Social entrepreneurs are on the rise in Italy. More then 85,000 companies have been founded with 750,000 people employed. This trend keeps growing and these companies are hiring, which is a good news for the high italian unemployment rate among the youngest workers.
Ashoka and the Italian Social entrepreneurs
Ashoka, the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka Fellows in over 80 countries in all continents, is coming to Italy to spur growth and select the top social entrepreneurs with the best “Made-in-Italy” touch.
Founded in 1980, Ashoka has provided start-up financing, professional support services and connections to a global network across the business and social sectors, and a platform for people dedicated to changing the world. The Social Impact Investment Taskforce of the G8 estimates that in several countries, including Italy, social entrepreneurship contributes to 5% of the GDP, with a forecast of sustained growth for the next years. Moreover, impact investment might generate 250 billion Euros in a year in Italy in terms of social and economic returns and is increasingly linked to highly innovative initiatives.
Social entrepreneurs at the Ashoka events
Social entrepreneurship and its contribution to economic development were at the heart of the event “Innovare per ripartire. Gli imprenditori sociali di Ashoka come motore per la crescita. In Italia e nel mondo” (Innovation to start moving again. Ashoka’s social entrepreneurs – the drive for growth in Italy and the world) held in Milan last February 26. The event, that marked Ashoka’s Italian debut and was sponsored by the City of Milan and supported by the Robert Bosch Foundation, saw the participation of 12 social entrepreneurs coming from different parts of Europe and looking for potential partners to replicate their work in Italy.
Italian social entrepreneurs were well represented too, starting from Sicilian Dario Riccobono, who founded “Addiopizzo Travel”, a project that focuses on raising awareness among the many holidaymakers that visit Sicily every year by helping travelers with finding “pizzo-free” (pizzo is the mafia extorsion money) hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. “Addiopizzo Travel” has already grouped 600 companies that have refused to give in to the Sicilian mob.
Another social entrepreneur from Southern Italy (Lecce) is Luciana Delle Donne, who created the “Made in carcere” (Made in prison) brand, under which design objects are made by convicted women using the craps from textile industries. Last but not least, Milanese Guglielmo Apolloni launched a crowdfunding platform for schools, giving teachers and students a new tool to help fund their needs and dreams.
“The Bosch Foundation, that is funding Ashoka’s start-up in Italy, has a goal in mind: at least 50% of the presented projects must find a partner to replicate it in Italy, creating new jobs”, said Alessandro Valera, Launch Director, Ashoka Italia.
Sicilian entrepreneur Mimmo Costanzo is Ashoka’s first Italian donor; his company Cogip is a main player in large public works, general contracting and renewable energy. Among the foreign programs presented at the event and that have already found a partner in Italy there’s the initiative by Spanish Alvaro Retortillo, that offers a new approach to tackle unemployment.