School Storyline – The intangible matter of places: impact and innovation commons, ASP XVII Cycle

This year’s ASP Winter School winter school took the title The Intangible Matter of Places: Impact and Innovation Commons”. The school was inspired by Richard Nelsons’ icastic sentence “If we can land a man on the moon, why can’t we solve the problems of the ghetto?”, which is often used to compare our ability to manage and solve very complex technological challenges with our disheartening impotence when dealing with social challenges, such as inclusion and inequalities, due to their intrinsic nature of wicked problems.
Wicked problems were, in fact, the playground of ASP students. They were challenged to couple technological opportunities and social problems to create a tech-intensive innovation district inspired by MIND, Milano Innovation District, that is intrinsically conceived to produce desirable social outcomes, inclusion, and equal opportunities.
Within such a vision, new institutional arrangements between public and private actors were conceived to pursue actionable conventions aimed at triggering economically viable and investment-intensive solutions to social and environmental problems.
Achieving such a vision was certainly a contentious endeavour which presented students, in the shoes of public and private actors, with challenges and trade-offs. It was exactly the management of such trade-off through common goods and infrastructures the heart of the learning experience that students were offered in this year’s winter school, all accompanied by an exceptional setting in Loano, on the Ligurian shores

The Winter School was constructed with an ideal balance in mind between lectures with some of the best academics in their field, experts in the practitioner world who aimed to give a more hands on approach, and group work where the spotlight was right on the students and on their ability to create meaningful solutions.

The first day saw the arrival of the students accompanied by the opening of the ASP Director Professor Emilio Paolucci, who warmly welcomed the students before leaving the floor to Professor Giovanni Azzone. Through the words of the professor, the path that brought ASP students “from Loano to Loano” was recalled, retracing the steps and the stages faced in this 17th ASP cycle. The floor was then passed to Professor Mario Calderini, who gave a warm welcome to the students through an introduction to Impact and Innovation Commons, a crucial overview for the work of the week and for the integration of social impact and integral sustainability into their proposed actions. Dr. Angela Simone, from the Bassetti Foundation, then spoke about governing Research and Innovation responsibly, leaving finally the floor to Dr. Benedetto Camerana, from Camerana&Partners, who discussed the effects of digital innovation in urban design, with a main focus on the integration of ESG and prop-tech principles.

On the second day, Dr. Andrea Ruckstuhl from Lendlease gave a detailed and enlightening overview of MIND Milan and its place within the Tech-intensive Innovation Districts, as well as Lendlease’s role in this transformative process. Professor Matteo Robiglio, from the Politecnico di Torino, followed with an inspiring lecture with references to architecture, urban planning, and social impact, entitled Connecting Physical and Intangible Masterplans. Dr. Gorgi Krlev, from the University of Heidelberg, followed with an interesting lecture on Institutional Arrangements and Strategies for Impact. The afternoon of the second day was then marked by the insightful speeches of Professor Veronica Vecchi, from the SDA Bocconi School of Management, on the creation and management of Impact Public-Private Partnerships, to let Professors Hans de Bruijn and Ellen van Bueren, from TU Delft, close the day with a lecture on Managing Systems of Governance for Impact.

The third day was opened by Professor Maurizio Sobrero, from the University of Bologna, with an inspirational lecture on Impact Entrepreneurship and Innovation, followed by Dr. Stefanie Kneer, from Atypical, who provided students with a useful insight into impact investing with both theoretical insights and practical cases. In the afternoon, Professors Irene Bengo, from Tiresia and Politecnico di Milano, and Ellen van Bueren, from TU Delft, then discussed extensively about proper Impact Management and Measurement, a necessary requirement to adequately measure the social impact created. The afternoon of meetings then ended with a round table, or the Stakeholder Showroom about the perspectives on MIND Milano, with the participation of Dr. Sabrina Boifava (Unicredit), Dr. Igor Guida (Stripes), Dr. Paolo Petracca (Fondazione Triulza), Dr. Marica Nobile (Human Technopole), Dr. Leone Pattofatto (Equiter), and Dr. Caroline Winnett (SkyDeck).

From Wednesday evening, continuing through Thursday and Friday, the days were entirely dedicated to the students and their group work. After meeting their Tiresia tutors on Wednesday evening, researchers from the Technology and Innovation REsearch on Social ImpAct research centre at the Politecnico di Milano, under the supervision of Professor Mario Calderini, the students rolled up their sleeves and started their work. Throughout Thursday, students were tasked with providing start-ups, corporations, public and private actors and impact investors operating in MIND with impact objectives and strategies that were propaedeutic to the creation of bundles of impact and innovation commons to support MIND to achieve their vision. Based on this, Friday was dedicated to the negotiation activity, where students aimed at establishing connections between them to maximise impact in the MIND ecosystem. The resulting outcome was four different but thoroughly created ecosystems that, through connection and relationship building, maximised impact in different ways and through different means.

The concluding school of this 17th ASP cycle has certainly given the students an awareness of acting within ecosystems, where the creation of impact is also and above all conveyed by appropriate interconnections established between actors, aimed at maximising their synergies towards the creation of a truly transformative system. We hope that ASP students will take what they have learned during this week with them, and that they will treasure it and find it valuable when they face the ‘wicked problems’ of the future.