Create worksite-schools to redevelop properties confiscated from the mafia

This is the aim of Co-WIN, a Politecnico di Milano research project funded by your 5 per mille donations. Soon this model can be replicated throughout Italy

The five research projects on the theme of 'Equality and Recovery', selected by the Polisocial Award 2021 and funded by 5 per mille donations to the Politecnico, are coming to an end. The public health emergency caused by the pandemic intensified imbalances and marginalisation and led to the concrete risk of an increase in social inequality; the projects funded acted according to a logic of economic, social and cultural recovery, promoting the development of methods, strategies, tools and technologies to reduce inequalities and facilitate access to resources and opportunities for particularly vulnerable people, social groups or communities.

The Co-WIN project has developed two pilot experiments to recover and enhance properties confiscated from criminal organisations. Andrea Campioli, Dean of the School of Architecture Urban Planning Construction Engineering at Politecnico di Milano and scientific co-ordinator of the project, tells us all about it: "We have been restoring properties confiscated from the mafia, to return them to society in a reconstructed state. As part of this process, we set up worksite-school experiences, getting both a quota of vulnerable individuals (for example, immigrants or unemployed people), to whom we offered a vocational retraining course before starting work, and a quota of university students, guaranteeing them “on-the-job” experience, involved in work at the construction site". 


The legal procedure is as follows: following a judicial process, real estate is confiscated (the whole process usually takes eight years) and an agency (Agenzia Nazionale per i Beni Sequestrati e Confiscati - ANBSC) allocates it to various municipalities. Municipalities in Lombardy (the area on which the research focused) can apply for regional funding for the redevelopment of real estate received in ownership: “Regione Lombardia will bear 50% of the renovation costs, within a pre-established budget and subject to a plan being presented", Campioli explains. Properties confiscated from the mafia are generally small-scale: garages, parking, flats and semi-detached and detached houses. In Lombardy alone there are more than 3,200 such properties, 1,242 of which have been allocated to municipalities for redevelopment. 

This is where Co-WIN comes in, proposing the development of a 'win-win' collaborative relationship between the different parties involved: the public administration, trainees, training providers, construction companies and the community. "In our two ongoing pilot projects, a row of terraced houses in Gerenzago (Pavia) and a farmhouse in Cisliano (Milan), students from Politecnico di Milano were involved as trainees, responsible for following the required procedure for the redevelopment of the assets, directly within the municipal offices, and learning the profession onsite, working alongside the works supervisor". Once redeveloped, the assets are returned to the community: "They are generally sold to third sector entities with a social vocation, such as associations and NGOs, or are granted for use by families in need", Campioli explains. 


Un importante aspetto sociale del progetto è quello del coinvolgimento di soggetti fragili nei lavori in cantiere: “La nostra idea è dare loro la possibilità di qualificarsi professionalmente per poi entrare nel mercato del lavoro”, ci dice Campioli. “Abbiamo stipulato una convenzione con ESEM-Cpt (Ente Scuola Edile Milanese) per garantire a queste persone di seguire a titolo gratuito corsi di formazione abilitanti e professionalizzati al lavoro nei cantieri edili”. Ma trovare soggetti disponibili non è stato così semplice come previsto: “In questa fase abbiamo coinvolto il Coordinamento Nazionale Comunità di Accoglienza (CNCA), un’associazione che si occupa della  accoglienza e dell’inserimento lavorativo di soggetti fragili, e l’ENAIP (enti di formazione professionale),ma forse abbiamo sbagliato la modalità di veicolazione delle proposte di tirocinio: ad esempio abbiamo proposto sei mesi di tirocinio, ma molti immigrati hanno  la possibilità di vivere nei centri di accoglienza per soli tre mesi prima di trovarsi a dover essere economicamente indipendenti, per cui non possono permettersi di partecipare a programmi di formazione così lunghi e per esigenza si rivolgono al mercato del lavoro in nero. Ora abbiamo riformulato i termini del percorso di tirocinio extra-curriculare in modo diverso e abbiamo ricevuto diverse candidature”. 


The project is in its final stretch: the research team has been granted a four-month extension on the official deadline (set for 15 June), so that they can continue the work at the two pilot worksites. By October, everything should be completed. 

The aim of the Co-WIN project is to produce a model that can then be replicated throughout Italy, so that further worksite-school experiences can be set up systematically: "We want this to go on regardless of whether Politecnico is there: we are trying to get the documentation Regione Lombardia needs, so that our project is not just a one-off".

One of the partners involved in this is an industrial entity which has donated building materials to the companies doing the work: for the businesses, it offers an image payback in terms of social sustainability. 'The plan for the future is to also set up a register of businesses willing to give up materials for free'. The project will be presented on 21 and 22 April in Naples, as part of the Second Exhibition Forum on Confiscated Assets.