Isabella Di Paolo
Since 2017, our Community Challenge has been helping students aged 17-19 find solutions to problems around them. Now, we want to turn their ideas into reality. Teams of students and drop-outs from one of Italy’s poorest provinces will develop and pitch ideas to transform a public space around them, which will be voted on by students themselves, our team, and our local partners. The winners will co-implement a community project to improve the quality of life in San Severo.
San Severo, Puglia, Italy
Students from San Severo lack opportunities to create networks and to be involved in social activities in their community. Civic capital is low and young people often leave the area after their high school diploma. Our activities aim to involve students and drop-outs from vocational schools in the design of solutions to problems in their communities. Our aim is to give students tools (mainly in terms of non-cognitive skills and networks) to better understand social problems in their communities and to design sustainable solutions. We believe that the distance between theoretical education and students' needs is larger than ever. Innovations to bring young people closer to their reality on the ground can lead to higher civic participation and more engaged citizens.
Italy’s youth faces severe challenges due to lack of opportunities, especially in the South. Italy has the lowest share of graduates in the EU. In 2019, only 27.7% of 25-34 year olds had a university degree (the EU average is 40.8%). This hides strong inequalities. Over 75% of graduates came from humanities or science-oriented high schools (seen as more prestigious), and only 21% from vocational schools. In 2020, 14.5% of 18-25 year-olds dropped out of school early. While in the North early school leavers were 12.2%, this reached 18.8% in Puglia. School remains largely disconnected from the job market and civic education. Only the 12.1% of young italians (16-24) participate in volunteering activities (EU average is 22.4%) with a dramatic situation in the South (only 6.9%).
Short-term: 1 year
- Piloting the expanded Community Challenge in San Severo
- We will build upon our current OCTRI curriculum with an expanded Community Challenge, to include a 'pilot' implementation challenge prize in the town of San Severo
- We will identify at least 3 partners interested in working with us, from the private, non-governmental and public sectors
- 1 winning student project implemented in San Severo
Medium-term: 3-5 years
- Scaling-up the Community Challenge in other particularly marginalised areas of the country
- Expanding activities across Southern Italy (starting from Puglia)
- 3 student-led projects implemented each year through partnerships with public bodies and private foundations
Long-term: up to 10 years
- Strengthening partnership model with public bodies, foundations and research centres at the local and national level
- Delivering research to inform Ministry of Education planning on secondary school curriculum (focus on STEM, practical and soft skills)
- Collaboration with EU organisations working on education
- Up to 10 student-led projects per year across the country
Poliferie’s unique OCTRI curriculum (Opportunities, Community, Technologies, Relations, Ideas) helps students develop soft skills, teamwork and public speaking abilities. It supports students from marginalised backgrounds to enter employment, university or higher vocational education. In the long run, it aims to reduce the number of NEET, address inequality and promote intergenerational mobility. Our approach combines five interactive workshops and a Community Challenge, in which students work together to develop and pitch innovative solutions to societal problems. With the expansion of the Community Challenge to include a small cash prize and implementation component, students will apply learning acquired through our classes, and work with partners to address local challenges.
The Community Challenge will help students to better understand their value in their communities and realise they can be agents of change. The project will give students the opportunity to think of themselves as active citizens who can make a difference. For our students, the Community Challenge is an opportunity to explore what they don’t like about spaces in their community and suggest ideas to change it. We want to reward students’ best ideas with the possibility of implementing their project in their own community involving private and public local actors. This will benefit the students who will show how they can contribute to the civic life of the community and will also contribute to the improvement of local communities with concrete solutions.
Entirely volunteer-led, Poliferie’s team grew rapidly from 76 to 128 in the eight months since June 2020. Our volunteers are based across Italy and beyond, including in the UK, Germany, Spain and Turkey. We have a young, dynamic team: with an average age of 26, we are mostly in university, recent graduates or young professionals, and are familiar with the economic and social challenges faced by young people across the country. We are organised into two different types of team: City teams, which are more connected with the locations where they work, and are responsible for the relationship with schools, organising workshops and classes; and Support Teams which develop our strategy, communications, coordinate human resources and city teams, and evaluate the impact of our offer.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
We will invest the €35,000 prize in moving away from a purely volunteer-based model, to having one full-time member of staff developing San Severo Community Challenge, setting up networks at the local level and engaging with private and public sector actors.
-Staff costs: EUR 31500
-Prize for schools: cash prize which will cover implementation of community project: EUR 2500
-Website domain: EUR 100
-Social media/ marketing: EUR 200
-Insurance: EUR 700
We would love feedback on our idea, including potential partners we could reach out to in the Puglia region (and beyond) so as to involve them in our Community Challenge project.