SUCCESS STORIES – ITALY
Contributed by Legacoop Liguria
ADDLab is an experimental laboratory in the field of rapid prototyping. They promote maker culture. ADDLab is specialized in digital fabrication and product design. The main aim is to develop new sustainable producing techniques using MadeInItaly tradition and new technologies. Main business activities range from service of 3D printing and prototyping, modelling and consulting, and interior design to teaching and direct sale of models of scale and design products linked to the ADDLab brand, “Volo Creativo”.
Located in Bari, Puglia, where a new culture of sustainability, innovation processes and social cohesion have developed in recent years with a great cultural dynamism, ADDLab works in the market of digital craftsmanship in the regional area. The aim is to become a hub and create a large network with national and international partners. In the South of Italy, often the needs in the field of digital craftsmanship and 3D printing can’t find a solution, because of the lack of specialized enterprises. Moreover, there is a larger attention to the mechanical field than the architectural one. ADDLab has an important partner, the Laser Center of the University of Bari, which is working on rapid prototyping application in the bio-medical field.
Structure and membership
ADDLab is a prevailing mutuality cooperative enterprise, which realises different kinds of mutual exchange:
- The employees are the members of the cooperative enterprise;
- Material and other resources are brought by members;
- The enterprise delivers activities for members but also for public and private organizations, enterprises, makers and students
They chose the cooperative model because it was requested by Unipolis Foundation in the competition, but after this proposal, they took information about the model and found themselves in it: “We didn’t know to be a cooperative, but we were it, since University work-group experiences”. With 3 members of this worker cooperative, there is currently no specific criteria for membership of the cooperative, apart from the ability to contribute to the activities.
There is no distribution of dividends. The statute provides for distribution of dividends using the rebate, respecting the limits defined by the law, and integrating member’s retribution or improving the fee of social capital.
Established in 2014, incorporation was completed in 10 months. Business planning and development support was provided by Legacoop Puglia, a cooperative association. It supported the informal group to prepare the business plan in order to win the competition “Culturability” and to obtain the financial support by Unipolis Foundation, through two group meetings with all the participants and group meetings on request. After the good result, Legacoop supported the following activities:
- preparing statute and constitutive acts;
- completing administrative, legal and bureaucratic requests for the start up application to the enterprise register;
- preparing a written regulation to discipline the relationship between associated-workers and the enterprise;
- bank relationship
Following winning the competition, capital support was provided by Unipoliis Foundation (Unipol Group) who support 20 new cooperatives with €20,000 and the possibility to have a further loan of €20,000. There are currently 3 employees in the cooperative.
Initially it was very difficult for the informal group to find financial resources to start their business, however the contribution of Unipolis Foundation was very important to solve this barrier. A network of professionals was also created who could work with ADDLab on specific projects, providing necessary skills. To let customers know about services, ADDLab use classical and 2.0 marketing tools: web site, events and laboratory, social network. They are working to build a large network. At the moment they are in contact with other young companies in Palermo and Rome to exchange customers and opportunities. They are applying 3D Hub, a European network for printing on demand. The partnership with Laser Center in Bari, gives ADDLab free use of the places and will link to customers, if they need ADDLab’s products and services. They want to use this model to develop new partnerships.
Condiviso is a multistakeholder cooperative which aggregates 13 businesses and professionals in the area of business services, including: communication, ICT, marketing, access to finance, architectural assistance, event organization, etc. The objective of the cooperative is to improve members’ portfolios through the synergy of members’ competences. The cooperative is also interested, in the long term, in creating a center for supporting start ups and innovative, sustainable ideas generated through collaborative and cooperative work.
Its coworking location is situated in the centre of Genova and they are currently involved in ICT and media sector, event planning, business services and technical assistance to businesses. The is being established next to the Economics Department of the University of Genoa, which is entirely in line with the mission of the cooperative: host brilliant sustainable ideas and harvest new potential businesses started by young people.
Structure and membership
The model is preferred because of the type of businesses/professionals involved (all at the same level of professional experience, and each specialized in a specific activity), because the business was originally started to make the individual members cooperate more among each other, because of possible financial support coming from the local cooperative federation.
The 9 members of the cooperative are currently businesses and individual professionals i.e. architects, lawyers, and others. Not all employees are members of the cooperative. Members have to be in line with the objective of the cooperative: work in collaboration with other businesses members of the cooperative, strengthen cooperative’s portfolio, collaborate and share ideas, clients, projects.
According to Italian law, dividends cannot be distributed in cooperatives; Dividends are accumulated in the cooperative’s net worth. There is also a financial member (socio sovventore) who does not participate in the mutual objective of the cooperative, but who participates with a considerable sum of equity; this member’s equity holds the priority to be rewarded at the end of each year. Dividends will be distributed to this specific member; the gain is about 2%.
The business has not yet been formed (as of January 2014) however the group has been established for 6 months and the statutes are nearly ready for constitution. Business planning and development support has been provided by a cooperative association that aided the Creation of the group; planning and coordinating the exploratory meetings; planning the economic and financial standing of the new coop; setting the formal cooperative structure; identifying business areas; identifying potential partners. Currently the cooperative-to-be is also thinking of f requesting equity from a local cooperative-supporting financial institution.
“Officine Cantelmo” was the name of an iron manufacturer in Lecce. The cooperative was created to restore the buildings and let it become a cultural and student service. There are two buildings and an interior courtyard with multifunctional spaces for all types of events (conferences, business meetings, training, exhibitions, books presentations). In addition, the cooperative offers a lot of services thanks to the selected partners: bar and catering services, communications and media relations, event registration, conference kit, gadgets and gifts, translation service, reservation and accommodation services, audio/video recording. Moreover, Officine Cantelmo runs the publishing house of the University of Salento and manages a space for coworking.
The city of Lecce can be defined as a cultural incubator, with a great cultural dynamism. There are a lot of spaces for social and technologic innovation, so Lecce has been nominated for the European Capital 2019. Students and young professionals needed a place where they can find services and a place where they can meet and share ideas.
Structure and membership
As a legally incorporated cooperative, such model was preferred because of its values: the democratic management of the cooperative, members’ involvement in decisions, work opportunities for members, cooperation across generations. The worker cooperative consists of 10 members, however out of 10 members only 5 are employees. The criteria to gain membership is based on professional expertise that members can share for cooperative’s development. Currently there is no distribution of dividends. The statute provides for distribution of dividends using the rebate, respecting the limits defined by the law, and integrating member’s retribution or improving the fee of social capital.
Formed in 2007, the cooperative was incorporated within a year.
Access to finance was a barrier encountered by the cooperative, to which no solution was offered regarding the banks. Instead, the solutions included members’ loans, capital contribution by the members. In terms of skills, professional training was provided for members and skills were shared among partners. Initial difficulties surrounding access to market were solved by an active marketing campaign was made to create a network and to attract interested partners with their own network. Legal barriers linked to specific activities were overcome by the members learning from each other about legal aspects for specific activities, asking partners and consultants.
Rehardwareing refurbishes obsolete computers, using free and open source software. Computers are sold or employed in projects, to reduce the digital divide and promote easy and cheap access to information and communication technology.
Every year many computers are brought to dumping grounds, increasing the e-waste rate every person produces. In most cases computers are fully functional, and suitable for common activities, if correctly configured and optimized with open source software. Rehardwareing aims to reduce waste, collecting, computers from private companies and public entities, applying no cost, creating business based on three R: reduce, reuse, recycle.
Structure and membership
Rehardwareing is a legally incorporated cooperative. The model has been chosen because of low start-up costs and to increase commitment of workers. Currently, all 3 employees are members of the coop. No dividend has ever been distributed, and there are no plans to do so in the future.
Formed in 2009 and incorporated within a year, the cooperative was supported by a cooperative association Legacoop in preparing statutes and the constitutive act. After the constitution, Legacoop helped the young cooperative to build new partnerships. For capital support, Rehardwareing won Principi Attivi, a public contest aimed to promote youth activation, with a project called “Opening Sources”. With €25,000 of equity, cooperative members started their activities.
Although Rehardwareing is a commercial enterprise, its goal is deeply social: they fight against electronic waste and digital divide, connecting different segment needs.
Startup working capital was an identified barrier however €25,000 euros were sourced through a public call. Cooperative then became financially sustainable, and able to take part in other public calls. The skills needed for business operation were possessed by cooperative members. New members have joined as new skills were needed. When they started to engage with new and different markets, it was important that members studied and improved their skills Networking and participation in enterprise meetings and conventions helped cooperative members to meet new people and to match skills. The legal barriers for discarding computers were identified, legal frameworks studied and experts were contacted to ensure correct management.
Comunità Cooperativa di Melpignano
The cooperative developed the project “Photovoltaic panels on roofs”, focusing on the innovative field of renewable energy. In particular, cooperative members can install a solar panel on their home roof with a participation fee of €25.00.
Cooperative members have no energy costs and the rest of the profits can be used for community development. Using the profit coming from electricity sales, the Comunità Cooperativa created the “House of water”: citizens can buy 2 litres of water at 10 cents, using glass bottles to reduce environmental waste. This good practice encourages citizens to adopt a culture of sustainability, to develop personal capabilities and to imagine future change.
Melpignano is a small town of 2,500 citizens in south of Italy. The cooperative was developed to support the community, to avoid depopulation and to enhance cultural, artistic, social and economic sustainable development. Citizens are very involved in community life.
Structure and membership
Comunità Cooperativa is a legally incorporated cooperative. Cooperative model was preferred because it is a democratic model (equality among members), it stimulated citizens’ participation. Mutuality is the biggest aim of this business idea: citizens can work for the cooperative, they can take a practical advantage (electricity) and they can find better conditions for the supply of products (such as water) than that they can find on the market.
Anybody who lives in Melpignano or all citizens who live in the neighbouring towns are eligible for membership. If it is possible to install photovoltaic panels on the roofs (following criteria established by the Engineering Department of the University of Salento), members can benefit from free energy. Some cooperative members take care of the photovoltaic panels and House of water’s maintenance. There are currently 150 members to the cooperative.
No dividend has ever been distributed, and there are no plans to do so in the future. The surplus resulting from the activities of photovoltaic panels (selling surplus electricity) has been invested to build the House of water, for citizens’ well-being.
Formed in 2011, the time between project conception and incorporation was 1 year. Business planning and development support was provided by Officina Creativa, a social cooperative enterprise in Lecce which promotes new models for land preservation and development of alternative technologies with low environmental impact. Engineering Department of the University of Salento conducted a study before the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roofs.
Capital support was offered by Coopfond, a mutual fund of the co-operative association LegaCoop. It invested €100,000 for the project whilst Banca Etica granted a loan of €300,000 for the purchase of photovoltaic panels.
The cooperative itself aims to develop the active participation of citizens in the decision making process, to improve the condition of the town and the production of clean and renewable energy. Comunità Cooperativa Melpignano encourages the involvement of employees in the cooperative and contact with other agencies to form a social hub.
Initially, the cooperative had no capital to start the project which was remedied by help from Coopfond and Banca Etica to kick-start the activities. Additionally, specific skills were needed to start the project. Comunità Cooperativa Melpignano was able to start a good “scouting” process among cooperative members and citizens to find professionals. The partnership with the Engineering Department of the University of Salento was very useful for sharing know-how and specialist skills. Solution Information and citizens’ engagement contribute to improved participation and capacity for new projects.
Today, the cooperative is today the only distributor of water bottles in the town: they installed 18 Houses of water in the neighbouring towns.
Contributed by Irecoop Emilia Romagna
Impact Hub Trentino
The Hub Trentino-Südtirol S.C. is a cooperative active since 2010 in the area of enterprise start-ups with a specific focus on social innovation projects and innovative projects in the creative and cultural field. In 2010, the cooperative established Impact Hub Rovereto – part of the Impact Hub Global Network – a network of 60 incubators and co-working spaces which support the development of innovation and social entrepreneurship at global level. The Hub Trentino-Südtirol S.C. offers different kinds of services to several clients and users: organisation of shared workspaces, training in the field of new business models, and consulting activities such as business development and European project planning.
The main service offered by the coop, virtual and physical co-working space, is mainly used by freelance professionals, young entrepreneurs, start-ups or early stage enterprises. It is also a provider of advice such as start-up guidance and counselling, business modelling, enterprise incubation, financial funding scouting, creation of networks and project planning on direct and indirect EU funds, training (training paths for students, disadvantaged people) etc. The coop also offers business advice to existing established entities (social and workers’ coops, SMEs, associations, training centres, schools, etc.) working in different sectors.
Although The Hub Trentino-Suedtirol is part of a worldwide network that does not impose a specific enterprise model, the cooperative form has been chosen for a variety of interconnected reasons. Firstly, The Hub Trentino-Suedtirol founders believe in social enterprise, in the possibility of being generators of socio-economic change through cooperative practices of community development, and in the added value given by the dissemination of knowhow, different competences and skills. The cooperative model was therefore chosen because it is consistent with the vision and mission of The Hub. Furthermore, the cooperative model was considered the more sustainable business type as far the impact on the local area is concerned, meaning the possibility of offering concrete working opportunities, growth and development to those people who inhabit that territory and make it a community.
The 13 coop members are divided into two categories: Working members and “sovventori”, members who contribute to the coop member share capital and who, as senior consultants, participate in the cooperative governance, vote in the assembly and can take on a role on the Board.
Not all employees are members, however after a written subscription request and the deposit of the member’s share capital amount, the members’ assembly decides on the admission of possible new members Becoming a member is a personal choice which requires support for the cooperative values and aims and entails participation in governance. Concerning the profits, once initial costs have been recouped, profits will be reinvested in service improvements.
The cooperative of 7 employees has established Impact Hub Rovereto as part of a global network of social enterprise incubation spaces which are part of the GLOBAL HUB ASSOCIACION. Impact Hub spaces share knowhow in the development of the business model for incubation spaces. The brand and some IT tools are provided by the GLOBAL HUB ASSOCIACION. Training and support from another Impact Hub within the network are always provided in advance of the creation of a new Impact Hub.
In terms of finance, the necessary capital for the start up of the coop comprised the social capital paid by the members and private capital provided by some members.
As an established social enterprise, the coop offers services for broad collaboration, creating a platform that allows the development and consolidation of social innovation initiatives
In terms of barriers, a limited amount of member share capital was provided by the working members when the coop was established. As a solution, the social base was widened to include another member category: “sovventori” In addition, coordination as a network was needed as well as a development of shared strategies and actions at global an Italian. Thus, an Italian Hub network was created to gather all 7 Italian Impact Hubs and programming of two official meetings every year. Creation of a common quarterly newsletter (managed in turn) , which collects the most important initiatives promoted by the Hubs in Italy.
It was also difficult to maintain the business model resourced only by the rental of working spaces, due to the limited requests coming from the local area and to competition from the public sector. As a solution, they invested in the development of consulting activities offered to both the public and the private sector.
AssiXto offers home care services for the elderly, for people with disabilities, for children, for chronically ill people, etc., and supports families in their darkest times. Whenever they are in need, Assixto clients will always receive the best service possible. They help them handle sudden emergency situations and solve big and small routine problems effectively. Moreover, ASSIXTO can take care of frequent and nagging bureaucratic hurdles in a very accurate way, saving clients’ time and making their lives easier. Assixto offers also day and night home care assistance, nursing care and physiotherapy services at home.
Assixto is a franchise agency with offices which are mainly located in the northern area of Italy, i.e. Milan, Turin, Verona, Udine, Vittorio Veneto, etc. Last year they have also started a couple of business projects abroad. However, Assixto services can be easily provided in all kinds of contexts like urban or rural ones, and so on.
Structure and membership
As a legally incorporated cooperative, the model was chosen mainly for fiscal issues. Furthermore, Italian cooperatives can work together with volunteers and are the best business formula in the health and social care field in this country.
The membership of 20 people is made up of professionals (nurses, physiotherapists, O.S.S. (Social and Health Care Workers), psychologists, doctors, volunteers, employees, where dividend distribution follows the standard procedure foreseen for all cooperatives.
Formed in 2010, this commercial enterprise of 8 employees was officially incorporated as a cooperative in a short time as the cooperative is part of the Assixto Franchise. Advice was provided by the National cooperative Association who contributed with contacts and necessary financial information.
Access to finance was one of the barriers encountered as it is difficult to be granted public funds for the start-up of a business, however this was solved by negotiating fair loans with banks. Another difficulty was fair and unfair competitorship which was tackled through investing money in publicity and marketing strategies instead.
Puntodock is a collective solutions’ generator. They lead organizations and groups of persons to the elaboration of shared action plans. Their activities consist of participatory processes, training, EU programs and funding, event planning for social innovation, optimizing the processes of decision-making and enabling the achievement of the objectives of any type of organization. Puntodock work with enterprises, associations and public entities, both in Italy and in European context, when international partnership is required. They work mainly in the urban context, spreading civic engagement and collaborative policy design.
Structure and membership
The business is focused on the democratic and structured approach to collective decisions. Moreover, in the very beginning Puntodock’s team was composed of junior experts in several disciplines and its biggest asset was human capital rather than finance. They also believe in the cooperative system, both for the positive outcomes for the business and for the positive outcomes for the society. Currently, Puntodock is working to foster the Young Cooperators Italian Movement. This consumer cooperative is made up of 4 members where all employees are members of the cooperative. Currently dividends are not distributed.
Formed in 2010 and realized in 6 months, the cooperative did not require business planning or development support as they were already in possession of planning instruments. After a reflection it was decided that the unique support they would consider in the start-up phase was credit access within a loan provided for an Italian law. The only capital was supplied by associated members.
The cooperative considers itself informally as a social enterprise. Their business model is based on the idea of fostering a sustainable social and economic local development through the community’s engagement approach. According to this approach, the practical services we provide for Third Sector and social enterprises are Participative Strategic Planning, Welfare services co-design, Co-design for EU project planning and Social Impact evaluation.
Certain barriers were encountered such as request of high-level guarantee even though the project has strong partnership and measurable social outcomes. As a solution, banks and financial institutions used SROI: Social Return On Investment.
A cultural obstacle to the business approach was also tackled. Offering services in participative ways to reach decisions implies a certain culture of the referring market: disposition to cooperate, inclination to collect different point of views, the will of sharing information. Thus, the cooperative invested in thematic events before consultancy. Finally, authorizations and permits made it difficult to realize actions. Legal simplification was one of the solutions as the actions in public spaces had a positive social impact for the population.
reteSviluppo is a company made up of professionals and researchers working in different areas: social research, the economy, the business advisory digital development, direct democracy and not least the communication. The main activities lie in realization of research projects based on a deep knowledge of methodological techniques of social and economic evaluation and research; public participation projects and collection of data in the form of interviews, surveys, and statistics. The market of the social cooperative is characterised by a strong connection with the local area, working mostly with users/customers within their territory and on projects at local/regional level.
Structure and membership
Cooperative model was chosen for the shared idea of active and equal participation of all 5 cooperative members. This was a model that allowed a shared management of their work through an approach based on collaboration and mutual solidarity. The worker cooperative consists of 5 members. All employees are part of the cooperative and in terms of dividends, as a new cooperative, currently it is going through a first phase of recovering the initial investment by each founding member. In the following years the dividends will be distributed on an equal basis.
Formed in 2008, the cooperative was incorporated within a year, receiving business planning and development support from a regional/municipal agency.
Initial difficulties included entering the market and difficulties occurred finding new projects and customers to work for. The main solutions were diversification and attempts to open as many channels as possible to access the market.