A trip to San Patrignano and the Positive Economy Forum

Written by Eleonora Rizzo

During Easter holidays, I had the incredible opportunity to participate to the Positive Economy Forum that took place the 9th and 10th April and was hosted by the community of San Patrignano- a unique social reintegration centre, located in the province of Rimini.

San Patrignano is maybe the most important example of social enterprise here in Italy. It was founded in 1978 to help young people to recover from drug addiction, offering them a home, legal and medical assistance, the opportunity to study or to learn a job, and finally to regain their status as full members of the society. Since then the community has taken care of almost 25.000 young people and it annually hosts 1.300 residents. 
I and other Bocconi students from other associations (180 Degrees Consulting, Bocconi Students for Microfinance)  had the chance to touch by hand this amazing reality and, I must admit, it surprised me more than I would ever thought. 
The community is set in a beautiful green area, surrounded by gentle hills, vineyards and orchards in which the community members work every day to produce their high-quality wines and biological food products. We were welcomed in the big diner room where all the residents share their meals together: from the very beginning I felt surrounded with peace, joy and respect.

Although the beauty of the place itself can easily misguide, we should not forget the pain and sufferance that lie behind the appearance. The aim of the community is to create a protect environment where the individual can grow, mature, learn good role model of reciprocal support and solidarity, and in the end become free and independent. It is a hard path to follow, the process has not a standard length but it varies following the necessities of every patient. The residents and their families do not have to pay for the assistance received within the centre; anyway, it is their exclusive decision to start the recovery program, no one can force them to stay within the community: it is process of personal growth. The results of scientific studies carried out by the Universities of Bologna, Urbino and Pavia demonstrate that nearly 70% of the community members are fully reintegrated into society and remain drug-free after their experience. 

Fundraising is a fundamental step for the life of an association that accepts no money from the government. The goods and services produced by the community self-management system cover nearly half of the day-to-day expenses and funds needed to carry out a service free of charge. The other half in covered by donations of private citizens, companies and foundations. 

During our tour we were able to look at the various activities that members can choose to perform during their residence: from the kitchen to the bakery, from the weaving factor to the leather workshop. San Patrignano sells its food products in many important supermarkets such as Billa, Iper, Sigma, Esselunga, etc. ; its graphic design agency works for important clients such as Terranova and Iper. All the manufactured goods are sold at “Sp.accio” (Coriano) and “Spazio Sanpa” (Milano). The community is autonomous for most of its needs: there is a medical centre, a study centre with 14 classrooms and 4 different school courses, a chemical laboratory, electricians and plumbers. 
San Patrignano’s philosophy is to achieve the excellence in every field. As one of the patients explained to us during our last lunch in the community: “People should come and buy our products because they want to. They should not be moved by pity or by social awareness. We want to produce the best wine, the most delicious biscuits and the softest scarfs, we want to do our best and be competitive on the market”.
The effort put into work is the key to regain self-esteem, respect for the others and to hold one’s head high once again in society.