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Italy has adopted a reform of the third sector which introduces significant new developments

23 August 2016 [ English ] français ]

Social entrepreneurship in Italy may well be about to experience a new period of developments. The reform of the third sector, which was approved by the Parliament in June, has established a framework with a view to the introduction of definitive decrees and it is already possible to draw up an initial evaluation.

According to the CECOP member, Federsolidarietà, the objectives are both clear and ambitious, “society is changing and is constantly evolving; knowing how to respond to its needs is increasingly becoming a major challenge for all countries. Social cooperation, social entrepreneurship and the entire third sector in Italy are prime candidates to stimulate employment growth by promoting, in particular, the participation of young people who are faced with unprecedented obstacles. Two years ago, we began our work on the guidelines as well as the public consultation, which attracted responses from many cooperatives and third sector organisations. A lengthy debate within the Italian Parliament captured the attention of civil society, which followed the discussions with bated breath”.

Main changes

The reform of the third sector makes it easier for property and real estate to be entrusted to social cooperatives, social enterprises and third party organisations. Any disused public buildings, property which has been confiscated from organised crime organisations or cultural and environmental assets which have the potential to be developed and which are in the possession of a region may be entrusted to organisations in the third sector and to social enterprises which represent new potential for regeneration and local development.

The reform also introduces a series of financial levers to promote the start-up and development of social enterprises and organisations in the third sector. In fact, the transfer of cultural assets (in the case of property for example) is encouraged with a view to the assets being used to provide social services. Furthermore, the reform introduces the possibility of establishing new forms of “social financing”.

Social cooperatives and their consortia are granted the legal status of social enterprises.

Social enterprises may now play a significant role in the promotion of general interest activities, although the reform does not give a clear indication of the areas in which this can be the case. However, Federsolidarietà believes that it is important to focus on the following areas: fair trade, employment services, notably for disadvantaged workers, the provision of housing for disadvantaged groups (social housing) and the provision of micro-loans.

Finally, the reform introduces “universal community service”, which is designed to involve 100,000 young people per year in a voluntary civic initiative aimed at both Italian citizens and young foreign nationals legally resident in Italy.