How to tackle local city challenges with social innovation

| 1 response | Posted by: Monica Nagore | Theme: Social Innovation & Investment

On 25th June, the University of Bologna organised the second Social Innovation Communities (SIC) Summer School in which we are proud to be a part. Participants explored tackle local challenges proposed by people from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

Emilia Romagna – Italy’s cooperative region:

The City of Bologna, in the Emilia Romagna region is nicknamed is la rossa – “the red”- due to its politically left-wing orientation, evidenced by its high level of political participation from all its citizens. It is therefore not surprising that local governments have considered welfare of great importance in the development of the city since the end of WWII. This strong political and ideological background has been ideal breeding ground for socialist-communist movements that, together with Catholicism, have built a highly collaborative society and witnessed the mushrooming of cooperatives. Most of the largest Italian cooperatives are set up in the Emilia Romagna region.

In Bologna, the first Regional Hub hosting asylum seekers under emergency conditions opened its doors in June 2014 – “Centro Mattei”. The hub is managed by several cooperatives and associations and acts as a transit centre to other welcoming centres in the different provinces of the region.

A new solution to aid the integration of the refugees in Bologna – SALUS Space

The flow of refugees into the Bologna metropolitan area has constantly increased and it is not expected to reduce. To ensure integration happens effectively, a new systematic and structural answer, involving the third sector and civil society is needed, alongside major cultural change.

In numbers:

•       In 2015, the number of asylum seekers in the Bologna metropolitan area increased from 321 to 816.

•       1,948 asylum seekers are currently hosted in the Metropolitan City of Bologna (at 31.10.2016)

•       10,088 people arrived in 2016 (monthly average: 1008, weekly average: 229; males: 8407, females: 1681)

•       The average unemployment rate in the Metropolitan City of Bologna in 2015 was 24%

•       The number of families who have turns to social services since 2005 has risen by 30%

SALUS (Sustainable, Accessible, Livable Usable Space) is intended to be a welcoming space open to all citizens in the Metropolitan City of Bologna, supporting intercultural well-being. The project will allow the city to regenerate a former private hospital called Villa Salus, now abandoned for many years, and to convert it into an innovative core space, open to locals and citizens, as well as being welcoming of groups of refugees or disadvantaged families.

Citizens will be able to make use of the pleasant environment and wellness spaces, artistic workshops, a hostel and a multi-ethnic restaurant, co-working spaces and areas with facilities for both playing and business activities. The requalification of the building and surrounding area will help to provide jobs to disadvantaged brackets of the population. The project will also provide professional training for the future management of the building.

The vision for the project is to overcome the emergency approach in refugee reception centre models and for them to become new centralities, able to produce culture, solidarity, economic growth and social well-being of intercultural welfare and social cohesion into the urban fabric.

How did the Social Innovation Community help?

Our Summer School workshop was an opportunity for the attending students and practitioners, who came from various Italian Universities and cities, as well as from further afield, including Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of York, Mykolas University Lithuania and The Netherlands, to collaborate with the municipality. They worked with them, proving their creative ideas to help them achieve the main goals of the project.

As an introduction, Manuela Marsano and Inti Bertocchi from the City of Bologna provided more about the SALUS Space project. They shared with the group their biggest challenges and posed the following question for them to try and answer in the following two days:

How can SALUS Space show its underpinned values and attract Bolognese people?

Workshop Day One: After a deep discussion exploring barriers and drivers, students and practitioners worked on early promising ideas to improve SALUS Space. Manuela and Inti were excited to return on the third and final day to hear what solutions this talented group of people would come up with.

Workshop Day Two: The group discussed further the ‘challenging challenge’ and explored two tools:

  1. The Social Business Model CANVAS
  2. The Four Key Qualities of a Public Space

After an intensive day working in groups, their ideas slowly took shape and meaning. Using the ‘Four Key Qualities of Public Space’ diagram they tested and put under stress their ideas so the strong values of the project were assured.

Workshop Day Three: Inti Bertocchi re-joined to help groups make any final adjustments and each group prepared their presentations for the final day.

Summer School Final Day: On the Friday, all ideas from all workshops were pitched to SIC Summer School participants. One such idea was for an Agriculture Hub; a space that combines learning and leisure activities with trading. Vegetables from this garden would be provided to the Multicultural Restaurant, whose employees would come from the SALUS Space Training Programme.

The feedback from Manuela and Inti couldn’t have been better:

We can’t believe they got the essence, the nature and values of our project so well and their ideas are definitely implementable. They are really engaged and we are lucky they want to be involved in SALUS Space Think Tank.

The Municipality of Bologna saw the SIC Summer School as an opportunity to open up their local challenges to a group of international students and practitioners. SALUS Space is a project designed and implemented for the citizens of Bologna and with them. Participation is part of the DNA of the project and the SIC Summer School workshop opened a door for a new group of people to have their say.


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