Interview with Nancy Saladino, Action Aid activist, Reggio Calabria (Italy)

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Posted on January 22, 2016

saladinoNancy Saladino is a sociologist who works in the social field over 30 years. She Her path has been very long, starting from the psychiatric field to the care and rehabilitation of drug addicts field. She has been involved in the active labour market and, thanks to this, she has become an expert of this sector, bringing together the care experience with the possibility to promote the access to job market for people in difficulty. In the last few years she has been working in international network, becoming an activist of the Action Aid; with this organization she is working in Calabria, a Region in the South of Italy, that she knows very well and where she has been always working.

Action Aid is an indipendent international organization engaged in fight against poverty. Its activity is based on human rights respect and it works together with the most marginalized populations and communities through long term development programs in Asia, Africa and South America. In the most rich countries Action Aid mobilizes citizens and involves directly enterpreneurships and institutions.

  1. In Europe the crisis of capitalistic model has brought to the appreciation of some social balance: climate changes, technological innovation, a bigger partecipation of the citizen/consumer to the decisional process, bring us to adopt more sustainable and ethical behaviour in the society. This phenomen, that is involving each Europe country, is like an invocation to social innovation. But what does social innovation mean in the South of Italy and specifically in our territory? Before talking about social innovation we must create foundations in our territory. Here in Reggio Calabria we always work in emergency condition: personal services don’t work as they should do and there are no basis on which to plan long-term policies. To do social innovation here means starting to do something. We must encourage citizens to do innovation together with public administration; we must create a condition that can foster innovation. We are working to achieve that.
  1. A recent news from an Italian newspaper, “Il Sole 24 Ore”, has indicated Reggio Calabria in the last position in the quality of life rank. Where we must begin to overturn this fact?  We have to take into consideration two different aspects. One is related to the institutional commitment: we must exit from the administrative numbness, starting to programm and creating technical tables, working in a legal and transparent way, by supporting active partecipation of the citizens; the other aspect is related to public partecipation of the citizens who become aware messangers of their rights. In the last year we have seen a certain opening to change by local government…if these mechanisms will start to moving then all the system can break through. Social policies have been missing for years and also industry is in a stasis period. Local government is in deficit and it is trying to collect money, energies and ideas in order to sturt up again several activities.
  1. What will be women’s role in the possible change? For example in this moment in our town there are women who give voice to concrete needs in specific fields. The need for change is firstly felt by women and women are those who most propose a new vision of the town.
  1. There is in practice no real public-private divide….What is important is to develop intelligent partnerships where each party knows its specific role better.” – Dr Lieve Fransen, European Commission. How can public-private partnership can promote social innovation? I have been working both in the public and private sector and I can say for sure that the most important thing is to collaborate and plan together. An example is what we do in the drug addiction field together with the local healthe centre. We start from different modus operandi, different points of views, different tools, but our aim is the willing to collaborate and plan together in order to solve issues. I think that now, even in the social sector, we have to start talking about enterpreneurial spirit.
  1. The Third Sector is being revaluated and is having more attention also by istitutions able to fund social development actions. What does the Third Sector need to become competitive in our area? First of all, we must always link entrepreneurs action with heart. Then it’s important beginning to do good work paying many attention to needs analysis, in order to program and plan with data available. Today the tendency is going directly to project, eluding the two previous phases. In addiction to this we must work on interventions, avoiding working in urgency.
  1. How, the Association you work with, deals with helping South of the world? How is it possible to create shared value on territory, through network projects? The action in the south of the world and the one done in Calabria both look distant. Little changes to improve quality of life: building reservoir, arranging vegetable garden, irrigating field. Providing tools to improve daily life, not only helping, but giving skills to manage independently. Our activities here concern a suburban neighborhood in Reggio Calabria, isolated from urban context that is called Archi. Here with ActionAid we have developed a project , used in other countries in the south of the world and then readjusted to our territory, obtaining concrete results . Firstly we have collected the needs of this part of the town, that have been neglected for a long time. Priority need is emerged, about reopening nursery school, that had been closed for many years and that represent a fundamental service to guarantee assistance to workers mothers, improving their life condition. Through a long awareness campaign promoted by ActionAid, thanks to territorial representative and activists, we finally have reopened nursery school here in Reggio Calabria.
  1. With your work you have the chance to take a picture about disadvantages in Reggio Calabria. What’s your opinion? Who has a central role to transform disadvantage in opportunity? And what we can do? Disadvantage in Reggio is represented by lack of services. Reggio is a “formal” town, in which there is not authentic share, because everyone lives their own problems alone. Young people don’t partecipate very much to public life. Activism is a path that must be followed, supported and leaded. We must spur young people to think about these subjects.
  1. In our project, we decided not to speak directly of “gender equality” also because we strongly believe in the appreciation of differences. In this sense, what it is in your opinion the contribution that your “being a woman” offers to your work? And this is a problem or an enrichment? How does it is perceived by the team you work with? In my opinion being a woman is neither a problem nor an enrichment, because only people can make the difference. Quality depends on people. I have never had this kind of problems in my team, because we share and collaborate in an equal way. I know open minded people and others less opened, but this thing doesn’t depend on gender. I know, of course, that some women have difficulties related on their gender. We also face against this. I think that nobody should have the feeling not to be able to do something just because of her/his gender.
  1. What is the real distance between Reggio Calabria and Europe? Actually I think that there is a great divide. Our Region, that today need support and assistance for serious deficiencies, has to create conditions and chances to change. Compared with the rest of Europe we need ideas, competitive professionalism…It’s necessary to come out from disadvantaged conditions, using our resources, like tourism and agricultural products, facing illegality that swamps every good and safe initiative. In this field we have already many examples and good results.

About the Author

Valentina Zoccali was born in Reggio Calabria (IT) in 1986. Now, she lives in Brussels and is Secretary General of S-com. She has been working in the fields of communication, advertising and culture since 2008. She studied Art & Communication at University of Bologna and Social Media Marketing. Her expertise is connected to social media methods and theories, civil society engagement and participation in innovation programs. She works to connect aspects of culture and communication in the processes of social innovation and sustainability in Euro-Mediterranean area.