The Italpress news agency interviews the Director of the Community Foundation of Agrigento and Trapani. Below is the complete interview.
The Community Foundation of Agrigento and Trapani is the youngest among those supported by the Fondazione Con il Sud. Through promoting a culture of giving, participation, and co-responsibility, it generates innovative social infrastructure programs with strategic significance for the territory. Its director, Giuseppe La Rocca, gives us an insight.
When was it established and by whom?
“The Community Foundation of Agrigento and Trapani was born in January 2019 after a three-year process of territorial animation. The decisive push that mobilized institutions, non-profit entities, and associations came from a group of young people from the territory who formed the promoting committee (the Scirocco Association). These young people, along with the Dioceses of Agrigento and Trapani and the Peppino Vismara Foundation, worked together for nearly three years, weaving the network that led to the establishment of the sixth community foundation in southern Italy. Thanks to the support program for Community Foundations in the South promoted by Fondazione CON IL SUD, we then consolidated the endowment and started various local development initiatives.”
Who are the founding members?
“The Community Foundation supports the solidary development of communities to offer opportunities to people and the third sector. By promoting a culture of giving, participation, and co-responsibility, it generates social infrastructure programs with strategic value for the territory. Various entities that promoted its establishment have rallied around this mission: Archdiocese of Agrigento, Confcooperative Sicilia Association, Farm Cultural Park Association, Scirocco Association, Banca Popolare Etica, Agri.Ca. social cooperative consortium, Solidalia social cooperative consortium, CRESM Centro di Ricerche Economiche e Sociali per il Meridione social cooperative, Diocese of Trapani, and Peppino Vismara Foundation. The Archive of Social Generativity of the Catholic University of Milan, Assifero, and the Charlemagne Foundation also contributed significantly as external partners to the establishment.”
What issues did it initially intend to address?
“To face challenges together to reduce inequalities. The Foundation promotes and supports projects that respond to territorial priorities aimed at producing concrete, innovative, and sustainable local development actions, capable of facilitating the creation of common goods in the following areas of intervention: promotion of community welfare in education and assistance, support for socially responsible youth enterprises, enhancement of cultural and natural heritage. In particular, the focus is on the youth sector, which statistics increasingly show to be fleeing Sicily. Ours is a territory marked by structural deficits but also by extraordinary potentials, such as the archaeological, historical, and natural heritage, from which various opportunities for community growth can be generated. The issue of youth employment is the most urgent problem because unemployment particularly challenges us. Therefore, since its establishment, the Community Foundation has worked to create opportunities for the socio-economic valorization of the younger generation, providing opportunities and occasions for personal and community development. Indeed, the Community Foundation’s tool allows us to reverse the paradigm of a helpless South destined for failure, creating alliances and value for local development.”
How has it been supported and how does it sustain itself?
“The Community Foundation exclusively pursues civic, solidarity, and utility purposes and carries out fundraising activities to: promote and support local development programs and projects in the territory in which it operates; form a community endowment whose income is permanently allocated to these activities. The Foundation thus aggregates resources with the ultimate goal of caring for the community itself and passing on to future generations an endowment, both economic and relational, for the development of its socio-economic impact and with the ultimate goal of reducing inequalities without leaving anyone behind. Since its establishment, the supporters of the Community Foundation’s activities have been: Fondazione CON IL SUD, Peppino Vismara Foundation, Charlemagne Foundation, Peretti Foundation, 8xmille to the Catholic Church, Unipolis Foundation, Social Enterprise CON I BAMBINI. These are joined by several private individuals and companies that have seen the Community Foundation as a useful collaboration platform to expand the impact of their social responsibility.”
In these first years, what initiatives has it realized, especially to support social entrepreneurship?
“The initiatives in this area of intervention that we consider most relevant are particularly three. The first is the 2020 Community Crowdfunding call ‘Inclusive Restart,’ through which the Community Foundation co-financed six local initiatives carried out by Third Sector Entities, three of which are social enterprises. After the selection phase of the proposals received, the six selected initiatives were published on the crowdfunding platform of Intesa Sanpaolo ‘ForFunding’ with which the Community Foundation collaborates: upon reaching a collection equal to 30% of the amount needed to realize the initiative, the Community Foundation disbursed the remaining 70%. This is an innovative tool – in relation to the reference territories – for supporting all those community-based initiatives capable of strengthening or activating social utility services to the benefit of the widespread fragility generated and amplified by the emergency context. The three supported social enterprises are: Arcobaleno Social Cooperative – Valderice (TP) for a transport service for the elderly and differently-abled; Community Cooperative Identità e Bellezza – Sciacca (AG) for an inclusive tourist infopoint service (through LIS-Italian Sign Language integration); Al Kharub Social Cooperative – Agrigento for a carpentry workshop and job placement of people in fragile conditions in the field of beekeeping. The second initiative is the ‘fa bene’ program, which aims to reassign community value to food by using it as a means to promote social cohesion and the job integration of people in a situation of fragility. ‘fa bene’ is a system initiative that aims to operate to reduce opportunity inequalities and act – through the lever of food – to promote co-responsibility chains in communities. To implement this intervention, in the coming months we will launch: a network of FAFs (family purchasing groups), an ethical-solidarity e-commerce, and the start-up of a social enterprise to promote job placements for people in fragile conditions. Finally, the third initiative is related to ‘South Working.’ The Community Foundation is supporting the birth of an incubator in Trapani – just opened these days – aimed at promoting the socio-economic impact deriving from the south working phenomenon and formulas for accompanying social enterprise and youth in the territory. The initiative has seen support for the start-up of a social cooperative called ‘Beehive’ promoted by a group of young people from Trapani who conceived and promoted the community incubator project together with the Community Foundation and other partners including Fondazione CON IL SUD.”
Has the pandemic stopped or changed the projects?
“The Community Foundation promotes and supports initiatives aimed at reducing inequalities to encourage inclusive and sustainable recovery of our communities (according to the principles of the United Nations 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals). Certainly, the pandemic has forced us to review our priorities and for an organization just established like ours, it was not easy. Now, the challenge that awaits us is that of reconstruction: it is time to regenerate proximity ties, community cohesion, social, cultural, and environmental care work. In this moment of crisis, it is even more important to work together with determination, concreteness, and speed. The Community Foundation, more and more in these months, is working on building circular, multifaceted, hybrid bonds and alliances, always attentive to those who are most fragile. It is a complex path that is just beginning. Indeed, the Community Foundation is developing a strategic role in local territorial systems not only through fundraising actions but also by generating and facilitating community system projects, capable of addressing complexity, on which to converge local and extra-local resources and skills. All this is made possible thanks to the broad local and extra-local partnership, and the contribution of private individuals and organizations that support the activities of the Community Foundation.”
You are also among the promoters of the call launched by the Community Foundation of Messina aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs and already established companies. What do you expect?
“The Community Foundations of the South, convinced of the gravity of the moment that the country is experiencing, have chosen to strengthen their collaboration and cooperation capacity, initiating a coordination. Mutualizing experiences, strategies, and tools will better enable our organizations to effectively serve the communities in which they operate, becoming increasingly and better instruments capable of reducing inequalities in our territories. A process of communion and unity, respecting the differences and evolutionary dynamics of each, which we believe can represent an important political signal of hope and co-responsibility. In relation to this specific initiative of the call aimed at aspiring entrepreneurs and already established companies, we expect to intercept ideas and human capital with a clear vision of sustainability (economic, social, environmental) and social impact in communities capable of making a difference in the territories. This is because the difference is always made by people.”