Roberto Randazzo is a board member of ESELA and a partner at R&P Legal. Click here for his full profile.
I advise several different entities from the charity and social business sector on their development and management, as well as on fundraising, M&A transactions, tax and accounting matters. I have lectured on not-for-profit law at Bocconi University in Milan, as well as for several years been a lecturer on SDA Bocconi’s Masters programme in Social Enterprises, Non-profit Organisations & Cooperatives Management. Last year, I moved to the Polytechnic of Milan as a lecturer within the course on Social Innovation. As part of a wider involvement in this sector, I’ve been involved as an adviser on the development of new legal forms for charities and social enterprises in Italy.
Italy has a strong and consolidated tradition for social initiatives and cooperation; a fragmented scenario characterized by the constitutional subsidiary principle, which has guaranteed an effective support to the most disadvantaged classes of the country in the most crucial and often critical sectors, such as welfare, social services and health assistance. This was a great and unique point in favor of development of social enterprise law in Italy.
On the other hand, Italian traditions generated an approach to social enterprise law which is not inclined to welcome innovations, now essential for the development of social business and for generating a new approach combining social impact with sustainability and – why not – even with profit. The adoption of a new law introducing B Corporations (Società Benefit) in Italy (the first civil law state to do so, following more than thirty states in the US), and the reform of the Third Sector (still on the way for its approval, after more than twenty years of debate) seem though to be the signs of a new era for social enterprise law… even in Italy!
Despite the conservative approach which traditionally dampened the actual growth of this sector, I am finally witnessing relevant evolutions in the legal framework for social business in Italy. I am confident the upcoming years will mark a turning point with the dissemination of new legal instruments facilitating investments, development and growth of this sector.
Almost 20 years.
It’s a subject and a sector constantly calling for innovation and updates. It perfectly represents my approach to the law: innovative, pragmatic, effective and always evolving.
I had an inspiring meeting with representatives of Italian NGOs at the Italian Embassy in Uganda few years ago. It was simply astonishing to see how Italian social entrepreneurs, busy every day on the field and way far from where the never-ending debate on the reform of the Third Sector was going on, had a much more innovative and clearer vision about how social enterprise should and could work than most of the experts trying to reshape the law. They were asking for a bottom-up approach to the new law, starting from the needs on the field and not from the theory!
This proved to me once again how it is essential, if you want to call yourself a social enterprise law practitioner, to physically put your feet into the social business – meeting investors, entrepreneurs and getting familiar with the social needs beyond their activities.
Contamination! (by this, Roberto is referring to social enterprise as a disruptive, innovative force!)
Get yourself contaminated by other sectors and experience every aspect of social enterprise, from the concrete needs to the legal instruments and the potential financial perspective. Adopt a multidisciplinary approach and don’t try to reduce social enterprise into binding categories with caps and restrictions.