A search for knowledge, and a desire to explore the field of social innovation, brought me to the former European Capital of Culture, Matera. As a designer and an aspiring social entrepreneur, I am often tempted to check the limits of my adaptability. New contexts, cultures, and communities create perfect conditions for those kinds of experiments. Becoming a temporary citizen adds another dimension to the experience of learning about the given culture, making it possible to immerse and witness the dynamic of the place.
I was inspired to apply for the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs after attending Holis School, which is an interdisciplinary learning program and a community of curious individuals and social innovators. Together with Holis and Clara – Center for Rural Future, I did a 10-day workshop in south Portugal and that was the beginning of my journey. Social Innovation seems to finally make it into political agendas as more and more funds are being dedicated to the development of projects with a positive social impact. Businesses around the globe start to improve and implement their CSR Strategy (Corporate Social Responsibility), supporting the communities and natural environments that they are connected to. With this program, I hope to improve my business plan, and support businesses in the process of transitioning into socially responsible organisations, that have a positive impact on the well-being of people and the planet.
The Casa Netural community created by my HE, Mariella Stella and her partner Andrea Paoletti, makes a perfect base for experimentation and development of a socially responsible design studio. Becoming part of Casa Netural, a co-working, co-living, and incubator for social innovation, allows me to learn and explore Community Projects, Circular Economy, Systemic Design and Social Innovation. I am surrounded by social innovators, who act, experiment and support each other. Casa Netural is part of a wider community established here, in the Basilicata region. Some of the projects that they have developed are Italian Sabbatical in Wonder Grottole and Mammamiaaa.
My stay here in Italy has added plenty of spontaneity to my daily routine and has allowed me to network with some proactive entrepreneurs and citizens of the Basilicata region. Since the very first day, I have experienced the power of the community that I have become part of. As Casa Netural is a meeting place for many local associations, on the first evening, I was welcomed by the host to a house full of people enjoying their Sunday boardgame time.
On the first official day of this program, I attended a meeting with a mayor of the Venossa town, visited the ruins of a Roman settlement, and tried my Italian skills. My host warned me that not every day is going to be that adventurous, but the following days turned out to be as eventful as the first one, both in terms of formal and informal encounters.
On a personal note, I have experienced the southern Italian carnival, had dinners and lunches with the members of the community, and visited the tourist attractions. Formal encounters included a lecture at the University of Foggia, where I networked with some of the professors and an organisation called Vazapp, which supports the development of the rural areas in Italy. The line between my personal and professional life has become very thin since I moved to Italy. The former seems to be an intrinsic part of the latter.
The experiences of the past two weeks have inspired me to think a bit more proactively, balancing thinking and doing. I’m also slowly starting to create a clearer picture of how I can use my skills and knowledge to create a socially responsible design studio. As an aspiring social innovator, I value the formal experiences as much as the informal ones. Therefore the past two weeks were a good introduction into the entrepreneurial world on the intersection of design, anthropology, and social innovation.