Welfare, start-ups are looking for impact and sustainable models

Welfare, start-ups are looking for impact and sustainable models

In Italy, which is about to enter the demographic winter, all the contradictions of old Europe are exploding. On paper, Italy is the third largest economy in the EU by weight of welfare spending on GDP. But in reality, as emerged with the pandemic emergency, services and their quality suffer a progressive decline. And a large part of the expenditure is absorbed by the pension plan. The result is that, as estimated by a Confartigianato report, compared to 17.07 euros destined for healthcare and pensions for the elderly, only one euro goes to families and young people. Who make do as they can (or can't).

A fund of 6.2 million euros

Meanwhile, private services and the economy of digital platforms are multiplying. Cassa Depositi e Prestiti also believes in it, which has included welfare among the 20 acceleration programs, supporting it with the Personae fund - an endowment of 6.2 million euros - together with the Italian Accenture Foundation and SocialFare Seed and aImpact. The latter make available their respective accelerators SocialFare, a social innovation center, Mise and ACube certified incubator of the Milanese Avanzi. Each of the seven selected start-ups - out of 183 applications - was accompanied by the acceleration program and 100,000 euros of conversion. «Welfare is one of the country's main challenges with a social impact and also represents a market. The private spending of Italian families on welfare amounts to about 140 billion euros. Society has changed and needs have changed with it. To give an answer there is a need for innovation and venture capital. There is therefore room for companies that intentionally invest for a positive impact and that incorporate digital technology» explains Laura Orestano, managing director of SocialFare. Moreover, «our big bet is to make a healthy face, useful for finance. Our intent is not to give birth to unicorns, but to find solutions that respond to social needs - explains Matteo Bartolomeo, CEO of ACube and AImpact - The area of ​​needs is enormous. Suffice it to say that 10% of people over 65 will have to have home assistance in the next 3 years. But what will happen when Pnrr resources are exhausted? We need sustainable and lasting solutions».

The second call is coming

The first round of start-ups has been evaluated positively, even by investors who are approaching more enterprising realities. «For the second call (it will be launched within the first half of July ed.) we expect greater refinement of the proposals both in terms of technological innovation and in terms of coverage of the various welfare areas» adds Orestano who also leads SocialFare Seed, accelerating so far 30 start-ups with an exit such as Unobravo, following a round from 17 million for the online psychology service.

The weaknesses of business models

Among Personae's partners there is also the Giordano dell'Amore Social Venture Foundation, specialized in social impact investments. The entity, supported by the Cariplo Foundation, has 54 direct investments approved for a total of 12.2 million euros, almost half of which in the welfare sector with start-ups such as Vivavoce and WiMonitor. In addition, the foundation has gained experience in the sector through GetIt, a program that combines capacity building and capital provision in collaboration with 15 accelerators. «In recent years we have received proposals from about a thousand start-ups, of which about 300 in the welfare sector. Of these, 15 participated in incubation courses. Well, in the end we invested in just 4 start-ups - explains Marco Gerevini, board member - The business models were fragile, with ideas that were hard to implement. Furthermore, it is often difficult to find an agreement with promoters who have very high value expectations».

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Open innovation for social enterprises

Despite the weaknesses, the signs from the world of social cooperation testify that the times are ripe for welfare tech. Cgm has just launched Human Tech, an open innovation and acceleration program conducted together with Entopan. The idea is to stimulate social enterprises - 45,000 of which are members of the consortium alone - and accompany them "by promoting the creation of PoC (proof of concept) to be scaled up to provide new answers to traditional and emerging social needs". An initiative hopefully in the footsteps of a neo-mutualism that reconfigures the space between the state and the market, as told by the economist Paolo Venturi and the sociologist Flaviano Zandonai in the book of the same name (published by Egea): «On the wave of a new activism and transformations taking place along the increasingly porous borders of the social economy and the third sector, neo-mutualism acts, unlike in the past, not to build niches sheltered from the failures of traditional institutions but to generate social impact from the main socio-technological transformations, so that politics and the economy merge around a new third Community pillar".

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