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Sustainability, training talent for impact innovation

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Sustainability, training talent for impact innovation

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In 2007 they are two penniless twenty-year-olds who have just arrived in San Francisco. Legend has it that not knowing how to pay the rent, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia bought inflatable mattresses and made beds available to young people who flocked to the city for an important design fair. This is how Airbnb was born, considered the queen platform of the sharing economy, the economy of sharing goods and services which is based on a strong sense of community that comes together online.

A few decades later, however, the effect of the platform with short-term rentals has revolutionized the world of hospitality and the real estate market: if on the one hand it allows tourists to find affordable accommodation and renters to supplement their income, on the other it can contribute to high rents, as shown by the protests first in San Francisco and then Europe, pushing the population to move away from urban centers.

How to avoid the negative effects of technology?

Is it inevitable that every business, even with a social and environmental ideal, once it uses technology, will be distorted to the point of having potentially negative consequences? The question is more than legitimate, if we consider that ChatGpt is the result of Open AI, originally a non-profit research organization. «A fundamental point is that there is a lack of a form of corporate governance capable of technologically scaling business models without losing the prosocial meaning. For example, thinking about the cooperative form or putting social constraints in the business form” explains Mario Calderini, professor of Sustainability and Impact Management at the Polytechnic of Milan. Another necessary step is to apply the concepts of frugality to hi-tech: «In technical schools, an innovation paradigm for the past 150 years is still taught based on the idea of ​​infinite resources and scarce constraints. The great challenge today is to change the paradigm of innovation – both for those who teach it and for those who practice it – knowing that resources are finite and constraints are important. For example, we can no longer contribute to the great reservoir of inequalities every time we make an innovation.” The necessary challenge is to be able to practice this impact innovation by first foreseeing, in the design of the product or service, the possible negative effects on society and the environment in order to avoid them.

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Interaction between tech needs and impact offering

Performance is no longer measured as absolute technological performance but in compatibility with the systems of constraints that we face in the next 50 years” adds Calderini who is also president of the scientific committee of the Social Innovation Academy, promoted by Fondazione Triulza, and active in Milan Innovation District (Mind). Right here we experience the interaction between the technological needs of companies and the offer of social impact start-ups. About thirty start-ups responded to the call for companies, launched last year, including four European ones. Now two pilot projects are about to start. For Lendlaese, the real estate group promoting Mind, the start-up Widata will create a platform that maps and dialogues with the community of the innovative district. And again the utility A2A is evaluating various social projects.

Pennasi (Fond Triulza): «SMEs next target»

«We are working to strengthen social entrepreneurship with injections of technology and innovation. We have more relationships both with the corporate world and internationally. Now we are thinking not only about how to strengthen this procurement process but we also want to turn to the network of SMEs, which will be called upon to express their needs for technology with social impact” explains Chiara Pennasi, director of Fondazione Triulza, a network of around seventy third sector and civil economy organizations founded on the eve of Expo 2015. A foundation which has also been recognized as a social economy cluster by the European Union.

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