Today Cottino Social Impact Campus, the first centre in Europe dedicated to impact education. Tomorrow Cottino Learning Center, an international hub for positive social impact economy for future leaders and entrepreneurs. In the heart of the Cittadina Politecnica in Turin, Italy a new structure devoted to teaching-training innovation and social impact culture has been created: the project developed by Fondazione Cottino and the Politecnico to change the international training model, in light of sustainable development. For the project the Fondazione Cottino has allocated 6.5 million euro, of which 4 to the construction of the new Learning Center. The “first stone” in the new hub was set representatively the day of the Campus opening, during the international conference “Impactwise – A new chain of value for social impact”.
At the event Mariana Mazzucato, economist, professor of Innovation and Public Value at the University College in London, director of the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose and author of The value of everything explained how capitalism is broken. A frightening financialisation of the economy happened, which means both that the financial sector has become more important than the real economy, and that the real economy has become financialized: to say it with a pun, finance is financing finance. The investments focus on sectors that indicate the acronym FIRE: Finance, Insurance, Real Estate. It must also be said that the emphasis on companies, on a global scale, is more on repurchasing their stock rather than investing the same money on human capital, or for other productive investments: just the so-called Fortune 500 companies have spent three trillion dollars in shares buyback».
But even if the investments were there, the economist explains “we would need a deep transformation of the way they are granted and managed. Lets take the steel sector, that is in serious trouble both in Italy and in the UK. The companies have dealt with the crisis simply by asking for more funding and other types of government assistance, often obtaining them. But this is not acceptable: the governments don’t need to redistribute money, they need to create the conditions to transform the crisis sector.” But what are the transformations we are talking about? “Among our priorities there must naturally be the resolution of the matter of climate change, because of which in 12 years from now we might all be under water, but also with equal strength the need to solve the populism crisis: we run the risk of having a sustainable planet, but with no social justice, tolerance, inclusivity. The need to fight for a tolerant and equal society, based on collaboration and cooperation, in which diversity is respected, goes hand in hand with the importance of definancialization of the economy and with the fight against climate change. The three things are absolutely connected, because working on the first means pushing for a sustainable, green, inclusive growth. It means going from a model of value extraction to one of value creation. Everyone talks about robots and how they are taking our jobs, but it is not true. The problem is not technology, it’s that companies are not investing on workers: we need a sort of obligatory social contract that regulates benefits that companies enjoy and those what they need to give back to the public. The place where you can see this mechanism at work is Silicon Valley, where tech companies that have taken great advantage of public investments evade taxes penalizing public funding for schools and other infrastructure that are critical for citizens.
Raghuram Rajan, professor of Finance at the Booth School of Business at the Chicago University, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund and former Governor of the Indian Central Bank , who was also a guest at the even, underlines how “there are some important concerns and we cannot be totally optimistic and presume that technology itself will lead us in the right direction. I think that the problem, for example, with AI is not if there will be jobs at a fair salary, but if they will or will not be creative. I am convinced that the alliance between men and machines will provide an added value. Let’s think of healthcare services, where machines can be used to diagnose tumours and unclear cases with imaging, and doctors can then operate based on their knowledge and experiences. If, for example, with an MRI at the moment we can take 50 scans a week, with AI it could reach 500. In this way we could extend medical care without cutting out doctors. I therefore think that the real topic is not the loss of jobs but education and medical training so that they are able to offer an added value. But that’s not all.
With the spreading of AI, these services will become cheaper and more accessible, not only to rich or middle class people, but also to the poor. The use of these technologies in developing countries could diminish the inequalities, better the quality of life, reducing the number of people who run away, in time”.
Rajan emphasizes the role of the social fabric, which in the last decades has become torn and that will need a patient mending job. But emergencies, from climate to conflict, require rapid solutions: “The first step that can be made quickly is persuasion - Rajan replies - the element that moves democracies, as much as financial markets, is the expectation: if people see that change is happening, they will have more faith, they will be more patient. So, for example, if we think about cities or people who live 20-50 miles away from work, a measure that can be introduced immediately is the improvement of the network of transport that can guarantee workers the certainty of getting to work on time and with no discomfort. It is equally fundamental to guarantee everywhere and to the greatest number of people possible access to broadband so that they are not cut off and can take part in thedigital economy. Even in the well connected Europe there are excluded areas”.
In any case, it is an inexorable process that should then be able to bring a new balance in which the State recognizes major powers to the community (what Rajan calls “inclusive localization”) and in which markets change their dogmas, from a maximization of profits to a maximization of the value of the company (as Mazzucato underlines “lets go back to talking about value and not price”).
“It’s a matter of understanding how to generate a culture of integral sustainability and what knowledge will be useful”,Laura Orestano, CEO of the Cottino Social Impact Campus said at the conclusion of ImpactWise. “To embark on a cultural change towards the value generation we need additional knowledge, beyond academia and accelerators and incubators, looking towards the world of companies, of non profits and communities”.