Local background of the social innovations
Milan is the capital city of the Lombardy region. The economic and financial capital of Italy, it is a rich and economically dynamic context (see Costa and Sabatinelli 2012). One of the vertexes of the former industrial triangle with Gène and Turin in the Fordist era, it was one of the main destinations of internal migration from southern regions during the period 1950-70. Employment demand was very ample, and employment represented a key element for the social inclusion of migrants, to acquire social citizenship and pursue social mobility. A deep-rooted legacy, since a medieval (religious) reference defines the “Milanese citizenship” as a status that anybody coming to the city could obtain by contributing to its welfare through work. Also thanks to the wide possibilities of social inclusion through employment, Milan has a long-lasting reputation of social solidarity. Since the end of the 1970s, female employment and activity rates have increased more than the national average, also thanks to the concentration of service-based activities in the area. The shift to tertiary and advanced tertiary sectors is the major characteristic of the city economy at present.
From the political point of view, after a rather long experience of centre-left local governments during the 1970s and 1980s, the city was deeply shocked at the beginning of the 1990s by the wide, national corruption scandals known as Tangentopoli (Bribes City), shaking the image of the city as the “moral” capital city of the country, also as opposed to the opacity of Rome as the place of national institutional and political powers. After the political collapse of the early 1990s, and the introduction in 1993 of direct elections of mayors1, 20 years of centre-right local governments followed, first with a Northern League majority, then with mayors from Berlusconi’s party. Such coalitions have boosted the use of some new public management instruments, especially the contracting-out or privatisation of provision of public and welfare services. This fit coherently with the regional frame that was being developed in the same years, emphasising the setup of quasi-markets, the freedom of choice of users, and the use of cash-for-care tools such as vouchers. Also relevant in this period was the political emphasis on security issues, coupled with a rhetoric against immigration flows, a tightening of rights of access to services for irregular immigrants, either due to local initiatives (child care services, school canteens, etc.) or national (healthcare).
In spring 2011, a radical change in the local administration took place. First, the primary elections within the centre-left coalition were won by a leftist outsider candidate mayor, Giuliano Pisapia, who proposed a participatory definition of political programme and campaign, and who later won the municipal elections against the outgoing centre-right mayor. This emphasis on participation is one of the key elements of the municipal coalition’s action. For instance, two editions of the municipal “Forum of Social Policies” have already taken place, and a first edition of the Forum of Youth Policies (“MI Generation Camp”). This approach is reflected in some of the programmes analysed here.
The financial and economic crisis, which first burst in 2008 and is still ongoing in Italy, hit the city rather sharply, due to the high concentration of firms in the urban and suburban area. An increase in unemployment and inactivity rates, in the applications for state unemployment benefits, in the use of short-time work schemes, in the use of temporary instead of permanent contracts is observed (Costa and Sabatinelli 2012). In addition to the existing municipal social assistance schemes, non-public stakeholders, such as the Milanese trade unions and the Catholic curia, have been active in creating solidarity funds and distributing forms of support, monetary and in-kind, to individuals and families hit by the crisis.
Some expectations in terms of economic and labour market development are placed in the coming International EXPO 2015, the only project to promote the local economy of some relevance in recent years. Delays in the implementation are observed, also due to disagreements in the definition of the projects; the selection of the involved areas and the type of public–private relations in their purchase and management, and their future use; and conflicts among institutional levels about the distribution of competences. Infrastructural works were also jeopardised by the scarcity of resources due to the economic crisis and the constraints of the European and national stability pacts.
Between inertia and small innovations, Milan needs to find a way out from the crisis and recession, and a (new) place in the changing world (Bonomi 2008; Lodigiani 2010).
Welfare innovations in the three policy fields
The three social innovation cases presented here predominantly concern three different policy areas: Milan Welfare Foundation (Fondazione Welfare Ambrosiano, or FWA) relates to income support and labour market integration; Maggio 12 (M12) regards early childhood education and care policies and services; Fondazione Housing Sociale FHS) concerns housing policies. Nevertheless, as will be seen, in each of the cases, overlapping, trickle-down effects and synergies with other policy fields are observed, pointing at directions for integration among programmes and sectors. The role of the municipality of Milan differs in each of the three cases, as we shall see, ranging from being the promoter of the project (M12, section 2.2), to being one of the founding members of a public–private foundation (FWA, section 2.1), to being part of a wider network involved in programmes initiated by a large non-profit stakeholder (FHS, section 2.3). In all the cases analysed, the relationship between public, private and third sector stakeholders is a prominent issue.
The following paragraphs present the three cases analysing:
- the story of the single case;
- the types and contents of programmes developed and the way needs or demands are addressed;
- the patterns of organisation of the bodies partaking in the initiatives; and
- the embeddedness of the projects in the local welfare system and its evolution.
Each case study is based on interviews with representatives of the different stakeholders involved in the programmes, as well as on the analysis of available documents, official websites and press information2.