Date: 15-07-2020

BLOG: Lockdown: Time to Wait or Moment of Opportunity?

“At this moment there are three possible scenarios for a non-profit organization:
1) come out strengthened - but few will do it;
2) find itself in crisis and risk closing;
3) find itself in crisis and having to rethink about itself, its mechanisms
of solidarity, its reason for being, to respond to people's real needs.
In this third scenario there is the great opportunity for the non-profit world
to be a creator or aggregator of meaning.”

Andrea Colamedici, philosopher

As a response to the COVID-19 national lockdown measures in Italy, Associazione 21 luglio has chosen the third scenario mentioned above by resorting to systemic thinking as a privileged tool to read and interpret the new reality in its complexity, acquire tools, choose operational strategies and thus, decide how to respond to the unprecedented situation arisen during the lockdown. A systemic approach considers reality as a complex structure and involves all the relevant actors because it aims to intervene holistically on the reality it wishes to change.

The following are the steps that marked the strategy the Association adopted during the lockdown period:

  • Focus on specific peripheral territorial areas

During the lockdown period, Associazione 21 luglio made the decision to focus its attention on four territorial areas of the city of Rome where we were already present. These areas are united by spatial and relational segregation, difficult socio-economic conditions and stigmatization.

  • Updated data on the impact generated by the lockdown

In order to obtain an holistic vision with a clear definition of key actors and resources to be deployed, a complete and updated data on the impact generated by the lockdown was required.

Through monitoring and research, and starting from the first day of the lockdown, Associazione 21 luglio has been monitoring four designated areas to understand the impact of the quarantine on their inhabitants.

In both the monitoring and research actions, a critical issue immediately emerged: the stop to freedom of movement imposed by the governmental decree was preventing families from carrying out the usual informal work necessary for daily sustenance, placing families (especially those with young children) at risk of food deprivation.

  • Containing the negative effects generated by the lockdown

With risks identified, in the emergency period Associazione 21 Luglio developed an operational strategy primarily on the axis of:

  1. Containing food deprivation of children from 0-3 years old, by distributing every week personalized baby packages to 250 families.

With the involvement of a pediatrician and an obstetrician, we designed five types of packages, depending on the age of the child, the food requirements for homogenized products including pasta, and on the need or not for infant formula. Moreover, all packages included diapers and sanitizing wipes for the hygienic care of children.

  1. Collecting goods campaign conveyed a message privileging the characteristics of the beneficiaries (family units with young children aged 0-3), avoiding the stigma of the communities involved.

    The goods collected were packed and delivered once a week, on Saturday mornings, outdoors in the garden of “Polo Ex Fienile”, an educational center characterized by enthusiasm and friendship.

  2. Promoting interventions on different levels such as:
    1. WhatsApp groups to keep in touch with mothers to give advice, listen to them, give relief in the most difficult times, send ideas for activities to carry out with their children during the hours spent at home.
    2. A service that allowed the listening to fairy tales in Italian and in Romanes (Romani chib) called “Tales on the phone”.
    3. An appeal to the Mayor Viriginia Raggi and the Prefect Pantalone to urgently activate measures aimed at protecting the right to health and school continuity.
    4. Internet access available to children living in the slums so that they could connect to school online platforms.
    5. A social assistance service to facilitate access to different forms of public economic support.

  3. Planning of interventions aimed at giving sustainability to the actions implemented during the emergency period:

    1. Promoting a campaign on social networks for the donation of material goods necessary for the distribution of “baby packages”;
    2. Prioritizing the donation of goods to the money transfers;
    3. Requesting from foundations and private bodies to obtain emergency funding.

A post-emergency vision

To promote structured models capable of generating long-term impact, guaranteeing their replicability and their multiplier effect, we started drafting ideas for the construction of a post-emergency vision.

If during the lockdown Associazione 21 luglio’s immediate response was concentrated on combating food deprivation, in the post-emergency period it is essential for the resolution of the issues related to the inequalities produced by the crisis, families and mothers in particular, to be supported in a regenerative process of community creation. Although the Association views the family as a system and acknowledges as well as promotes male caregivers’ involvement, our efforts focus primarily on empowering women, because we believe that since they are not recognized and actively involved in the society, their voices are not heard, and the women themselves are not aware of their power, a regenerative process of community is impossible. This is pivotal to avoid welfarism in the long term and rather lay the foundations for a structural change where women and mothers become protagonists of community creation.

Written by Carlo Stasolla, a founder and President of Associazione 21 luglio, with 30 years of experience in the field of Roma inclusion

Photo by Fabio Moscatelli