Parafrasando Obama, qualsiasi cosa succeda, il 5 Dicembre sorgera’ il sole!

E quando il sole sorge facciamoci trovare pronti. Un paio di considerazioni ci possono tornare utili:

  1. Il governo non cambia e se cambia cambia di poco
  2. Sia che vinca il no o  che vinca il si, bisogna rimettere mano alla costituzione o alla sua modifica.

A questo punto la questione secondo me fondamentale per la sinistra e’ di mettersi al lavora fin da ora per costruire ponti con il governo Renzi, perche’ le modifiche vengano effettuate mettendo al centro la cittadinanza, il principio di uguaglianza e la partecipazione.

In May 2008 the Council of Europe launched the “White Paper on Intercultural Dialoguewith the view of answering to the questions: “How shall we respond to diversity? What is our vision of the society of the future? [..]” (Council of Europe, 2008, pg.3).

Though it is a document that was produced in 2008, the “White Paper” is an interesting and well thought piece of work that tries to provide suitable answers to issues that are arising because of internal and international migrations very relevant today.

The document provides first a quite useful introduction to the approaches to cultural diversity such as assimilation and the multicultural theories, before providing argument to move into a inter-cultural dialogue approach.

Assimilation is presented in the context of the European nation-state of the mid 19th century, which in European tradition has been formed on the basis of rigid exclusive national identities and the principle of pride to belong to a certain fatherland. The assimilation theory applied to the European context proved to be quite ineffective after the World War II, where many immigrants coming from the old colonies did not have any chance to be integrated in a European country if not through an assimilation process intended mainly as homogenization with the dominant culture.

Assimilation has been than overtaken by the Multicultural approach, which was intended to protect and support the minority groups and the marginalized cultures. Multiculturalism was aiming at a society in which, different cultures, different habits and different religions could coexist peacefully. The most recent years and the global migration started in the 1980s challenged also this approach. The European Union member states proved not being able to effectively integrate the presence of a lot of different cultures, different minority groups, which don’t communicate among each other, which don’t share some common principles, which basically live in rigid, distant non communicating groups. The critics to the discreetness of cultures that was operated to the colonial powers (Amselle, 1999) could be replicated at home.

The White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue intends to respond to this issue introducing the intercultural dialogue as a necessary approach to cultural diversity. According to this approach cultures are requested to be able to enter into dialogue on the basis of a set of common values and principles shared by all the citizens that intend to live in the EU. The common principles that need o be shared by all the citizens are an agreement on the respect of Human rights, democracy, the rule of law, equal dignity and mutual respect, gender equality, attempt to remove barriers to intercultural dialogue such as poverty or exploitation and respect for other religions.

The Intercultural Dialogue though has also been challenged. According to Welsch (Welsch W. 1999, p. 196), Intercultural dialogue suffers of the same initial mistakes of considering cultures as “islands”, in this case they are islands that dialogue instead of simply cohabiting like in the case of multiculturalism, but still “islands”. As he puts it: “The concept does not get to the root of the problem. It remains cosmetic.”

Welsch identifies the solution in “Transculturality”, which he builds on the emphasis he puts on the network and the interconnections at the individual level. The histories of individuals are already a hybrid construction of different cultures, habits and practices, it is now required that Transculturality is accepted as an analytical as well as a normative theory.

Interestingly the concept of Transculturality has been used especially in Ethno-psychiatry or transcultural psychology, where the cultural components are investigated at individual level and it is considered a production of interpersonal relations in the first place. The concept could prove to be quite useful especially in the way it considers cultures. Not as containers of practices and people, not as a label for a group of people who share some degree of habits, rather a set of tools and instruments people use to entertain relations.

Applying the theories – Managing real issues

All these sound like very interesting theories and ideas, but how they can actually help us in solving real issues, such as Cultural Conflicts, Illegal trafficking or benefit sharing with hosting communities? I believe transculturality could provide a solid answer to all those questions.

Cultural Conflicts:

A change in attitude in the way the people are perceived could have positive effects in the reduction of conflicts. Many of the so-called cultural conflicts are possible because people are seen not as individuals, but as representatives of a different group, a different culture that bring all together a different lifestyle and different religions that could threaten the culture and the habits of the residents in the receiving country. This kind of change would transform the way the other is perceived. Not a representative of another culture, but an individual with his or her own expectations, ambitions, desires and dreams. What could be considered a general threat if kept into the discrete category of culture, could be transformed into a fruitful relation if considered only an individual. The transcultural approach could provide the theoretical background for such change of attitude, much more than the multicultural and even the intercultural approach, which instead focuses on general dialogue between cultures instead of starting from the real individual and the relation it could be built exactly with him or her.

Migration related illegal activities:

The way the migration work at the moment leave the impression that immigrants are  not functional to the society. Even worst, it is argued that states keep legal migration very strict to cheer their citizens, allowing illegal movements of immigrants that are needed for the production. In order to change this, we should recognize the role of immigrants not only in our factories, but also in our societies. The transcultural approach could support this inclusive attitude from which we would have clearer policies from receiving countries’ governments on their real needs and requirements and on the other side a greater participation of immigrants to a society they would feel to be part of.

Benefit sharing:

Of course hosting communities should see some benefits too.  This should be done with specific actions that provide incentives to communities that host migrants in the form of financial incentives or tax relief for joint businesses and start ups.

Conclusion – Culture as relations’ booster

A ‘paradigm shift” is more and more necessary on the way we think and use the term “culture” and its plural version “cultures”. The Transcultural Theory I tried to present is to me a solution that deserves to be taken in consideration for many of the issues related to migration.

The concept of culture we are used to, risks considering the cultures as containers. The paradigm shift needed would consider cultures not as containers (as per the classical definition of Taylor culture is “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”, Taylor E., 1920), which can end up even including people, rather as a tool for the interaction. I would imagine cultures more like a “software or operating system” that could provide meaning to a relation (with other individuals, groups, but also to the nature, etc), instead of such a complex whole of different things. Insisting of this change in attitude could provide the best basis for a better management of migration in receiving countries.




Amselle J. L., 1999, “Logiche Meticce. Antropologia dell’Identita’ in Africa e altrove”, Bollati e Boringhieri, Torino

Council of Europe, 2008, “White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue – Living together as equals in dignity ”, CoE, Strasbourg

Epstein M., 1999, “Transculture in the Context of Contemporary Critical Theories” in Epstein M, 1999, “Transcultural Experiments: Russian and American Models of Creative Communication, New York: St. Martin’s Press (Scholarly and Reference Division), 1999, pp. 79-90  (Chapter 4)

Tylor, E., 1920 [1871]. Primitive Culture. New York: J.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Welsch W., 1999, “Transculturality – the Puzzling Form of Cultures Today”, in Featherston M. and Lash S. (edited by), 1999, “Spaces of Culture: City, Nation, World”, Sage, London

Le risposte un po’ affannate dell’intelligentsia europea alla crisi post brexit lasciano confusi. Juncker dice che il divorzio non sara’ consensuale il tutto per scoraggiare altri stati ad uscire. Prodi (che comunque e’ il piu’ lucido: il rosmarino e Blair in questa intervista sono passaggi splendidi!) parla del ruolo dei paesi guida. Tusk, che la deve aver presa proprio male per parlare di fine della civilta’ occidentale, parla di leader determinati a mantenere l’unita’ (come se dipendesse da loro). Renzi, Merkel e Hollande si riuniscono per dare l’impressione di avere tutto sotto controllo, rilanciando ancora l’idea che la soluzione siano gli stati-nazione (solo alcuni tra l’altro) e mai i cittadini e mi viene davvero da chiedere se e’ stato utile tutto questo grande fracasso.

Almeno facciamo in modo di usare la Brexit come occasione di rinnovamento vera per l’EU altrimenti e’  una tragedia con dei costi enormi per nulla. Le tragedie possono essere utili se le usiamo bene.

La vera lezione che dobbiamo apprendere e’ che gli “stati-nazione” e i leader che le guidano hanno del tutto e definitiavmente esaurito la loro funzione. La Scozia reclama un referendum per la sua indipendenza e vuole aprire un fascicolo per restare in Europa da sola, in Irlanda del Nord si parla di riunificazione con l’EIRE e addirittura Londra si vorrebbe proclamare citta’ stato, cosa per altro condivisa anche da altre parti.

Possiamo finalmente mettere al centro i cittadini europei e non gli stati Europei (o i loro leader)?

Cittadini Europei ci sentiamo gia’ da un pezzo e degli stati ce ne facciamo ormai poco e niente.

Per questo propongo: cittadinanza europea a tutti i cittadini britannici che la vogliono richiedere!

L’Europa ha senso se non si pensa piu’ come associazione tra stati e si pensa invece come organizzazione di cittadini e per far questo dobbiamo proprio ripartire dalla cittadinanza.



Purtroppo la vittoria dei “Leave” e’ una doccia fredda per tutti e sicuramente un brutto risveglio per molti in Europa. Non si preannunciano tempi facili e servira’ probabilmente una grande dose di buona volonta’ per evitare che le conseguenze siano peggiori delle gia’ cupe aspettative.

A parte il crollo della sterlina e delle borse asiatiche, il primo dato a caldo (e a distanza) che esce da questo voto e’ la spaccatura che c’e’ nel Regno Unito e forse in tutto il continente tra chi ha piu’ opportunita’ e chi ne ha meno. Chi ha votato “Remain” erano per lo piu’ giovani ed con una educazione elevata; chi ha votato leave sono per lo piu’ ultracinquantenni, con titoli di studio bassi ed esponenti di una “middle class” fortemente impoverita dalla crisi e dalle politiche economiche degli ultimi decenni. Guardando la mappa fa impressione vedere come i Remain vincano nella City (e in Scozia) mentre nel resto del paese e soprattutto nel NordEst abbiano vinto quasi ovunque i Leave.

Insomma il vero nodo mi pare sia la disuguaglianza, che genera la paura e l’incertezza per il futuro a cui falsi profeti rispondono con il nazionalismo. Sta succedendo dappertutto.

Sara’ forse per il pessimo umore di questo momento, ma siccome in Europa non siamo mai stati tanto bravi a gestire i nazionalismi, la paura comincio ad averla io.

Probabilmente serve una grande risposta, una risposta comune di tutti, partiti e societa’ civile che affronti davvero il problema della disuguaglianza e dell’accesso alle decisioni.

Lo so che sono importanti le questioni sull’Italicum e le critiche a Renzi, ma sinceramente rispetto alla portata dei temi davvero grandi che abbiamo davanti, mi sembra che stiamo solo perdendo tempo.

On the first of April 2016 a new government took power in Myanmar. For the first time in 60 years a civil government has been elected democratically.
The expectations are huge, perhaps only smaller than the disappointment that may follow. These expectations add up to the list of challenges that this new government will have to face. Among those ones there are some challenges that this government inherited from the previous one and certain others that it is taking with it.
A major concern is related to the peace process and the ethnic divisive discourse that is emerging, including the fights that erupted between ethnic groups. The fighting between TNLA and RCSS in Northern Shan State is raising the acrimony between Shan and Palaung ethnic groups. The peace dialogue will probably exacerbate the divisions between signatories and non-signatories of the National Ceasefire Agreement and between bigger and smaller ethnic groups. This could be further fueled by the release of the Census data on ethnicity and religion. Frictions between ethnic groups are a new development that sums up to the long standing fight between the smaller ethnic groups and the Bamar majority. The NLD has been able to unify the country during the last election, winning also among ethnic groups. This is a critical political capital that shouldn’t be wasted
The recent election of U Htin Kyaw as president, the decision to take over four ministries for herself and the even more worrying decision to drop two after few days, shows Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s willingness to hold control over all decisions and her resistance in delegating power. Though in critical times facing responsibility without fear could be very important, the dimension of the challenges ahead would require a much higher degree of inclusion in decision making to share the burden of an otherwise unbearable weight.
The major risk though is represented by the lack of vision of the future of the country. The inspiring vision of a democratic and free country seems to have run out in the very moment this government was freely and democratically elected, thus accomplishing that vision. This was the finish point of a long and painful march, that has been walked with heroism and persistence by the people and its leader. The question is how it could also be the starting point for a new journey, one that needs to be walked by the country in its entirety, including all the persons are part of it.
I wouldn’t have been able to write down these opinions only few years ago and this is already a great achievement. The freedom and liberty is now strongly part of the political environment in this country and allows everyone to voice their concerns and make their suggestions, contributing to the political life of the country. This is a precious gem that should not be only the price for its past, but the corner stone to build its future.
Because of its history and successes, Myanmar could keep inspiring the region and the world by creating a vibrant and strong democratic society. The work has not finished yet. Democracy in Myanmar is still very fragile, is maybe part of the institutions, but should be part of the society as well. There are two ways of doing that. On one side strengthen the Civil Society (Associations and organizations, but also the press, academia and private sector) and on the other to put at the center of the political action the persons, the women and men that form the country as citizens. Politics tend to think by groups (religious groups, ethnic groups, old regimes affiliates groups), but persons should be the main concerns of politics instead. Every single individual that lives in this country should feel to be part of it and proud to contribute to something amazing: a participant to a peaceful revolution in society that can inspire others to do the same.

Partnerships modalities between funding agencies and National NGOS, CSOs and CBOs have been deeply explored. The Resource Guide “Donors’ Civil Society Strategies and Partnership Modalities” developed by UNDP in 2012[1] offers a very clear and comprehensive overview of the various ways different donors approach partnerships.

The need of ensuring adequate transparency and accountability in most cases though drives the way the partnership is shaped, with a great emphasis usually put on the  bilateral contractual relation and a strong attention to compliance to donors’ procedures. The complexity of the environments where those partnerships take place, pushes us to consider ways to think about partnerships not as a simple bilateral relation between the CSOs and the funding agencies, but as a dynamic relation that is influenced and influences the context they are in.

Taking inspiration from natural ecosystems, I would define this an ecological approach[2] to partnerships. This can be defined as the approach used to understand the dynamic interrelations among the various organisms. An ecological approach is in particular looking at all the variety of relations (social, institutional, and cultural), the multiple dimensions and levels complexity of human relations[3].

We can define Systems as “regularly interacting or interdependent group(s) of items forming a unified whole[4]. In order moreover to understand how the systems dialogue with their parts and the environment they are in, we can borrow a definition that is coming from the natural science for which (eco)-systems are defined “by the network of interactions among organisms, and between organisms and their environment”[5].

If we keep using this metaphor, we could actually identify each development sector as the system where the development action takes place (Livelihood, Health, Educations, etc.).

Each system is inhabited by organisms that interact and dialogue among them and with the environment they are in. All those organisms (organizations, CSOs, CBOs, NGOs, media, academia and individuals) are potential partners to the action.

While all the organisms can be considered potential partners, the ones that are more interconnected with the others can be considered as knots of the network of interactions and interlinks which form the system. These represent therefore possible activators of even more frequent interactions and inter-connectivity, making the all system more stable and resilient. Those are the players that can moreover have a greater influence in making changes happen within the systems.

There is a great variety of possible partnerships and therefore a variety of relations that can be established between Organizations.

An ecological Approach to Partnerships

Ecological Approaches are already used in a variety of different sectors and disciplines such as Public Health[6], Learning[7] or Social Work[8] and in all those disciplines they aim at capturing the complexity of dynamic interrelations among the various parts of the systems and the environment they are in.

The use of an ecological approach is particularly relevant in the case of multilingual – multicultural contexts where the level of complexity is defined by the number of relations between the various cultures and languages spoken and used.

“The term ‘ecology’ is used to underscore the interconnections across the communication resources and needs of individuals and groups within a particular society. It is critical to address all aspects of communication (spoken and written) within a community, rather than to act on some in isolation and so attention is needed at the sub-national, national and extra-national levels”[9].

Applying an ecological approach to partnerships, allows for a better understanding of the roles different partners can play and how they can be effective actors of change. It allows moreover to engaging in a variety of partnership modalities with different partners according to the role they play and the position in the geography of relations they occupy.

Some partners may therefore engage in direct service delivery, while others may be involved on consultation and advocacy actions and others again may receive support in terms of Organization Development.

The important aspect of this approach is that a donor would act as an activator of interconnections and interactions among stakeholders. Partners are therefore to be selected on the basis of their potentiality of becoming knots within the system. This might happen because of their centrality in the relations they are already involved in or because of the potential they represent to boost dynamic interconnections within the system.

These partners are to be considered the Champions of change a donor aims at strengthening a relation with, as crucial stakeholders within a system for real and lasting change to happen.

Advantages of an ecological approach to partnerships

In very complex contexts that often are multi-layer, multi-level and multi-stakeholders, an ecological approach to partnerships have some advantages that can be critical to the success of the partnering process.

  • An ecological approach, especially if combined to a Political-economic analysis on the main issues affecting a specific sector, allows for a better understanding of contexts that are strongly influenced by the high number of actors, because it does not only take into account the number of stakeholders and their capacities, but also their dynamic relations.
  • The support provided to a variety of stakeholders will increase the overall stability of a particular system and its resilience to possible external shocks. It will strengthen the overall social textile within a specific sector, making the changes last longer and being more sustainable.
  • An ecological approach is conflict sensitive and with proper analysis allows bringing no harm to the different stakeholders because it assesses and reassess the relations among the different players and takes into account the pressure and solicitation put on those relations by the action.

[1] UNDP, (2012), “Donors’ Civil Society Strategies and Partnership Modalities”, UNDP, New York


[3] Ernst-Detlef, S.; Beck, E.; Müller-Hohenstein,K.; 2005. Plant Ecology. Berlin: Springer

[4] Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[5] McLaren, L.; Hawe P.; (2005). “Ecological Perspectives in Health Research”. J Epidemiol Community Health 59: 6–14

[6] Crosby, R.A, Salazar, L. F., and DiClemente, R. J., “Ecological Approaches in the New Public Health”, in DiClemente et al., (2013), “Health Behavior Theory for Public Health”, Jones & Bartlett Learning, pg. 231

[7] Normak, P., Pata, K., & Kaipainen, M. (2012). An Ecological Approach to Learning Dynamics. Educational Technology & Society, 15 (3), 262–274.

[8] Pardeck, J. T.; (2015), “An Ecological Approach for Social Work Practice”, The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare: Vol. 15: Iss. 2, Article 11.

[9] Lo Bianco, J.; (2013); “Language and Social Cohesion”, pg. 9

2015 has been an important year for development organizations and NGOs. The SDGs, the Expo2015 and the Climate Conference in Paris were all important events that created the occasion to reflect and think about the future of INGOs. More than that, 2015 has been also an important deadline to look at. This is the purpose of deadlines, they set the urgency and require the attention to stay focused on clear objectives. With no clear deadlines we would probably tend to procrastinate and postpone indefinitely the achievement of ambitious goals.

Now that the 2015 has gone, I think we need to set a new horizon to dream about, a new deadline that could force us to take action. I would propose 2035.

Why 2035?

In their 2014 Annual Letter[1], Bill and Melinda Gates make a bold statement that really caught my attention. At page 7, arguing against the myth for which all poor countries are doomed to stay poor, it is Bill Gates who says: “I am optimistic enough about this that I am willing to make a prediction. By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world[2]. Almost all countries will be what we now call lower-middle income or richer”.

Unfortunately this does not mean that we will have eradicated poverty. I am afraid poverty will continue existing, but it will be more and more within the countries, including the rich ones, rather than among rich and poor countries. It will be more an issue of inequality to be addressed everywhere in the world and not a matter of the “rich north” and the “poor south” stereotype anymore.

How this is going to affect our work?

If this prediction comes true, we would probably have the next 20 years to adapt, change and get ready for that moment.

Gates’ prediction is not the only factor to consider, there are many other trends that are having an impact on the work we do. ODI in 2012 published a very useful strategic analysis (another horizon[3], but mainly focused on the donors and called Horizon 2025), which identifies three disruptors the ODA agencies would have to face by 2025. According to this study:

  • Some INGOs will grow bigger and in some cases will compete with national ODA Agencies[4]
  • Growing “South to South” cooperation will also compete with traditional donors[5]
  • Climate change responses will drain resources from ODA budgets[6]

As a recommendation to the donors and in order for their programmes to keep being relevant, ODI suggests that their funds shall be concentrated in fragile states, mainly funding emergency responses[7].

This recommendation also caught my attention. If this is going to be the trend for traditional ODA agencies and the number of poor countries is fortunately going to decrease, we will be facing an even harsher competition among International NGOs and also with local NGOs, which are getting better organized and more capable already in some countries and definitely will be even stronger in the next 20 years. For this reason I suggest we keep 2035 in mind and try to develop a strategy to take us there, ready to continue playing a role for reducing poverty and inequalities wherever they are found.

What can we do?

If donors are able to ask themselves the question: how can we still be relevant? International NGOs should be able to ask themselves this question too. Donors tend to focus on countries, NGOs should focus on people. In doing that INGOs should aim at having the size and the dimension to actually play a role at the global scale, but also have a strong link to the communities at the grassroots level. INGOs should be able to engage in dialogues with public opinions and governments in all countries and ready to intercept new priorities and trends. Alliances or federations of partners may have different comparative advantages compared to individual and monolithic organizations, the biggest one maybe being the possibility of being a network operating at the global scale, because of its cumulative dimension, but have also a strong local presence through its national partners. This I guess is key for fighting poverty wherever is found. The big issues of a globalized world are global themselves, and that is why it’s needed to have a global scale, but unlike other global players that have lost their local legacy, alliances and federations have actually the structure to make sure that the instances that are coming from the bottom, are heard up in the global arena.

Here I try to suggest few and practical actions:

  • INGOs should be global Civil Society Organizations, with an equally strong bottom-up representation capacity. On this regard they should partner with or eventually include Civil Society Organizations  from Africa, Asia or America. Those could currently be Local NGOs whom INGOs are currently partnering with, but that could become members themselves after a certain period of partnership and capacity building. The model of Caritas Internationalis I think could be quite inspiring on this regard.
  • Public Opinions in hosting countries matter too (the TV series “The Samaritans” is a funny and sad at the same time). We can’t be perceived as strangers. We should work with local partners that are part of the same network and engage in campaigns and programmes that are born locally. Local NGOs are also supposed to be expression of the communities. The ideal local partner is therefore the one that can credibly voice the issues that are coming from the local communities.

My hope is that by 2035 INGOs will be strong global civil society organizations that are really coming from the grassroots. We’ve got a tremendous amount of work to do to get there, if I think about it, the 20 years up to 2035 seem really nothing!

[1]Bill and Melinda Gates, 2014, “3 Myths that block progress for the poor”, 2014 Gates Annual Letter

[2]Ibidem, Page 7, “Specifically, I mean that by 2035, almost no country will be as poor as any of the 35 countries that the World Bank classifies as low-income today, even after adjusting for inflation.”

[3] Kharas and Rogerson, 2012, “Horizon 2025, creative destruction in the aid industry”, Overseas Development Institute

[4] Ibidem, Page 10

[5] Ibidem, Page 13

[6] Ibidem, Page 16

[7] Ibidem, Page 21

“La Coda Lunga”

In “La Coda Lunga” (, Anderson ci spiega come il mercato al tempo di internet stia cambiando profondamente, e come i mercati di nicchia prima di fatto snobbati a favore del mercato di massa stiano diventando sempre piu’ preponderanti.

Il suo ragionamento e’ semplice. Mettendo in fila un po di numeri, si e’ accorto di come nel commercio online, l’insieme aggregato della vendita dei prodotti di nicchia sia maggiore rispetto all’insieme delle venditedelle hits del mercato di massa.

Nel mercato di massa tradizionale, i consumatori tendono ad adattarsi al limite fisico dell’offerta dei prodotti che trovano posto nei supermercati, nel mercato di internet tale limite non c’e’ piu’. L’offerta diviene potenzialmente infinita e consente ai consumatori di acquistare prodotti prima introvabili o addirittura ignoti.

Ponendo la frequenza dei consumatori sull’asse delle ordinate di un piano cartesiano e gli oggetti o i prodotti su quello delle ascisse si nota una curva discendente, con un gran numero di consumatori per i primi prodotti (le cosiddette “hits”) e un numero via via decrescente di consumatori che si spalmano sui prodotti meno popolari presentati sull’asse delle ascisse, dando alla curva la forma appunto, di una “coda lunga”.

Osservando i consumi Anderson si e’ accorto che l’area sottesa alla curva che descrive i prodotti di nicchia e’ maggiore ripsetto a quella del mercato di massa. L’insieme aggregato dei mercati di nicchia e’ superiore cioe’ al mercato di massa. Tale osservazione ha importanti effetti anche sul marketing e le strategie di vendita prima concentrati sul consumatore medio, vero protagonista delle analisi di mercato e dei focus groups e che ora deve prendere in considerazione l’estrema varieta’ dei gusti di una platea molto piu’ variegata.


Il “mercato” della politica.

…e se la teoria della coda lunga si potesse applicare anche al quadro politico? Mi spiego: e’ possibile che Renzi (e prima di lui Berlusconi) si rivolga anzitutto alla testa della curva? Si rivolga al consumatore medio al mercato di massa, mentre una quantita’ sempre maggiore di cittadini si distribuisce sull’asse delle ascisse, con i propri piccoli mondi, con i propri distinguo, con le proprie visioni specifiche e resta sostanzialmente non rappresentata? Siccome Renzi si rivolge alla testa, puo’ facilmente reclamare di rappresentare tutti (e chiamarlo partito della nazione). Infatti, anche se in realta’ la maggioranza si spalma sulla parte bassa del grafico (la cosiddetta coda lunga), una parte magari piu’ piccola, ma piu’ coesa e piu’ omogenea si riconosce nella testa ed e’ pertanto molto piu’ visibile e piu’ facile da rappresentare.

Insomma mi domando se quella geniale immagine non ci stia dando un’interessante spunto per capire non solo come funzionano i consumi, ma anche come funziona la societa’.

Il partito come aggregatore

La vera questione quindi e’ come fare ad intercettare i vari mercati di nicchia, come tenere insieme questi individui, sempre meno accomunati da abitudini e consumi simili e sempre piu’ differenziati e che a volte decidono proprio di non accedere ad alcun mercato non andando a votare.

Anderson ci dice che i grandi protagonisti sono gli aggregatori, le piattaforme che permettono di trovare tutto cio’ che si cerca, come Amazon, Netflix o il piu’ grande di tutti: Google.

In politica la forma potrebbe essere quella che era stata trovata dall’Ulivo di alleanza organica tra forze simili, ma di certo non quella di un matrimonio d’interesse come quella della Sinistra Arcobaleno, formata in fretta e furia soltanto per partecipare alle elezioni.

La modalita’ potrebbe essere simile a quella delle primarie, riviste al rialzo e rese ancora piu’ aperte. Una piattaforma di consultazione permanente mista digitale e personale che coinvolga militanti, partiti, associazioni e sempici cittadini, non solo al momento delle elezioni, ma che li consulti anche in vista di scelte importanti e che li coinvolga addirittura nella redazione di proposte di legge (che cosi’ diventano di iniziativa popolare di fatto, anche se passano da un gruppo parlamentare).

Insomma le forme vanno ancora studiate e sperimentate, si dovra’ passare anche per qualche fallimento, ma ho la netta sensazione che ci si apra un momento fantastico, pieno di opportunita’ e cambiamenti, anche se al momento non sappiamo davvero da che parte andare.

Avvertenze: piccolo, piccolo come nelle medicine e’ il caso di fornire qualche avvertenza. Questo document e’ solo uno spunto, non ambisce a nient’altro che a questo, non fornisce risposte, che vanno cercate collettivamente, ne tanto meno soluzioni certe. In particolare va segnalato che il parallelo tra mercato e politica e’ una estrema semplificazione che permette di rendere il concetto piu’ immediatamente traducibile, ma non vuole avvallare una narrazione che trasforma le scelte politiche in scelte tra prodotti, benche qualcuno abbia trasformato I partiti in supermercati.

ODI has recently published a very interesting report, titled: “Adapting Development – Improving Services to the Poor“.

The study raises attention on the need of doing development differently, strongly arguing that  development takes place in complex contexts, with a great number of variables and political dynamics, that can possibly disrupt the initial planned activities. A strong emphasis on the design and planning, as the current narrative of development suggests, is taking us away from the main point, which is to provide relevant and quality services to the communities.

The Report takes urgency from the discussion on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a replacement of the  Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) “expiring” in 2015. The MDGs have generated some successes, but some goals especially for the poorest of the poor are still far to be achieved. The SDGs need to be different otherwise they would fail to be really effective. As explained in the report (pg. 8):

[…] the biggest missing link in the post-2015 discussion so far is the lack of any real discussion about the methods
needed to implement any new framework. More attention needs to be focused on how domestic reformers deal with specific bottlenecks to progress in contexts that are often politically challenging, complex and uncertain. For external actors, this means gaining a much better understanding of historical legacies and current realities in countries, and working out how to support domestic actors who can drive key changes..”

In order for the SDGs to deliver, ODI suggests to (pg. 9):

  1. Start with problems, not ready-made solutions.
  2. Understand and engage with politics.
  3. Support locally-led reform.
  4. Don’t be afraid to try, fail and try again.
  5. Think like an entrepreneur: spread risks, make small bets.

In terms of methodology this translates into a new way of working, which should focus more on monitoring than  planning and is able to learn, adapt and change along the way. Instead of using a very rigid approach driven by Logical Frameworks, ready made solutions and Gaant charts, development projects should be flexible and adaptive.

A great deal of learning could be gained from the private sector on this regard. As said during a presentation of the Pyoepin project, one of the most successful example of adaptive development in Myanmar: “if private businesses had to follow Logical frameworks and assess their performances in final evaluations after three or four years, they would all go burst”. Private businesses learned to be adaptive in order to adjust their services and products to changing markets and contexts.

The argument is really strong and appealing. There is though a very important difference that should be taken in consideration, before jumping into too easy conclusions. Private businesses have very strong incentives in being adaptive for the simple reason that they have to meet the demand of their clients.

In the case of development, the users or recipients of services are not the ones who are paying for it. Development Actors (NGOs, UN, donors, etc.) are entangled in an unbalanced relation of power in which users are always at the weakest end.

If we have to understand politics we should also recognize that development itself is subject to political dynamics and sensible to the different relations of power between donors, implementers and users.

What we could learn from the private sector is not only how it is adaptive, but also how to collaborate, create synergies and gain from a more straightforward relation between service provider and client.

Interesting examples of this are given by telecommunication companies. In Myanmar Telenor and Ooreedoo are both looking into collaboration with development actors not to provide funding (as NGOs would probably prefer), but to offer what they do best: tel-com services for their clients.

A Mobile-Agriculture service through which weather forecasts and information on market prices are provided to rural farmers is definitively a good way for tel-com companies to expand their client base, but it is also a great service that could improve a lot the livelihood of poor people. And because the private companies are dependent on the satisfaction of their clients, they will have a strong incentive to provide the best ad most effective service to rural farmers.

Collaborations between Development Actors and Private Businesses should start from the best the two can offer and not by replicating the relation: donor – implementer – user.

Marx explained how capitalism forced the workers to exceed the limit of the labor time necessary to produce objects so to generate a surplus. The value of the objects is therefore greater than that of the work necessary to produce them. In this way the Capital can realize the surplus value that it adds to it. In short, the exploitation of the worker is inherent in the accumulation of Capital.

I guess, together with this, Capitalism has been very good in finding new ways to add value to the initial capital, especially, through very advanced marketing techniques that Marx surely couldn’t foresee. This increased price of objects, however, prevents the worker to be able to be fully a consumer, because he cannot afford to consume all the objects he produces (or, the value of all the objects he consumes is less than the value of all the objects he produces).

At the same time, the Capital cannot consume all the surplus value because otherwise it will jeopardize the capital itself. As we well know in fact, beyond a certain threshold, the ability to consume is not proportional to wealth (Marx used to say that the worst enemy of capitalism is the Capital itself). I wonder at this point whether it is correct to say that capitalism has found a way to overcome this limitation through structural debt. The worker contracts debt in order to cover the surplus on objects that he contributed to produce. In this way, the Capital found a way to grow not only through the generation of surplus value at the expense of the worker, but also through the debt that the worker contracts to make up for the added value of the items he needs as a consumer.

Even more, the Capital also grows through the small savings of the workers. Savings of various nature and in most case not permanent savings. Even if it is for a short time in fact, the salaries are deposited in bank accounts, thus making up for the Capital in that specific moment. The recent crises clearly showed how the small savings are important for the all system and how it is dangerous for it (in the case of immediate and mass withdrawals for instance). The workers are made to think that their wealth is dependent on the wealth of big banks and financial institutions (this is the “too big too fail” adagio that accompanied many of the 2008-2009 bailouts). Through finance, laborers’ wealth is in fact dependent on the Capital.

A “double bind” (as Gregory Bateson would say) through which the worker is tied up to the Capital almost impossible to break.

The reading of articles on Pikketty’s new book, reminded me how Marx can still be relevant in the current debate (or how the current debate didn’t move much since then). I liked though the critics made by Bill Gates. As Bill Gates puts it, Pikketty’s critics to the Capital are all based on the “simple equation: r > g, where r stands for the average rate of return on capital and g stands for the rate of growth of the economy” and that therefore “when the returns on capital outpace the returns on labor, over time the wealth gap will widen between people who have a lot of capital and those who rely on their labor”.

As we can see this seems pretty much the same argument Marx used. Bill Gates argues that this interpretation does not account for the differences between the different social utilities of different kind of capitals and makes the example of three different rich people: “Imagine three types of wealthy people. One guy is putting his capital into building his business. Then there’s a woman who’s giving most of her wealth to charity. A third person is mostly consuming, spending a lot of money on things like a yacht and plane. While it’s true that the wealth of all three people is contributing to inequality, I would argue that the first two are delivering more value to society than the third.”

Though it is definitely agreeable that not all the different habits are the same, I’m not sure the differences he makes are correct. We can actually argue that if the purpose is to share the wealth, the one that is not spending anything and is putting everything on his business only, is simply increasing his capital, while all the others are actually dissipating the Capital and are therefore helping to distribute it.

The solution Bill Gates proposes is to have high taxation on high luxury goods as a way to counterbalance the negative effects of the accumulation of Capital. This suggestion though misses the main point of the accumulation of Capital that would remain unchanged, giving the role of contributing to society only to the most spendthrift among the wealthiest people. The solutions to me lie on a variety of actions for each of the practices exemplified by Bill Gates.

For the third person he identifies, the solution could be to introduce higher taxation on luxury goods, this is ok, but also to make sure that this person can buy products that are mainly produced in a socially responsible way; the second person should be encouraged to give even more to organizations that can ensure a proper spending for social actions through fiscal stimulus; but it is mainly finding a response to the first of the three examples Bill Gates suggests that we can provide an answer also to the issue raised by Thomas Pikketty (and maybe even Marx).

Because of its inherent nature, the Capital can only aim at growing. This seems the curse of the Capital (and of our inevitable destiny of inequality). What if that would not always be the case? What if we could produce, sell and consume without making the Capital grow? This would break this Double Bind. We need a mode of production without capital growth, a mode that does not produce profit.

Imagine buying shoes, cars or operating systems from a no profit company!

You may ask how this could be possible and especially how it would be possible to collect the capital that is needed for the initial investment without giving the investors the opportunity to get their share of the profit, but there are already examples  that show that this is possible.

Of all the very interesting points raised though, there are two things that Pikketty is not considering in his book and strangely enough also Bill Gates did not raise. These are the role of the third sector and the role of internet in the Capital of the XXI century. A continuation of this impressive work, should probably consider these two elements as well.

This is an exciting time where new opportunities can be explored and where the double bind of Capital can be broken, maybe by the very people who most contributed to its accumulation!

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