Solidarity is not a luxury but a condition for development: the Third Sector – interview with Rosapia Farese

Could you kindly introduce yourself to our readers?

I was born in Rome on 23 February 1947. I have a university education in the humanities, with a Masters in Administration School of Management – MIB.

During my working years I have developed experience in the administrative and legal fields, as well as in the management of general services and marketing, business consulting services (communication and logistics), coordination and management of field, EDP and secretarial departments. I managed the company development of the Vision 2000 quality management system (QMS) and the entire company certification process

I have been CEO of companies in the field of Social Research, and in this role, which I did not expect at all, as a woman-worker, as a manager, I have seen the work of the Lord, through incitement, encouragement, solicitation, and the discovery of how a passion for ‘one’s work’, in my case research, can be born.

I am the creator and President of the Association FareRete InnovAzione BeneComune. The association, founded in 2015, is a non-profit Association of Social Promotion (APS). Michele Corsaro (1941-2009), my husband, was the inspiration behind this project. He spent his personal and professional life in the continuous endeavour to concretely pursue the Common Good, convinced that ‘we must leave behind the conception of the Common Good as the sum of individual goods acquired through individual opportunities and developed according to the primacy of the ego (Ego)’. The Common Good thus understood as a system of values to inspire one’s lifestyle, but also as a source of inclusive and non-exclusive innovation, as a mark to be given to individual and collective action, as an exhortation to create value for the society in which we live.

What is the activity of FareRete InnovAzione BeneComune?

The basic idea of our association is that innovation in economic and entrepreneurial activities represents a Common Good, i.e. a highly significant ethical and development model in today’s social context, particularly in the health sector.

The association intends, therefore, to contribute to the creation and dissemination of a managerial culture among all the actors of the economic and social system: health, environment, work, education, citizenship rights and duties. We are committed to the economic sustainability of the country’s system and to all issues pertaining to the preservation of welfare, health and, in particular, disease management.

FareRete (networking) and BeneComune (common good) summarise our Vision, Mission and Strategy.

Our Vision is that of a better world in which everyone and not just a few strive, with commitment and responsibility, for the Common Good. The Common Good is therefore at the heart of our work, where by Common Good we mean not only the preservation of the material goods allocated to and shared by the members of a community, but also and above all the set of conditions that foster the cultural, spiritual and moral well-being of individuals and the community. The definition of the common good includes very topical subjects such as the protection of the environment, health, education and training of citizens, working conditions, etc. Defined in this way, we realise how important and precious the common good is, because it ultimately forms the foundations of a healthy society, with the human being and the intrinsic and very high dignity of his existence at its centre.

The Association’s Mission is therefore to promote all those initiatives that contribute to spreading and developing the culture of the Common Good and, if possible, provide concrete answers to individual issues.

Finally, FareRete, is our Strategy, which is the road to take to reach our goal. Indeed, we are convinced that alone we cannot significantly affect the great issues of the Common Good. Hence the need to create a network of relations between all the actors in the system (individuals, other associations, institutions, etc.) with the aim of sharing knowledge, skills, contacts, making people aware and capable of making decisions if empowered. Networking also means optimising resources and thus favouring the reduction of waste.

What is the relationship between the third sector and health in Italy?

Health is everyone’s right. The National Health Service (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale – SSN) has the purpose of guaranteeing all citizens, on equal terms, universal access to the equitable provision of health services, implementing Article 32 of the Constitution, which states:

The Republic protects health as a fundamental right of the individual and interest of the community, and guarantees free care to the indigent. No one may be obliged to undergo a given health treatment except by provision of law. The law may under no circumstances violate the limits imposed by respect for the human person.

The need to make welfare policies more efficient and incisive, aspects that the pandemic has made more topical than ever, is the main reason why today we increasingly speak of Generative Welfare. This welfare model, aimed at recovering some of the values enshrined in the Constitution such as solidarity, equality, responsibility and subsidiarity, proposes to make welfare policies useful and productive not only for those who benefit from them, but also for the community of which those in need are part. This proposal is based on five actions: ‘regenerating’, ‘giving back’ and ’empowering’ adds to ‘collecting’ and ‘redistributing’, typical of the Welfare State.

The aim is to move from the current welfare that collects and redistributes to a welfare that also regenerates resources, making them yield, thanks to empowerment linked to a new way of understanding social rights and duties. This new idea of welfare, therefore, invites to regenerate the (already) available resources, making the people who receive help responsible, in order to increase the performance of social policy interventions for the benefit of the entire community.

Solidarity is not a luxury but a condition for development. In a country where the richest 20 per cent of Italians hold more than two thirds of the national wealth, while the poorest 60 per cent hold just 14.3 per cent, and where energy poverty affects more than 4 million households, the key to overcoming this obstacle is to invest in the co-planning and co-designing of interventions, as envisaged in Article 55 of the Third Sector Code.

Building social cohesion, promoting participation and active citizenship, funding policies for peace, wealth redistribution and ecological transition must be the responses that are equal to the phase our country is going through and that will see the Third Sector once again on the front line alongside communities and territories, for the wellbeing of the community.

In a rapidly changing world in which healthcare and technology are converging, sustainable healthcare is no longer limited only to the significant social and environmental challenges we are currently facing. It means devising solutions that protect patients and healthcare workers, now and in the future. It means promoting research. It means embracing resilience at each stage of the care journey to continue doing what we have always done best: providing the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the intervention of the Third Sector is a key resource for building a competitive environment in welfare state policies. The third sector expresses society’s capacity to activate sufficient energies so that the problems on the ground can be resolved by promoting the construction of social protection networks that activate forms of shared responsibility on the part of all the actors present.

I supplement this response with the contribution of Dr Paola Pisanti, past president of FareRete InnovAzione BeneComune, having participated for three years in the hearings of the parliamentary intergroup on chronicity as a technical advisor.

The solutions suggested in the hearings organised by the parliamentary intergroup on chronicity make clear the need for national, regional and local institutions to recognise and enhance, increasingly, the contribution of volunteering in a systemic manner. After the approval of the “third sector code” (delegated law 2016 and implementing decrees), which regulates the constitutive processes and indicates the main modes of operation, the vision regarding the relations of the world of volunteering with the institutions has changed, envisaging the promotion of possible forms of co-planning and co-programming. To make the contribution of volunteering systematic as well as organic, in order to improve the qualitative/quantitative levels of protection and assistance in favour of the community, certain prerequisites must be fulfilled, including:

• The activation of a governance implemented with the contribution of all institutional and non-institutional, health and social, formal and informal, profit and non-profit stakeholders.

• The world of citizens’ and patients’ associations must be involved in the entire public policy cycle: identification of critical issues, definition of policies and planning of interventions, implementation of choices and evaluation.

• The creation of territorial networks in which, alongside the intervention of social and health professionals, that of the voluntary sector is also activated with rules and a common planning approach.

Where do private companies collaborating with the public health service stand in relation to the third sector? Is the third sector’s relationship with these entities different from that of public law bodies?

The definition of the ‘third sector’ is one that has become more widely accepted. The third sector joins two other sectors, those of the market and the state, the private economic sphere and the public sphere. At times it touches on them, traces certain logics, uses them, while always maintaining its own identity.

In this regard, a sort of oxymoron has also often been used in the past – and even today – ‘private social’, aimed at indicating a reality that has a private nature and, at the same time, pursues objectives of a social, or rather solidaristic, nature, responding to the needs of the community and society (to which some have opposed a vision of ‘public social’).

The term ‘third sector’ in itself defines perhaps the broadest category of institutions, which is extended not only to those that are non-profit, with a restriction on the non-distribution of profits, generally called non-profit, but also to those that can grant a return on capital to their members, albeit with limits, as in the case of cooperatives.

Nonetheless, it is necessary to consider how a different terminology is emerging that uses the term ‘nonprofit’ even for those subjects that we could instead define as ‘limited remuneration’. As has been pointed out by Ben Ner and Van Hoomissen (1991), it is necessary to outline the reasons why an entrepreneur chooses to become a non-profit, since the profit incentive is missing.

Following this approach, which limits the origin of the third sector to individual rather than a kind of collective entrepreneurship.

It often happens, that the non-profit organisation arises from associative or mutualistic processes, as a collective solution to a problem of a general nature or in any case relevant to a section of the population.
Another characteristic is size. Since these organisations often have an added value in basing their activities on a sort of ‘intuitus personae‘, the small size is ideal in order not to lose this capacity.

The ‘Reform of the Third Sector‘ refers to the set of regulations that reorganised the non-profit and social enterprise sectors. To date, the legislative intervention has not yet been completed, as not all the acts envisaged by the legislative decrees implementing enabling act 106/2016 have been issued. Delegated law 106/2016 defines the Third Sector as the set of private entities established for civic, solidarity and social benefit purposes that, without profit motive, promote and carry out activities of general interest, through forms of voluntary and gratuitous action or mutuality or the production and exchange of goods and services, in line with the purposes set out in their statutes or deeds of incorporation.

The range of socially useful activities goes far beyond the sphere of social policies and is intertwined with the idea of development, social innovation, employment and work in a community.

Relations between the public administration and the third sector today take the form of increasingly frequent dialogues, characterised by greater awareness of content, objectives and instruments. The ‘frequency’ of relations, as well as the institutional recognition by the legislator of the non-profit ‘actor’, does not necessarily imply virtuous circuits of relations. The principle of subsidiarity is in fact called upon to graft itself onto an inefficient and not very transparent public administration, which certainly does not facilitate process and product innovation, as the welfare reform would like.

The crisis is not only the result of the onslaught of neo-liberal policies that call for less state, less rights, less society, but also of the inadequacy of the old welfare state to cope with the social, economic and institutional changes in the age of globalisation. On the part of neo-liberal policies, the identified solution is the shift from public intervention (Welfare State) to the market (Welfare Market), in the context of which social rights are transformed into services (in the meantime privatised) purchased on the market by citizens who have become in the meantime consumer-clients. In this logic, welfare is only a market of services, where the third sector can also play a role of institutional supplacency (in the management of charity) or privatisation (in competition with for-profit subjects).

The third sector in the first case saves money for the state, in the second it becomes the calming element of a market, where the logic is that of profit, not solidarity and rights.

As I recommended earlier: there is no future without shared administration. In a perspective of subsidiarity that is not only horizontal but also vertical, assuming that its spread requires the joint action of loyal levels of government, according to an approach that starts from the principle of loyal cooperation but also aims at innovative forms of integrated decision-making. It is an approach that, in our legal system, suffers the limits deriving from the very uncertainty over the respective roles assigned to territorial administrations, but which can bear fruit in terms of further expansion and generalisation of the model of civic collaboration, an essential instrument of social cohesion.

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