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#genera_azioni - Community building prevents poverty

Tackling economic crisis in rural areas with relationship building and community-based model of welfare.
Montichiari / Italy
Size of city: 
23 339 inhabitants


Gianpietro Pezzoli
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#genera_azioni is a good practice in a rural area of Montichiari (IT) that has been deeply affected by the economic crisis and characterised by a diffused vulnerability. #genera_azioni focuses on families as the principal victims of crisis. It tackles poverty (economic difficulty, lack of relationships, unemployment, social vulnerability) with a generative, community-based model of welfare.
#genera_azioni enables the community to deal with people’s difficulties. It connects people, stories and experiences to develop integrated solutions. Being composed of four pillars that support each community – housing, work, community bonds and youth – it enables the community members to take care of themselves by combining their forces and sharing their know-how.

The solutions offered by the good practice

#genera_azioni acts on the community by focusing on the four nerve centres of many communities: home, work, the future of young people and the development of a strong sense of community and ideas launched by citizens. The hinge of the whole activities is the “community point”. Community points are places for people to meet, relate and take part in improving activities. They rise in strategic places to attract the members of the community and are driven by a facilitator, whose task is to promote mutual aid among citizens, families, workers, and to connect the people with enterprises and personal services. Around these places the different actions and programs develop. In particular: experiences of co-housing and housing-sharing with fragile families and social guardianship, the creation of a corporate network and of employability support measures, promotion of experiences of school-work through a local catalogue of proposals (to date more than 60 available positions) and extracurricular activities for young people, a Start-Up Plan developing ideas of citizens. All these actions follow an integrated approach to promote inclusion.

Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

#genera_azioni fits with sustainable development because it promotes a new kind of welfare and a different idea of “improved quality of life”, based on the importance of relationships and sharing resources, information and time. The project contributes to reduce inequality and social exclusion, creating new opportunities for people who normally can’t participate in the normal activities of the community and promoting meeting to become aware about their rights, abilities and possibilities. Our good practice also favours an integrated and participative approach to tackle social frailty: the project’s actions are implemented thanks to a network composed of institutions, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, volunteers and citizens. So the main actor that faces the challenge is the community itself, and it benefits from the added value of the network: to give complex answers to complex problems. Such actions don’t create new services for people to help, but enable and urge the recipients to take action, promoting a model of welfare based on mutual aid.

Based on a participatory approach

The project is characterised by a mixed governance system, comprising both public entities and locally involved non-profits organizations; this makes the stakeholders have a relevant role in the project development, as well as in its implementation.
Furthermore, it treats a community-opened system that welcomes and supports the ideas and the participation of unconventional subjects and citizens. More than 50 entities take part in the welfare design process. Look at our governance on “Studio di fattibilità” attached.

What difference has it made?

#genera_azioni is a three-year project, now in its second year of activity. Currently, six Community Points have been opened in the district of implementation (District 9 in the Province of Brescia), reaching 530 individuals and 104 organisations (institutes, associations, cooperatives, parishes, informal groups) and developing 15 laboratories.
Referring to the integrated plan about home, in 2016 the first social condominium experience was started, and the work of the facilitators has determined the subscription of 14 leases and three paths of cohabitation for frail families. Concerning work, three thematic laboratories have been implemented, and the activity of connection between supply and demand of labour produced six apprenticeships and 100 cognitive interviews.
The project also achieved good results in actions directed toward young people: the youth involved around the project have been enabled to develop four laboratories for other young people, and took part in nine events co-projected on the territory. The students of the district’s high schools also gained access to a catalogue of 60 offers for work-study experiences with qualified enterprises. Thanks to the call for ideas #genera_idee, six ideas for innovative projects for community purposed by citizen were financed with a contribution of €9,500

Why should other European cities use it?

This good practice would be interesting for other cities around Europe, and especially for the small ones in rural areas: social frailty is a very diffused situation in Europe, whose population was hit hard by the economic crisis, and whose traditional welfare measures are now in trouble.
This uneasiness is stronger and stronger in the rural areas, where the proposal of services is narrower than big cities, and where community bonds are weak. The good practice purposed by #genera_azioni addresses the problem with a simple but innovative strategy, supporting the development of a more sensitive community, in which people don’t passively rely on the welfare state for the management of social challenges, but perform preventive actions. Strengthening social bonds with a view to preventing fragility and exclusion, as well as mutual aid within the community, sets the stage for a significant improvement in the quality of life in that community.