COVID-19 - Intrecci Cooperativa Sociale

Location: Italy

Intrecci Cooperativa Sociale is an non-profit organisation established in 2003 in Italy and operating under the umbrella of the activities undertaken by the Fondazione Caritas Ambrosiana. Their work centres around creating and managing services to support the inclusion and emancipation of those people who remain marginalised and socially-disadvantaged within society.

Intrecci has created the concept of a Solidarity Emporium: The Emporium is a pop-up food shop created to support vulnerable families. Families and individuals are free to choose the food and healthcare products available and acquire them through a pre-paid card which is provided by Intrecci. The card is loaded with points and each point corresponds to ~2.00 EUR. Cards are topped-up monthly for 6-12 months. There are currently three operational Solidarity Emporiums: one in Varese, one in Saronno and one in Garbagnate Milanese (all in the Province and Comune of Milan). Each one serves approximately 80 families (~220 individuals).

Intrecci is working with Caritas, and local community centres and helplines to indentify families for whom the NextEnergy Foundation can sponsor the cost of their pre-paid cards every month for 6 months. The initiative is beginning January 2021 as Caritas is expecting a rise in the number of people seeking financial support following the festive period and as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to continue to deepen in northern Italy.

September 2021 Update: All six cards have now been activated, and the first three cards will expire at the end of September, whilst the remaining three are valid until December 2021. Many of the adults arrived at the Emporium without a job and part of the support provided by Intrecci, alongside running the Emporium, has been to provide financial training to the families to help them to manage their economic resources effectively and to make the most of the social support they receive.

January 2022 Update: The project has now completed as the final pre-paid card has expired. In total, 10 adults, 8 children and 4 young adults (18-25 years) benefited from the Foundation’s support. Each pre-paid card covered the costs for the beneficiaries to shop at the Solidarity Emporium, as well as local social support and regular financial training to help the families to manage their economic resources effectively.

For some families, the project helped to alleviate household costs by not forcing them to choose between buying food or paying bills. For those where one or more adults were unemployed, the social support received was the necessary stepping stone to re-integrate into the labour market. Thus, the benefits of the project will continue beyond the project’s recent completion.