A winning team (to) find a job

I giovani del progetto Lavoro di squadra (Adrian, Marco e Vlad) con Tommaso (Balon Mundial) all'ingresso dell'azienda dove si svolgono i tirocini. Febbraio 2015. Foto di Luca Fanelli/ ActionAid
The project participants (Adrian, Marco e Vlad) with Tommaso (Balon Mundial) in front of the plant where the internships take place. Torino, Italy. February 2015. Photo by Luca Fanelli/ ActionAid

Yes, finally, we made it: on February 2nd, four participants of the project Lavoro di squadra (Teamwork), Adrian, Davide, Marco and Vlad, started working in a large company in Turin. With a six-month internship, with grit and great hopes. As with the whole history of the project, this victory, small and great at the same time, also comes from teamwork: the valuable assist came from Balon Mundial, partner of the project, who had a close relationship with the company; the case manager of the project held the direction of the game; she followed each phase, in a perfect double with the responsible person within the company, always attentive and available. I’m pleased. I’ve heard the guys several times these days to find out how it was going. For some of them, the biggest obstacle is commuting, especially for the first round, so you have to get up for five. But inside the factory, they put grit in it and try to learn.

Yet, it is wrong to focus only on this job placement. The results of the project are more significant and not always easily tangible. For example, having entered the dance team in the spring, two girls have matured during training the idea of resuming studying. One of them is sweating on the benches of an evening technical institute: the road is long and hard, but it is essential to continue and get the diploma; another project partner, ASAI, is helping her with the after-school service. Another guy attempted to enter university in the autumn (three-year nursing course); he didn’t make it, but he’ll try again. In addition to those I mentioned earlier, six young people have acquired new tools to find a job; in one case, the research has borne fruit: Dieter worked as a social health worker in a facility between December and January, and now, with this “fresh” experience of work, he expects to be able to find new opportunities; Soufiane will go to work in a friend’s bakery; Valentina, who fortunately saw her contract as a waitress become more stable thanks to a chance found by another partner, Synergie, come to begin an internship as receptionist and administrative back office at the training institution Manager Srl of Turin, thus approaching a little more her dreams in professional terms.

That said, it seems a little too self-celebratory. There have been difficulties: in involving young people, especially girls; in keeping them in a team; in offering suitable job opportunities to participants. We found that there were too many months of training, that we could start immediately with “training at work”, that a closer alliance with the world of vocational training is fundamental and much more.

All lessons that we will put to good use in the new editions of the project have started in recent months: in Milan with Fondazione Milan, in Alba (CN) with Cooperativa ORSO and the support of Fondazione CRC.

Winning – said Tommaso (Balon Mundial) last September – for them will be to understand in a few years that this project has taught them something… if they arrive in December to find a job or undertake a training path will be very important, but, since we are in a complex world, you can find a job and then lose it, even more, important is to continue and try again with a method and constancy; this is the challenge that they have to overcome and that we hope to be able to take on with these workouts”.

We won a game, the championship continues.

This post appeared in Italian on the ActionAid Italy website.

Under the threshold. We settle it now

I wait for Mrs Maria (we will use this fictitious name out of respect for her privacy) in a room of the Levi Library, a beautiful and welcoming space in the heart of the Barriera district of Milan, on the extreme outskirts of Turin. Maria is the first participant in the ActionAid project “Ora facciamo i conti” (the Italian sentence means both “we settle it now” and “let’s do the math”). 

To put it all, I am a little agitated: right from the start, Maria amazes me for its energy. I was afraid that the meeting issue would make dialogue difficult, but it’s flowing, as between two people sitting in the same train compartment. We are talking about children and rent, studies and passions, the difficulties of making the ends matter, work, travel, and choices.  Maria is one of the 950 people who in Turin saw the application accepted to receive the new purchase card. Since she applied in August 2013, she had to wait nine months to receive it, but her family has had an additional monthly income of just over 300 euros since May this year.

Maria is also one of 475 randomly selected people to participate in an “activation project”. These projects are specific actions that the municipalities must activate in support of the measure, but no funds have been allocated. Therefore, the Municipality of Turin relies on other existing programs, managed by the same municipal structure, but financed externally, as in the case of “lavoro accessorio” (ancillary work, a project in which the person receives a small remuneration to carry out work with associations). Or it seeks to increase the operation of social services; or, finally, it relies on activities or projects carried out by private organisations, as in our case.  If the person who receives the new purchase card does not participate in the “activation project”, they lose it.

Maria is therefore talking to me because she has to, but she doesn’t show it. On the contrary, she says that group work, which I briefly presented to her, will be an opportunity to learn new things.  

The group work consists of six meetings, during which participants will discuss the use of money and address some issues of financial literacy. Each participant will then be able to avail themselves of financial advice and psychological accompaniment free of charge.

Maria has not had a formal and stable job for two and a half years: she has left the labour market due to a set of small health problems and care for her children and has not re-entered it. Like her,  another 55,000 women are unemployed in Turin. In total, with men, you get to 118 thousand people (ISTAT data for the Province of Turin). It is a significant number – the highest rate of all the North Centre’s metropolitan provinces – and one of those that has grown the most since 2007, which means that many of the “newly unemployed” are not used to it.

Precisely the exponential increase in people in poverty since 2007 motivated ActionAid to strongly support the proposal to insert the REIS (Reddito di Inclusione Sociale, i.e. minimum income) in the next budget law, also launching an online petition.

While continuing to work with social card beneficiaries with monitoring and participation activities within personalised activation projects, ActionAid recognises that this measure is too categorial and lacks an organic vision of the fight against poverty. That is why we support a proposal aimed at all families living in absolute poverty in Italy, combining a mix of rights and duties with a strong component of social inclusion.

This post was published on the ActionAid Italia page.

Economic education: some guidelines

Madre e figlio fanno i conti dopo una giornata di lavoro come lavavetri. Torino 2014. Foto di Luca Fanelli
Madre e figlio fanno i conti dopo una giornata di lavoro come lavavetri. Torino 2014. Foto di Luca Fanelli

Lavorando per ActionAid in Piemonte e confrontandomi con le realtà del terzo settore, soprattutto torinesi, la difficoltà nella gestione del bilancio personale e famigliare emerge come fattore che mina la resilienza delle persone e famiglie in difficoltà. Ho quindi sempre caldeggiato un lavoro di ActionAid su questa tematica, soprattutto se è tenuta strettamente insieme a un piano di advocacy sulle politiche sociali in essere. Rimangono fuori da questo orizzonte due elementi strutturali, ovvero la domanda di lavoro e l’offerta di casa a prezzi abbordabili. Rimangono anche parzialmente defilate alcune delle cause strutturali della crescente diseguaglianza che caratterizza la società europea a partire dalla seconda metà degli anni Settanta del Novecento.

Focalizziamo dunque l’attenzione sulla relazione tra difficoltà nella gestione del bilancio personale e famigliare, come fattore che mina la resilienza delle persone e famiglie in difficoltà e le politiche sociali in essere. Già in un seminario che ActionAid, nella persona di Christian Quintili, organizzò nel 2012 – dal quale, per inciso, sono scaturite alcune iniziative di educazione economica presenti sul territorio torinese – lo sforzo era quello di tenere insieme il piano della responsabilità dei decisori sull’uso delle risorse pubbliche e quella delle persone e delle famiglie, sull’uso delle risorse private. Con l’adozione della misura della nuova carta acquisti, decretata ancora dal governo Monti sul finire del 2012 e che solo in questi mesi vede finalmente la luce, è in parte possibile affrontare congiuntamente questi piani. Da un lato, quindi, stiamo monitorando l’implementazione della misura, volta, a offrire prioritariamente a persone inserite in contesti famigliari con figli minori, che hanno perso il lavoro recentemente e che hanno un ISEE di meno di € 3.000, un sussidio condizionato, che per un nucleo di 4 membri ammonta a € 331/ mese. Dall’altra, realizzeremo insieme ad alcuni beneficiari di questa misura dei percorsi di empowerment riguardanti la cittadinanza economica, l’alfabetizzazione finanziaria, il rapporto con il denaro. Si tratta del progetto “Ora facciamo i conti”, una prima fase del quale sarà realizzato grazie a un contributo della Fondazione CRT e che intendiamo ampliare e rafforzare grazie a una rosa di donors.

Ma è possibile aumentare la resilienza e aumentare il benessere delle persone e famiglie in difficoltà mediante un intervento di questo tipo? E’ scontato dire che non è facile e certamente non basta organizzare le proprie spese per “moltiplicare” le poche sostanze disponibili. Ma abbiamo qualche elemento in più? Innanzitutto è bene ricordare, per sgomberare subito il campo da considerazioni che, basandosi sull’aneddotica, vanno ad oscurare il vero – del tipo “com’è che quella persona che non ha come pagare la luce ha un iphone?” – che le famiglie povere spendono in media un terzo delle famiglie non povere (cfr. Accolla, Rovati, 2009, p. 8). Ciò detto, in termini molto sintetici, possiamo cercare di raggruppare le argomentazioni teoriche e gli studi empirici, tra quelli che fanno intendere che sostanzialmente negano che sia possibile agire sulla leva della gestione delle risorse disponibili e quelli che invece affermano che sia possibile.

Uno dei più forti argomenti che ricadono nel primo campo è quello filosofico e antropologico, secondo il quale non ci sono motivi sufficienti per pensare che le scelte economiche delle persone povere siano più inefficienti, anche nel medio-lungo periodo, rispetto alle scelte delle persone non povere; detto semplicemente da una voce autorevole, “i poveri non sono meno razionali di chiunque altro – è semmai vero il contrario” (Banerjee, Duflo, 2011, Foreword, 203); la persistenza della povertà sarebbe quindi determinata dalle condizioni di partenza, da un lato, e dalla “trappola della povertà”, dall’altra, che, tradotta in termini semplici, significa che per iniziare a risalire la china è necessario superare una boa, ma che superare questa boa è incredibilmente difficile. Nei paesi “ricchi” alcuni elementi di questa “trappola della povertà” sono la relativa maggiore difficoltà nel trovare un buon lavoro, nel proseguire gli studi, nel risparmiare per i tempi peggiori, nell’essere in buona salute, nel non avere problemi con la giustizia. La questione centrale del risparmio riguarda la sottrazione di risorse per consumi immediati, a favore di consumi procrastinati o investimenti. Secondo il concetto dell’utilità marginale, una condotta siffatta è sensata, in quanto nel momento in cui si consumano due unità di un bene nel presente, l’utilità marginale della seconda è inferiore all’utilità della stessa in un futuro in cui la possibilità di consumare sia zero; in altre parole, l’allocazione equimarginale delle risorse è la condotta più sensata. E’ però probabile che tale concettualizzazione del problema sia errata in quanto, al di sotto di una determinata soglia, il consumo di unità aggiuntive di un bene non ha un’utilità decrescente, ma crescente (può essere più piacevole una telefonata di 10 minuti con un parente lontano, piuttosto che una di 5 minuti oggi, per farne un’altra di 5 minuti tra un mese); ciò vale a maggior ragione per quei consumi con soglie ben definite, prima di raggiungere le quali ogni frazione di spesa è inutile (sul lungo periodo pagare 1/3 dell’affitto non mi garantisce di non essere sfrattato alla stessa stregua di non pagarlo). A ciò si aggiunge il fatto che le persone in condizione di povertà possono essere molto “scettici sulle opportunità e possibilità di cambiare radicamente le proprie vite” (Id, 815)

Sul versante opposto, secondo il quale è possibile fare leva sulla gestione delle risorse disponibili, un primo spunto ci viene dalla teoria, maturata nelle scienze psicologiche e cognitive, dell'”ego-depletion”, ovvero dell’esaurimento dell’ego; secondo questa linea teorica (toccata ad es. da Kahneman, 2011, ma trattata nel dettaglio, per quanto riguarda questo ambito, da Spears, 2010), il fatto di dover operare scelte di allocazione di risorse molto limitate, genera una diminuzione della capacità di controllo di sé stessi e dunque scelte non molto sensate; questo vale soprattutto per gli ambiti di consumo quotidiano, come la spesa al supermercato o le scommesse. Un’altra indicazione, molto differente, ci viene nuovamente dall’ambito sociologico e antropologico. Qui si afferma che sia possibile, anche per persone in difficoltà, operare una “riconcettualizzazione” dei propri ambiti di consumo e investimento, tale per cui, invece di agire sulla capacità di agire – come nel caso della teoria dell’”ego depletion”, si agisce sull’ambito valoriale, ovvero delle preferenze e degli obiettivi (Vargiu, 2009, pp. 76 e ssg.).

Ritengo che da questo excursus teorico si possano trarre alcune indicazioni di ordine pratico:

  • la ricerca empirica sulla gestione delle risorse da parte di persone in difficoltà è molto limitata e dunque vi sono probabilmente ampi margini di ulteriore analisi e comprensione, che consenta da un lato di dare un più efficace supporto a queste persone o famiglie e, dall’altro, a disegnare meglio le politiche;
  • è necessario sgomberare il campo da tutte le interpretazioni che attribuiscono alle persone in difficoltà, in termini generali, comportamenti irrazionali; ciò non è solo arrogante e moralmente deprecabile, ma fa battere, in termini di azione, strade “senza uscita”;
  • specularmente, gli approcci che non tengono in debito conto il contesto psicologico di ogni scelta, anche quella relativa alla gestione delle risorse economiche, e che dunque ritengono che basti informare per avere risultati, sono destinati a non avere successo;
  • tutte le diverse opzioni teoriche, gioco forza, non tengono conto delle differenze soggettive; è dunque possibile che un altro spazio “di manovra” sia dato da un lavoro che, basandosi sull’auto-aiuto e la formazione peer-to-peer, consenta a persone e famiglie, anche povere, ed anche caratterizzare da un complesso culturale e valoriale simile, ma che hanno una gestione delle risorse più orientata alla resilienza e al benessere, di altre, di aiutare queste ultime;
  • molto c’è da lavorare nei termini della costruzione di subculture, o opzioni valoriali che consentano maggiore benessere, anche a fronte di una limitata dotazione di risorse iniziali; a sostegno di questa linea d’azione va sicuramente lo sviluppo di “nuovi modelli di consumo”, che è andata crescendo negli ultimi decenni, nonché il recupero, la valorizzazione e il rafforzamento di forme di mutualismo; va invece contro questa linea l’incapacità proprio di queste opzioni culturali a farsi veramente nazional-popolari; è inoltre a mio avvio imprescindibile che, affinché non sia completamente frustrata, questa opzione deve prevedere delle concrete opportunità di miglioramento progressivo, per quanto contenuto, della dotazione di risorse (da parte di chi ne ha veramente troppo poche).

Bibliografia citata

Gisella Accolla, Giancarlo Rovati, I consumi dei poveri in quattro regioni italiane, in Laura Bovone and Carla Lunghi (a cura di), Consumi ai margini, Donzelli, Roma 2009

Abhijit V. Banerjee, Esther Duflo, Poor Economics. A radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty, PublicAffairs 2011

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, fast and slow, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 2011

Dean Spears, Economic decision-making in poverty depletes behavioral control, «CEPS Working Paper», n. 213, 2010

Andrea Vargiu, Negoziare la marginalità attraverso il consumo di beni e servizi, in Laura Bovone and Carla Lunghi (a cura di), Consumi ai margini, Donzelli, Roma 2009

The triple helix and the humanist vocation

Triple helix and humanist vocation
(*)

The concept of triple helix, in “The Capitalization of Knowledge“, is well conceptualized for technological fields, but not for the humanities. Institution and (social) services are less relevant in this analysis. However, the most relevant innovations may happen in the processes. And processes are governed by discourse, which, in turn, is lead by the humanities, as we can draw from the insightful column by  David Brooks.

But are processes governed by discourse? Actually, most of us, who works as project managers, had lost this very understanding. Can we blame the logical framework model? Maybe; but, if we embraced it, if even us, grown up among humanities have embraced it, it’s only our mistake. Of course: logical framework model is in itself a discourse, but we have to see it as is it, not something that stay before or above any discourse.

We have to use the right words in the right order: because discourses shape the world, and the processes that happen within this world; understand that the way I describe things is more important that things in themselves. Innovation trees grows within this text woven.

(*) John Webster, master orator at his best at Speakers’ Corner, Sydney, dwld from www.victorzammit.com/about/pictures.htm and P. Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie, dwld from www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/mondrian.

Two pennies to have a dance

The International Association AREIA (Audio-archive of Migrations between Europe and Latin America, based at the Department of Antiquities, Philosophy, History of the University of Genoa) has recently produced the exhibition Overcome Themselves. Migrant voices between Europe and America. The exhibition displays an anthology of thoughts of Europeans and Latin Americans in transit between the two continents, from the beginning of the Twentieth century to today. The sentences collected were chosen within the oral testimonies kept by AREIA and arranged around some keywords: travel, work, live, have fun, study, buy, eat, return.

Among the text chosen by the curator, one is from the oral testimonies I collected during my field research for The choice of the land. Here speaks Alfonso (pseudonym), who tells the last one of the many trips that took him in a few years from Western Paraná (Brazil) to Paraguay and vice versa, always looking for new (precarious) jobs, in particular related to the cutting of timber. We are in the Seventies of the Twentieth century.

“The last time I went to Paraguay, in 1993, I barely had a change of clothes, only a pair of pants to use at parties.
So I worked as a bricklayer: just to eat, just to buy myself a new shirt and save two coins for a dance.
It’s different now. Now I’m still skinny; I weigh 60-61 kilos, but then I weighed 50, and if my head is like that now, then it was like this… for the headache, for the worries, for the debts to be paid… I saved something thanks to my sacrifices”.

Transparency and human rights

Transparency and human rightsPresented at the 10° Nexa Lunch Seminar – Transparency Decree: a FOIA or “just” Open Data?.

It is maybe difficult, at the first glimpse, to draw a strong link between transparency and human rights. However, the relationship is bold, and here I’ll try to highlight briefly some of the issues that put together transparency and human rights. It’s is not by chance that transparency gained importance in the last strategy of ActionAid, the NGO I work for. ActionAid is an international organisation, working with over 15 million people in 45 countries for a world free from poverty and injustice.

Accountability is the first bridge between transparency and human rights. To held someone accountable about something we need to know with a high degree of clarity who the duty bearer is, who is the right holder, to which right the latter is entitled to. Without a clear picture about that, any campaign or advocacy action would be vane, or misplaced, or biased. It’s true that there is a long path from the identification of the right you are entitled to, and who is responsible to that, and the respect or fulfillment of this right. But it is also true that, in a very complex system, as contemporary societies are, the first is already a big step.

The second link is corruption, or, better, freedom from corruption. As a very interesting report by International Council on Human Rights Policy and Transparency International points out, corrupt acts violates human rights directly – for example when you have to pay a bribe in order to be treated by a doctor, otherwise you won’t; or indirectly, when, for example, organized crime could enforce his law, not being constrained by corrupted public authorities. Then, it’s simple to draw the relationship between lack of transparency and corruption.

Good governance is the third bridge between t. and hr.. This relationship is two-folded. One: citizens and civil society has to know the evidence on which the public decision are made; two, they have to know, as far as it’s possible, which is the relationship between the evidence and the decision.

An example from local social policies: the benefits to poor people. As a citizen I have to know:

1) at which level of poverty public authorities understand that a person have to receive a money benefit;
2) how many people fulfil this condition;
3) how many people receive the benefit, and how many fulfil the condition and do not receive the benefit, and:
4) based on what public authorities decide to put the money on these benefit, instead of putting money on housing for elderly people, or to services to disabled people, and so on.

I do think that, in the current situation of spending cuts, this kind of transparency, together with participation and involvement of citizens and civil society, would provide on one hand, better decisions, and, on the other hand, some kind of co-responsabilization by the public for the hard decisions made.

Luzia Fati’s memory

Foto di Luca Fanelli/ MAIS. Nov. 2011
Santarém riverside

In order to honour the memory of an upright person, Luzia Fati, who died in March 2013, I put here the whole interview she gave me in April 2007, in Santarém (Pará, Brasil).

Over this interview, she retraces his life and the history of the rural trade unions of the Brazilian Northern region. She put together historical events, a sharp political analysis and moving personal memories.

I splitted the interview in six parts; it is in Portuguese.

I – Childhood and youth, political and personal education, until the election as member of the STTR (rural trade union) direction (21 min.).

II – From the STTR to the CUT national direction (CUT is a trade union confederation)

III – The CUT national direction, coming back to Santarém, the engagement in the ISAM (city manager related to environment)

IV – To be a female trade union director, the opportunities, the relationship with family

V – STTR’s history and performance, the trade union role, its political and economic role and the land issue today

IV – Ribeirinhos (people who live along the rivers) and planalto (highlands) in the rural trade union history, some points about the trade union history in the region, conclusions.

Here you can find a short account about the Luzia life (CUT website, in Portuguese).

Research and action for development

ricercazioneDuring the XXX International Congress of American Studies, Perugia, Italy, May 6-12, 2008, in the panel Amazonia. State of the Art of the Field Researches was debated the relationship between research, mainly in humanities and social sciences, and specifically anthropological, and development projects, mainly non-governmental.

Briefly, was affirmed the epistemological interdependence between research and action and the necessity of the tie between these two practices; at the same time, was noticed the segregation between research actors (mainly university) and development actors (mainly NGOs).

Read a resume of the debate (in Italian).