Traditional cooperativism and social entrepreneurship in the Emilia-Romagna region, Italy

Who said that social entrepreneurship can’t be a strong driver for regional economies? With more than 700 social cooperatives satisfying socio-cultural needs, the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy has a very strong tradition in social entrepreneurship, which actually employs more than 50.000 people and reaches 2,5 billion Euros produced per year. 

Social cooperatives and enterprises, associations and voluntary organizations: the legal forms for social entrepreneurship are varied and different in capacity, status, and size, going from micro and small social enterprises to solid, big economic players. Traditionally in this region social enterprises have been focusing on providing social services to disadvantaged people, non formal education, social promotion or cultural activities, but in recent years new experiences of social innovation through social entrepreneurship are actually emerging and being fostered. Another peculiarity of the Emilia-Romagna social entrepreneurship system is the increasing centrality of cultural activities in the generation of impact and social change. The regeneration of the territory, through the involvement of inhabitants using the artistic language while promoting the re-use of resources (zero land consumption) and the revitalization of cultural heritage is something that can be achieved thanks to a successful cooperation between social entrepreneurship and altruistic-innovative entrepreneurs.  

A very inspiring story of successful cooperation is the case of the Gomito a Gomito, tailoring laboratory employing women in prison in Bologna. Under the “Insieme per il Lavoro” (“Together for Employment”) mentoring programme, the Social Seed company accompanied the “Siamo Qua” social cooperative, which eventually decided to provide a high specializing fashion design course edited by the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna to its employees in prison.

Another excellent example is OVESTlab. The project developed in Modena from the association Amigdala thanks to different supports, is indeed today a multicultural center where training activities, artistic production, civic experimentation, urban transformation and buildings’ heritage are interlinked with an increased territorial quality of life.

Emilia-Romagna is a flourishing ground for social entrepreneurship but this is not enough. More can be done and thanks to the CE Responsible project, the Metropolitan City of Bologna and the University of Bologna will try to consolidate these forms of collaboration and be sure to encourage new ones in the future. Do you want to know more or to take part in this project? Contact us via email or social media, we will be happy to have you on board!