Italy, City of Milan
Launched in 2017
Milan is strongly committed to inclusiveness and anti-discrimination. A powerful tool to support this commitment is the direct involvement of the local community in integration efforts. Through the ‘Bella Milano’ (Beautiful Milan) initiative, asylum-seekers living in Milan reception centres volunteer together with Milanese citizens in taking care of public spaces in the city (cleaning green spaces, emptying trash bins, etc).
In order to reward asylum-seekers for their voluntary work, Milan Municipality and Merits S.r.l. jointly developed a reward mechanism: asylum-seekers are offered “merits” – digital social vouchers that they can spend in the shops participating in the initiative.
The purpose is that of creating opportunities for integration and understanding, and the mechanism generates positive effects on many levels. First of all, it improves relationships with the local community, as asylum-seekers become better known in their neighbourhood, thanks also to the mentoring offered by Milanese volunteers who operate as “personal shoppers and city-guides.” Secondly, it has a positive impact on the neighbourhood’s economy, with asylum-seekers spending their “merits” at local businesses. Thirdly, during the simple, daily act of shopping together asylum-seekers and Italian volunteers learn a lot about each other as individuals and about their respective cultures: strong personal bonds are created.
“Since October 2013, more than 130,000 asylum-seekers have chosen Milan as a transit spot on their way to other European cities, or as a safe place where restart their life. The Municipality of Milan, as a welcoming city, decided to play a positive role in managing the reception of asylum-seekers and refugees. ‘Bella Milano’ highlights the importance for welfare systems to transform and adapt to changes. The lessons learnt from this experience can become a sort of heritage to be invested also in other volunteering activities in the city, and the rewards mechanism can become a fundamental component of welfare management. The goal is for enterprises and the private sector to invest in such initiatives. ‘Bella Milano’, moreover, allowed for a general improvement of the city’s capacity to respond to the social inclusion challenges of the city.”
Director of Social Emergencies, Rights and Inclusion Department, Municipality of Milan
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