutions scouting, learning journeys, living labs, barcamps, acceleration and match making.

More in general, the city of Turin has chosen to adopt a systemic approach to SI that transversally is applied to all of the specific challenges the city is facing by putting in place a clear strategy: to support the creation of new job opportunities and enlarge and innovate the labour market through the support of new forms of entrepreneurship. This strategy has been pursued by developing a series of integrated policy measures in: funds and fundraising, infrastructure, support services to develop SI and education programmes.

  • What is the social impact it is seeking, including any evidence of impact to date? Currently the Politecnico di Torino is evaluating the 5 years of Policy on SI in the city of Turin. Data are not yet available, but some numbers can help to understand: during the last 4 years (2012-2016) more than 250 start-ups have been accelerated/incubated. Of these, currently 35 have been funded (funds are given for a maximum of 80K euros, 20% of which is given by the municipality and the rest via a bank loan to be given back after 1 year). Currently TSI is assessing 70 new ideas submitted for an incubation process.

It can be worth noticing that Turin was awarded in 2016 as the second most innovative European city from the EU Commission.

  • What is the role of those involved in leading the initiative in the wider social innovation ecosystem? Since 2013, the Municipality of Turin has joined the My Generation@Work’s program. It is a European project (URBACT program) that promotes the exchange of experiences on youth employment and the development of entrepreneurial skills. It involves 12 cities all around Europe, which collaborate together with local support groups to enact a local action plan to improve youth employment. International and national meetings and seminars have been organized in order to promote the exchange of best practices and to improve knowledge sharing of new tools.

 

What public officials/policymakers can learn from the initiative

  • How is the initiative funded? Within the TSI ecosystem, the funding partners are: Nestar, Euroventures, Club degli Investitori, Oltre Venture, Fondazione Michelin Sviluppo, ICN-Italian Crowdfunding Network, Ufficio Pio and Compagnia di Sanpaolo. According to the program, more than 650,000 euros will be invested to support actions and 200,000 euros towards professional advice. In 2016, Torino was voted as the second most innovative European City; funds from this award will be invested in support of the intiative.
  • What have been the initiative’s main challenges or setbacks? TSI works as an open platform and a multi-stakeholder system with different competences, in research, entrepreneurship and policies for young people. Public and private organizations join this open platform integrating their services (for example spaces, advisory, finance, and so on) in favour of the development of social innovations in the city.
  • What helps to reach goals and overcome barriers? If data about the 35 funded start-ups are not available, one interesting qualitative data is reported by the Municipality about the ecosystem created through the TSI policy. In the beginning, in 2012, it was not clear for the intermediaries and the involved actors the reasons for collaborating with the municipality to support the development of a huge flow of start-ups. Today, the system is involved in its whole in making this flow continuous. After four years of promotion, information, action and founding, the actors have learnt that only a continuous process of idea generation and support to beneficiaries can make the entire system sustainable.
  • To what extent is the initiative replicable elsewhere? To what extent is the initiative a contextually-specific response? The TSI model can be inserted in a wider discourse on building Social Innovation at an urban level. This was, for example, the main topic of the #Socinn Agenda, an international workshop organized by the City of Torino and TSI last November. The participants, including TSI, discussed new socio-economically innovative models for the development of a sustainable economy for cities. Moreover, the Open Incet initiatives are based on a model focused on the scaling up of social innovation ideas.

 

What could policymakers/public officials learn from this initiative?

  • The virtuous collaboration between public and private stakeholders
  • The open model
  • The collaboration between different competences (research, entrepreneurship, policies for young people)
  • The involvement in EU funding programs
  • The improvement of local network and initiatives (such as Arduino).