The first Italian event for non-profits eager to innovate

At first it was a challenge, or perhaps even a hazard. Eventually, it ended up on being an unexpected success.

Techsoup Italy and three of the most major and influential foundations in Italy – Cariplo Foundation, St. Paul’s Company and CRT Foundation – have begun to support the sharing of ideas for creating an open dialogue around innovation for the Third Sector.

THE EVENT

Seeing the lack of space given to a deep understanding of how innovation can (positively) affect and foster civic society’s growth, we wanted to offer this space through a two-day public event in Milan.

Besides the main theme – innovation for the non-profit sector (which was discussed during morning plenary sessions) other topics included digital fabrication, open innovation and ICT, and data for good.

Day 1

Day 1 was led by Innovation for Development, a flagship initiative born by the strategic synergy between Cariplo Foundation, St. Paul’s Company and the CRT Foundation which was focused on international cooperation and development. Joining the event were more than 300 participants: NGOs and NPOs, social innovators, (tech) start-ups, social enterprises, university students, teachers and research centres.

The opening plenary and afternoon workshops investigated issues from different angles, with a spotlight on the kind of bottom-up tech innovation which is already changing the approach to development and migration issues – and will change it more and more in the future. The case studies and best practices presented showcased projects and initiatives taken by Italian and international NGOs committed to the matching of technology and innovation for greater social impact.

Day 2

Led by TechSoup Italy, Day 2 was primarily focused on technology, social innovation and digital transformation for the Third Sector.

The morning plenary provided a deeper understanding of the tremendous challenges which Italian civic society faces due to recent government reforms which will impact NPOs operations by requiring them to make more of their operations digital.  TechSoup CEO Rebecca Masisak spoke about the ways NPOs have leveraged technology to enhance their mission – e.g., an NGO called Fight the Stroke, and the TechSoup Global Network itself.

During the afternoon breakout, we invited TechSoup Italy donors to talk about tools and strategies nonprofits can use to tackle digital transformation. This was also a place where for-profits and not-for-profits shared ideas about digital transformation, with an emphasis on the idea that first a change of attitude is needed, and only then can the adoption of technology be successful.

WHAT WE LEARNED

More than seven hundred people attended the two days of TechSoup Italy’s Open Days of Innovation which included 2 plenary sessions, 4 workshops, 20 stands, 20 keynote speakers, and more than 4,000 people who viewed steaming of the event on Facebook (which was also live-streamed on the website page dedicated to open innovation, CSR and technology of the third most important newspaper in Italy. It also had very good coverage in the most influential sites and newspapers of Italian civic society.

The two days felt very vibrant, with people from the profit and not-for-profit sectors connecting for possible future ongoing relationships.

We at TechSoup Italy were surprised and happy that this “pilot” of the Open Days of Innovation was positively received by the Third Sector. We have finally had the chance to reach a greater audience and to tell the TechSoup Global Network story through the inspirational remarks of Rebecca Masisak. We are grateful for her support.

The conference helped establish TechSoup as a leader for innovation in civil society and a source of innovation and inspiration for nonprofits throughout Italy.