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The Capacity Initiative: Experimentation of new approaches to Welfare in Messina (IT)

Erdmuthe Klaer, REVES Network

A very specific approach to #urbanregeneration is currently being tested in #Messina (Italy). Point of departure is the elimination of barrack settlements in the Northeastern part of the town and the renovation of the respective neighbourhoods. Established after a devastating earth quake in 1908, the barracks are still home for some hundred families. Unemployment is high and the average education level rather low. Beyond that, inhabitants are often the target of promises and threats by mafia-like networks of organised crime which know how to keep persons socially and economically dependent on their activities.

The “Capacity” initiative aims to link the #urbanregeneration processes in these areas with the creation of new opportunities that could help inhabitants of the barracks to become again protagonists of their own lives.

Here, the project partnership, composed of #socialeconomy organizations, foundations and the city, applies an integrated methodology based on #Amartya Sen’s #Capability theory. The objective is to create, for the inhabitants of the barrack settlements, alternatives not only in the field of housing, but also with regard to employment, social relationships and access to knowledge.  Yet, the creation of an offer does not automatically empower beneficiaries and increase their capabilities. A central element of the project is therefore an intense and continuous social mediation process. Social workers and mediators accompany families in a process which should allow them to develop the ability to make conscious and well-informed choices and construct their specific project of life.

Once a beneficiary takes a decision on the path she/he would like to follow, she/he are encouraged to continue to take actively part in different actions (e.g. the co-construction of houses coupled with training and a salary, the creation of economic activities – including the set-up of #cooperatives, the transition from illegal work to legal employment or entrepreneurship, etc.).

Capacity is closely followed by researchers from @messinauniversity whose specific interest is to monitor the social mediation process and analyse the way in which trust and capabilities are built.   

The initiative, launched in April 2017 for a duration of 30 months, is co-financed by the Italian government, the city of #Messina as well as by the Community Foundation Messina (@FdC_Messina)and its partners. The city of Messina had decided to integrate the project in the implementation of a larger national programme for the restructuration of peripheries in Italian cities.


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