Local background of the social innovations
Brescia is a middle-sized city situated in the east of the Lombardy region, with 189,085 inhabitants1. It is the main town of one of the twelve provinces of the region and the second largest municipality in the region by population. The metropolitan area counts around 500,000 inhabitants, and the province is the fifth most populated in the country. The strong ageing of the population has been partly compensated in the last decades by very important rates of migration (Costa and Sabatinelli 2012a).
The province of Brescia is the second in the Lombardy region, after Milan, both by demographic and by economic size (in terms of overall added value). The province is one of the most industrialised areas of the whole country (Provincia Brescia 2011), with a strong industrial vocation, mainly based on medium and small and family-based firms. The city has a long-lasting history as university site, with – presently (2013) – around 25,000 students.
In the post-World War period, Brescia was mainly governed by coalitions guided by the Catholic party (Democrazia Cristiana). Between 1948 and 1975, the municipality was administered by the same Christian Democratic Mayor, Bruno Boni, whose governments built many urban infrastructures (including some state-of-the-art projects and some controversial interventions). The predominance of the Christian Democrats in local governments continued until the political shock that invested Italy at the beginning of the 1990s, as a consequence of the major corruption scandals known as Tangentopoli. Since then, the municipality was governed for many years (1992-2008) by centre-left coalitions and then (2008-2013) by a centre-right wing coalition, including the localist Northern League. In June 2013, a centre-left wing coalition won the municipal elections.
The municipal welfare model has been conditioned in the last two decades by the Lombardy regional framework that, since the introduction of direct elections of regional governors, has developed a quite strong quasi-market approach in an increasing number of policy fields. From the point of view of social solidarity, Brescia has a consolidated tradition of civil society organisations, especially expression of the social-Christian world, e.g. many Catholic third sector agencies and a capillary network of social cooperatives. During the 1980s, a provincial consortium of social cooperatives was created (Sol.Co., whose acronym means “furrow”). The contribution of cooperatives to the development of the city is clearly visible in the residential areas built in the 1960s in the urban periphery
Welfare innovations in the three policy fields
The present report presents and analyses cases of social innovation in three areas of Brescia’s local welfare. The first one deals with employment (re)insertion of specific groups of the population; the second one with activities in favour of families in conditions of need (including monetary and in-kind support, care and support services); the remaining deals with housing inclusion of different target groups. As will be seen, the selected cases are quite diverse as to the type of stakeholder that initiated the programme or the project (public or third sector), and to the width of territorial networks involved, which often include also for-profit bodies.
Each case-study is based on interviews with representatives of the different stakeholders involved in the programmes2, as well as on the analysis of available documents, official websites and press information and, in some cases, on visits of the sites where programmes are carried out.