Social Innovation: My Generation at Work Builds a Bridge Between Turin and NYC

NY Bridge

Simone D'Antonio

By Simone D'Antonio, on August 1st, 2014

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Can the experiences of social innovation realised in Europe be a model in the United States? The visit of Turin Social Innovation staff to the Centre for Social Innovation of New York in the framework of the URBACT project My Generation at Work  confirmed how European cities can be positive examples at global level in terms of support to local innovation and working inclusion.

The comparison between the experience carried out in New York and the projects initiated by Turin and the other cities of My Generation at Work highlights a difference not only on the business model chosen but also on how these strategies are linked to the rest of local welfare policies, more deeply rooted in the action of European local authorities then in the American cities.

Creating Innovation Through Collaboration: the Experience of the Centre for Social Innovation

Opened in 2013, the Centre for Social Innovation (CSR) is the first space dedicated in the United States to support social innovation projects creating a network of entrepreneurs and stakeholders able to act as multiplier of innovation. Hosted in the Starred-Lehign Building in Manhattan, this 24000 square meters space has a coworking structure for 130 innovators active in various fields but willing to exchange continuously practices and know-how each other. Dialoguing constantly with the CSR departments of the big companies hosted in the same building, the members of this community receive and give back opportunities and knowledge in an environment which is formal and informal at the same time, built around the central big kitchen acting as a cornerstone of the whole exchange activity. The interaction among the different users is guaranteed by the Community animator, who in charge of weaving a reliable system of connection among people and projects of the network with the aim of accelerating the process of creation of startups.

A Bridge Between Turin and New York, but With a Different Role of Local Authorities

Despite of what is happening in many European cities and in Turin, where the initiatives supporting social innovation are strongly linked to the welfare strategy of the Local Authority, in New York this concept is declined in a completely different way due to the different approach followed by local welfare policies. While in New York the employment policies are still mainly addressed to illiterates and poorest brackets of the society, providing specific job centers and vouchers for apprenticeships in local enterprises, in Turin the local authority addresses its more innovative actions mainly to young graduated and startuppers, creating new jobs and new forms of urban innovation.

‘FaciliTO Giovani’ and the Customized Services for Young Innovators in the Local Welfare Strategy

Torino Social Innovation is succeeding in making the local authority a decisive factor in the local processes of social innovation through customized strategies designed by FaciliTo, which supports youth from 18 to 40 years old in the creation of entrepreneurial projects based in Turin at least for the first 3 years of activity.
This programme, active from January 2014 to December 2015, is supporting the creation of services, products and solutions able to get a better quality of life, employability and social inclusion in the metropolitan area through a tutoring action aimed at the creation of new enterprises. This action is accompanied by a financial support guaranteed by a fund of the City of Turin which borrows 80% of funds needed while the remaining 20% is a non repayable contribution.
The central role of the local authority in the creation of this innovative form of local welfare is even more important than the mentoring support itself. The City of Turin is making its innovation ecosystem a key for its local attractiveness: public spaces such as the coworking space Toolbox, hosting Arduino and many other creative industries and startups, are a public heritage to preserve and to link to the urban brand.
These are the new squares of the innovation, able to provide also across the Ocean a positive model of cooperation between public and private sector decisive to restart urban growth and to ride the employment crisis out.

Simone fotoBy Simone d’Antonio, Cittalia, URBACT National Dissemination Point in Italy.

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