Interview with Daniela De Blasio, Parity Advisor of Reggio Calabria

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Posted on February 01, 2016

Social Innovation: what does it mean for you? The process of social innovation is a radical change of the concept that saw the public as the depository of certain knowledge, it imposed certain policies in a detached way. Today, policies must be reinforced and implemented by public/ private partnerships.

Recent news from the Italian newspaper, “Il Sole 24 Ore”, indicated a rank of “live quality”, in which Reggio Calabria is in the last position. Where should we begin in order to overcome this fact? There are many aspects from which we could start, all linked to the indicators which push Reggio Calabria in the last position. If you think of the services, Reggio didn’t have nursery schools for many years. A city where disabled are blocked in their houses because of too many architectural barriers. Also “Legambiente” evaluated the situation as negative. Looking at our sea, our location, you don’t notice the problem. But the problem is not linked to the fact that the see is beautiful, but to its usability, to tourism, and to everything nature gave us. Because, from this point of view we don’t have anything less than Bolzano, which is on the first position. But it is obvious that Reggio Calabria falls on the last position because of the lack of services.

Reggio has passed a bad period: 3 years of compulsory administration have left their mark. Priority was given to rebalancing the balance sheet and not to the population’s needs. Today, Reggio has a new administration, and it is for sure that Reggio has all the potential to leave these throes.

Are there any best practices of Social Innovation in Calabria? Examples of social innovation have been realized in that precise moment, when institutions were almost absent. Citizens, the voluntary sector and the civil society mobilized themselves and from there on many projects of social innovation raised from the bottom, also in partnership with institutions. For example, one linked to job creation by the requalification and the assignment of objects, confiscated from the mafia, and given to a group of needy women. It is a very strong partnership which links Confindustria, the region, the municipality, confcommercio, associations and an association of young architects:Pensando Meridiano. A network which made it possible to realize a successful project. This indicates the needed quality jump, institutions aren’t anymore detached from the territory’s needs, and therefore they respond to the population’s needs from the top. Citizens are involved and have the possibility to realize social innovation.

In your opinion, which role do women play in the societal innovation processes? Women have a fundamental role, as we can see in places where women demonstrated their competences. But it is obvious that, at the moment, this process regards only few women. Women must be given the possibility to emerge by processes of empowerment, in order to give their contribution. Their experiences can be a support for new generations and could change spaces, which culturally are only for men.

How can benefits, coming from new technologies and research, be converted in useful elements supporting social innovation? Technological innovation, access to information and knowledge. A society based on knowledge. The problem is that information networks must be networks consciously accessible to many people.

How does the world of work change? The world of work has changed in the past years. The crisis has emphasized the existing problems. Therefore, regarding the concept of the world of work, politics played an important role in a negative manner. Many years the concept was based on political nepotism, not on ability and credit. Credit is always been a secondary aspect. Maybe, in this moment, we must look for the credit which gives us the possibility to grow.

The metaphor “glass ceiling” is used to describe “the invisible but unbreakable barrier that doesn’t allow minorities and women to climb to the upper steps of leadership, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.” Until now, it has been dealt with the gender issue only in a quantitative manner (see quotas). How did gender policy evolve and how will be its future? The “glass ceiling” is still existing. After years of equality policies, often it is thought that gender equality has been reached. It is also thought that there is an equality between men and women, and that they have the same access to jobs and to sectors typically overawed by men. Still there are many things to do. Obviously it was a quantitative problem. Women must bring quantity but also quality. Women must be given the possibility to participate, to be competitive, and to be aware of their abilities.

In our project we decided not to deal directly with “gender equality”, because we strongly believe in the valorization of differences. In your opinion, in which way does “being a woman” contributes to your job? Does it create a problem o an enrichment? How does your entourage perceives it? Surely I generated something by being a woman. I lived situations in which women were in difficulty because they had to breastfeed in the bathrooms because of their precarious contracts without maternity protection. Obviously, the feminine sensibility brought me to protect women in maternity, not in function of law but by sensibility and ability of empathy. The competitiveness that exists between women, leads also to not recognizing women’s valor. A men’s characteristic is that they underrate women.

Do you have any suggestion regarding our vision, mission or activity? In which way would you like to be involved in WISE4ALL? And which could be your contribution? I think it would be innovative to create an European network, that includes cities like Reggio Calabria, which are in the south of Italy and of Europe. And then, cities from Northern Europe, where women are able to confront themselves always regarding growth, also of people outside the network. Only like this having different competences makes sense.

About the Author

Valentina Zoccali was born in Reggio Calabria (IT) in 1986. After a Bachelor’s degree in Letters and Philosophy, Valentina Zoccali studied Social Media Marketing and in 2008 she started to work in the fields of communication, advertising and culture. In 2012 she was appointed as Secretary General of S-Com. Besides carrying out tasks related to the management of the association and liaison with EU institutions and EU stakeholders, she has been managing the communication and dissemination of several EU-funded research projects. In 2015 she designed and launched the WISE4ALL (Women for an Innovative Society in Europe ) initiative to promote collaborative and multidisciplinary approaches, aimed at establishing more inclusive social models starting from women participation.