On Ray Kurzweil, global awareness and its effects on humans’ brain

If I would be asked to note down right now, very quickly, a message to my future self, I think I would start with something like: “it’s August 2016, and I’ve never felt so powerless in front of what’s happening in the world.”

A few weeks ago Ray Kurzweil stated that “it’s not the world that is getting worse, is our information that is getting better”, meaning that we often have a negative perception of the world’s conditions because, thanks to digital technology and social media, today we have an unprecedented exposition to world’s issues and negative news.

I believe Ray is right — I believe it’s a phenomena based on perception more than anything else.

But I also know that there are significant, delicate events happening in different parts of the world right now, whose evolution most of us are forced to powerlessly look at because we know that we ha have absolute zero control on them or their consequences.

Just opening the Facebook feed of one of my favourite sources of information on global politics, Ian Bremmer, I find: the American Presidential Elections, Populist Parties growing all over Europe, new data on increasing wealth gap, the Refugee Crisis, …

Up to 10 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have had easy access to information about these issues but, most especially, I also probably wouldn’t have felt them able to affect me in any way. Instead, today I read news about US, Greece, Turkey, Syria, … and I know that they do affect me very directly, that they are about me and about my life, that I care about them… even when I don’t understand them fully or when they are about the farthest possible place in the world.

And I know I’m not alone in feeling like this.

How many of us are watching, relentlessly and still completely powerless, the evolution of the American Presidential Elections? Even if we do not live in the US, nor we plan to move then any time soon? How many of us are feeling completely unarmed in front of news about Aleppo, or Venezuela? How many feel directly involved, and concerned?

I know it’s many.

Is it just because we, “millennials”, have an innate global mindset that makes us perceive the world as one country, hence our caring about things no matter where they are happening?

Or is it more about a very rational awareness of today world’s interconnectedness? Is it just low cost-flights and the democratisation of international travelling infrastructures that make us perceive the world as smaller than before, hence we don’t perceive international issues that far anymore?
I don’t think there a unique answer, and of course the reason behind our generation’s global mindset it’s different for each of us.

What I’m interested to further explore though, and even more having the privilege to be part of an international community like Global Shapers, is the true consequence of the friction between feeling directly and emotionally involved with global challenges, and still often have no control upon them.

Yes, social media and internet allow up to help mobilising people, and spread relevant information to sensibilise others on important topics.

But we also know that it’s a very limited mean, not only for the hard-to-break barriers created by social media’s algorithms, but especially because of the magnitude of matters like ceasing fire on Syria or voting for Presidents of a country that is not yours but that you know it’s one of the most influential political power on global level. It matters, a lot, and when we find ourselves with no real force on influence, it frustrates us.

What’s the consequence of this dynamic? What beliefs, psychological and/or emotional consequences creates in our minds? Is this the very backbone of an unprecedentedly socially-responsible generation? Or is it the true consequence behind the alarming increasing depression in youth?

I think these are the true key questions to be asked.

– – – –

This post was originally published on Global Shapers Community’s blog.

Elegant solutions and human behaviour

You never know when inspiration is coming your way, till it hits you.

I was cooking while a colleague of mine was watching Numbers, a quiet old TV Show (it started in 2005). “What’s that?” I asked. “The guy solves crime cases using math and algorithms” she said.

I stopped for a second. It definitely sounded like the type of nerd stuff that I could totally fall in love with.

I came closer to the laptop to check it out, just in time to hear one of the characters come up with a groundbreaking description of one of the most frustrating issues I experience working in Social Good with a pragmatic and design-driven mindset:

“Charles, you are a mathematician, you’re always looking for the elegant solution.

Human behaviour is rarely, if ever, elegant. The universe is full of these odd bumps and twists. You know, perhaps you need to make your equation less elegant, more complicated; less precise, more descriptive. It’s not going to be as pretty, but it might work a little bit better.

Charlie, when you’re working on human problems, there’s going to be pain and disappointment. You gotta ask yourself, is it worth it?


Switch “mathematician” with “designer” and we’re all set.

As a Fine Arts student and a creative, I know the power of beauty. I live by it. Not the superficial beauty — the more pure and profound one, made of sense of proportion, vibrance, elegance.

I know its ability to inspire, to move, to cut your breath, to make you see things you couldn’t imagine before, to touch your very centre and lit it up, to give form to ideas. Beauty, in all its forms, has always moved humanity, creating the space and time to honour and celebrate what ultimately inspire and elevate our spirit. It’s the hardest thing to describe, yet the one we try to express the most.

But, as Plato would put it, beauty is a characteristics of forms. And forms are the imperfect result of pure ideas manifesting into reality.

That Number’s quote resonates so much because I often find myself stuck with trying to make a solution be beautiful (sometimes even confusing beautiful with perfect), instead of fully focusing on delivering a solution that is, quoting Numbers again, “not going to be as pretty, but (that) might work a little bit better”.

I find important to be moved by beauty, to follow our inner call to shape a better reality around us, by making things that elevate us and improve our lives. But it has to be balanced by effectiveness.

But to make this work, we have to solve the fact that often people see “beautiful” as opposite to “ethical” or “right“.

Somehow, we have become stuck with the idea that “good” must be “humble“, “poor“, ever “rough“. Maybe it’s a projection of the Catholic idea of humility? Let’s think about any communication content on Social Good: whenever it’s “too beautiful” or “too perfect”, there’s always someone turning up his nose.

I think the time has come to solve this dispute.

If we want solutions to work well, of course we should focus on making them be effective… first.

But if we want solutions that engage others, that inspire to act differently,that trigger subtle but powerful educational mechanisms, that reshape unhealthy behaviours — then beauty and elegance must be part of the equation, together with effectiveness.

We naturally reject anything that make us feel uncomfortable, even when they are the best for us. And we love things that make us feel comfortable, even if we know they are bad for us.

What I’d love to see more and more in Social Good is solutions that keep the eye on being effective and impactful, but that also work as triggers to change things on a much wider and much deeper level.

Solutions that are not just right and effective, but also inspiring.

As Buckminster Fuller perfectly stated:

When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.



Unire Startup, impatto sociale e Impact Investing: quando, come, e perchè

Sono già passati tre mesi da quando sono rientrata dal Cile, dove ho vissuto per poco meno di un anno e mezzo.

Grazie al programma Start-Up Chile, ho ricevuto circa 40.000 $ a fondo perduto e un visto di un anno per trasferirmi a Santiago e sviluppare la mia impresa a vocazione sociale, Flythegap (le application sono attualmente aperte, qui il link).

Cosa chiede il governo Cileno in cambio del finanziamento e del visto? Semplice, “to give back to society”: sviluppare progetti ad impatto sociale sul territorio.

L’impatto culturale del Cile, però, non si è fatto sentire solo a livello di lingua, tradizioni e mentalità. ll mio inconscio mindset italo-europeo sul tema “impresa sociale” è stato infatti messo immediatamente alla prova.

Qui in Europa il concetto di “social enterprise” continua ad essere oggetto di più o meno esplicite dispute, che vanno da cosa si intenda esattamente per “impresa sociale”, ai modelli di sostenibilità, al chiarimento di quali siano le differenza tra un’impresa sociale e una startup a vocazione sociale, al fatto che la Sharing Economy è semplicemente tutto un altro tema — e via discorrendo.

In Cile è, da questo punto di vista, molto più semplice: hai una idea di startup? Puoi fondarla in 24h, con circa 20$, online. Crea un impatto sociale? Si? Bene. Quale? È verificato? Fine.

Dal OuiShare Fest, al Social Good Summit, al Festival Internacional de Innovación Social che ho avuto l’onore di conoscere da dietro le quinte, le possibilità di entrare in contatto con queste tematiche sono ormai moltissime. Tutt’ora, però, rimangono confuse e frammentate.

Rientrando in Italia, non riuscivo a smettere di pormi sempre le stesse domande: cosa troverò, al di là delle parole sui media? E cosa si potrà fare in merito?

Atterrata a Milano, ho avuto quello che viene definito un “reverse cultural shock”: ho trovato una Italia post-Expo 2015 e pre-elezioni civiche 2016, in piena balia di quella stessa frammentazione di linguaggi, approcci e obiettivi a cui non ero più abituata. L’ulteriore situazione dell’Europa, disorientante e difficilissima, non aiuta a tenere delle linee guida chiare, soprattutto di fronte alla crisi rifugiati che fa impallidire la maggior parte delle altre tematiche fino ad allora definite cruciali.

Da una parte, non potevo non capire la confusione, il disorientamento, la difficoltà di persone e organizzazioni nel decidere cosa si potesse fare, come, e con chi, di fronte a tutto questo.

Però per natura, e forse anche per influenza pallavolistica, tendo a reagire alle situazioni invece di subirle, individuando gli alleati e coordinando una azione di risposta. Anche in assenza di ginocchiere, palla e rete.

So che ci sono molti attori sul territorio che, da più o meno anni, si concentrano sullo studiare e mettere in atto piani di sviluppo del territorio, con le persone al centro e la responsabilità sociale come obiettivo di innovazione. Questi attori sono diversi, parlano lingue diverse e hanno obiettivi su piani diversi, ma credo che il panorama attuale impedisca di continuare a credere che il “fare per conto proprio” sia una opzione valida.

È facile credere che i “grandi passi” li debba prendere qualcuno che abbia l’autorità per farlo — alla fine, il sistema a cui apparteniamo ci ha storicamente insegnato che funziona così. La realtà però, oggi, è un’altra. Non esistono più grandi atti di coraggio di singoli, ma solo passi che si può scegliere o meno di fare insieme.

Ho deciso quindi di fare il mio passo, e lanciare un appello per aprire un confronto con quelle persone, organizzazioni ed istituzioni interessate a ripensare l’interazione tra questi tre grandi temi: imprenditorialità, impatto sociale e impact investing per lo sviluppo del territorio.

Questo mio appello ha ricevuto risposte pressoché immediate — ancora una volta segno del fatto che di voglia di fare ce n’è molta, e che è giunto il momento di indirizzarla.

Hanno risposto Fabriq, l’incubatore di imprese sociali di Milano, l’assessorato di Politiche Sociali del Comune, ItaliaCamp, il Politecnico di Milano e molti altri, con cui ci troveremo il 28 Gennaio presso la Società Umanitaria, dalle 18.30.

Insieme a me interveranno anche Cristina Tajani (Assessore Politiche per il Lavoro, Sviluppo Economico, Università e Ricerca), Mario Calderini (Politecnico di Milano), Marco Nannini (FabriQ), Francesco Pozzobon (ItaliaCamp) e Roberto Randazzo (R & P Legal). Qui c’è il link per registrarsi all’evento.

Sicuramente questo incontro vede ciascun attore partecipare per ragioni diverse.

La mia speranza e la mia volontà? Fare di questa serata una opportunità per confrontarci, per riconoscere la compatibilità degli obiettivi di ciascuno e individuare passi concreti da realizzare affinché si esca dalla dimensione “dialogo” e si possa entrare, coordinati, in azione.

“We must do it today, because today is when matters.”
(Aaron Swartz)

Why it’s ok to feel overwhelmed by crisis

“I am trying to figure out how to keep my mood up, how to avoid to feel like I’m useless, how to keep doing my very best for all these people that are coming our way asking for help.”

I have lost the count of how many people, colleagues, friends and allies have been telling me this in the past few months, and how many times I have myself written or said the same thing to others.

The Refugees Crisis knows no break, no pause. It’s not a phenomenon that is going to get fixed by itself, and it’s not something that we can expect to be solved just by authorities.

“You don’t say”, right? Well, glimpsing at press and social media, I scarily see more denial of this than attempts to properly understand the situation and mobilise accordingly.

Don’t get me wrong, many people and organisations are taking action: from NGOs to private volunteers, from Public Administrations to tech entrepreneurs like the Techfugees community. Thousands of people are replying to the crisis doing their very best.

But fragmentation is still very heavy, it wastes energies and resources beyond measure, and especially makes anyone involved frustrated, even angry and burnout.

When more than a million migrants and refugees cross into Europe in one year, entering and already very unstable and challenged continent, you really cannot think it’s none of your business — be you a European citizen or not.

This is a complex issue. It affects International Institutions and decisions makers just as much as every single one of us, especially the ones whose country is becoming the refugee for people seeking shelter, help, safety.

And it’s OK to feel scared, confused and frustrated cause you don’t know what you can do and how you can take on the responsibility we all know we have.

So here there’s my shortlist of what I think we all can do to tackle this cause in a different way. I will keep updating it, and I will include any contribution I will receive (please contact me if you have any):

  • Let’s share content on social media, but knowing that is not enough
    We cannot share on our Facebook pages videos of Canada’s Prime Minister personally welcoming thousands of refugee, get likes for it and feeling like that’s enough.That’s not helping the cause, that’s sharing a video.We can do more than that. Creating awareness is important, but it doesn’t get to the bone of the issue. We cannot longer hide behind posting on social media, ignoring what’s left to be done in the real world, where who needs help gets it, or not.
  • Let’s not think or act just for the short term goal
    We cannot welcome refugees and work for finding them a place where to stay, without working just as hard on inclusion. Refugees Welcome recently launched in Italy too, and I think their global initiative should start being matched with projects focused on training, teaching language, community building.
  • Let’s remember that it’s us who create extremists (or not)
    Fear, exclusion, rejection, … this is what creates hate and extremism. ISIS and similar groups are just shaping the (scarily effective) campaign to reclute globally those people whose frustrations decide to fall into hate and anger.We are the ones who have the chance to welcome refugees and migrants with kindness, warmth and awareness, overcoming differences because we see what unites us all.We all want one thing: hope. For a better future, for us and for the ones we love. Let’s focus on what unite us, let’s not give space to exclusion.

I’m both personally and professionally (with Flythegap) part of a global community of people aiming to tackle this crisis differently.

I’m going to publish more about how we are designing models to coordinate international efforts, at the level where this match is going to be played: on the ground, between people, between us all.

We will fail only if we stop trying.

If there’s one thing we must not do, is to do nothing

“It is sickening to see thousands of refugees drowning on the doorstep of the world’s wealthiest continent. No one risks the lives of their children in this way except out of utter desperation.” _ Angelina Jolie

On the front pages the images and stories being printed can create a sense of desperation and powerlessness.

Especially from here, 12.000+ km away from the countries where help is needed the most, I have been forced to watch most of the European governments and institutions react in an insane way to the arrival of people who are doing nothing else but seeking safety for themselves and their dear ones.

I won’t talk about my disappointment, and neither about the raising phobias. They scare me. I wished we’d learn enough from history not to commit the same mistakes again.

Instead, I prefer to focus on all those people who feel an inner voice roaring, who have a desire to do something, to act, to contribute to the cause in any possible way. Even through media I can see a lot of us, more than what we imagine, expressing their frustration and constantly asking: how can I help? What can I do?

Chatting with a friend of mine earlier today, I found myself writing:

… The world needs good people to at least try to do the right thing.

And maybe they’ll fail… but they’ll inspire others while trying. Or maybe they will move that boundary a little bit.

Either way… if there’s one thing we must not do, is to do nothing.

Right after writing it, I’ve realised how much I mean it.

As long as I will be able to exercise my freedom to act, I want my energies to be invested in projects which aim to change those things that are wrong and that need to be changed.

I, like anybody else, fear failure.
I, like anybody else, am afraid that whatever I will do will not be enough to change anything.

But I won’t let any of this to get in my way.

In situations like this one, with such complex challenges, what we tend to do is to just look at what we’ve got and to ask what could we bring to the cause, what could be useful.

12.000+ km away from the places where I’d be needed on the ground… all I could think about is that I have technology on my side. Especially, I have a technology that I’ve created with some of the smartest people I know, that we can offer to better coordinate activities, contributions and ideas on how we can make things work better for every single person who is reaching our shores.

After speaking with the rest of my team, we have decided to provide Flythegap to help players on the ground gather projects, ideas and resources to help those in need.

We’ll try to reach out to every single organisation, group or person who is welcoming refugees, and we will also build a database of these players via this form.

Please if you know any organisation or group that is taking action, let us know.

I will be posting updates here, with the links of every flythegap-challenge launched, so that anyone will be able to see where these initiatives are and how we can all provide our knowledge, feedback and any ideas that might be the next groundbreaking solution to this problem.

Thank you, to every single person and organisation who is already taking action.

where are you from? earthall for all 3


 – – –

As Flythegap, we know we haven’t launched our latest version of the product yet.

But considering the events, we have decided that there’s no better moment to put your product out than when it could make the difference for something that matters.

And this, to us, matters a lot.

To get in touch, please email us: info@flythegap.com

On why we’ve invited the Government to join our hackathon

On June 2015 a group of entrepreneurs from Italy, Chile, Argentina, Canada, Poland, Singapore and Ecuador decided to organise a hackathon that would gather designers, developers, activists, entrepreneurs, universities and the government, to work together on projects focused on social impact and smart city.

If someone decided to tell the story of ImpactON, it would start with a paragraph like this.

The hackathon that is going to happen in Santiago this weekend, the 21-22-23 of August, is just the final phase of a process that we’ve designed together with a bunch of entrepreneurs with whom we share three key elements: we all happen to currently live in Santiago (Chile), we all are passionate about combining doing business with doing good, and especially we all like to do things differently.

Why differently? What’s different in organising a hackathon? And what’s an hackathon anyway?

These are all valid questions. Let’s answer them all. But backwards.

1. What’s a hackathon?

“The word “hackathon” is a portmanteau of the words “hack” and “marathon“, where “hack” is used in the sense of exploratory programming, not its alternate meaning as a reference to computer crime”.

And also, still quoting Wikipedia: “a hackathon is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software and hardware development collaborate intensively on software projects. (…) The term “hackathon” has also been used as a term for more general “focused innovation efforts” that includes non-coders and community members.”

Generally hackathons have a specific focus or main subjects to work on, which in the case of ImpactON are social impact and smart city, with the related six sub-challenges.

2. What’s different in organising a hackathon? (AKA: why organising a hackathon at all?)

Once you decide that you want to foster creativity and collaboration amongst players that usually don’t work together or close to each other, you’re basically stating that in your humble opinion they should. 

And this is totally our case.

We believe that the public and the private sector, the academia and the citizenship should gather to co-create solutions to real problems, the ones that everybody cares about and that everyone would like to solve but that nobody can actually sort out without engaging with the other players.

ImpactON wants to show that this collaboration is possible, and hackathons have the perfect model: they forces you to get into action. A hackathon is not a conference, it doesn’t have just talks on interesting and inspiring content — it actually has desks where you have to sit, and make things happen for real. It has challenges to solve, there’s a competition, there are prizes.

3. Why differently?

Because we care.

Doing things differently means that you care about something, that you know the current patterns and dynamics around it, and that you’ve decided to question them to make things better.

And this requires intelligence, and courage. Intelligence for getting (sometimes uncomfortable) true answers about what needs to be different, and the courage to act accordingly.

First uncomfortable truth: most of the hackathons don’t really generate anything more than a bunch of apps/softwares that might create impact if they’d ever get combined with a business/sustainability model.

Second uncomfortable truth: we think that coders alone are key but just not enough to solve problems.

Impact, mode: ON. 

So we created ImpactON.

ImpactON has been inspired by models like the Inzovu Curve by UX for Good, and Bukminster Fuller‘s theories of change based on design principles.

To foster creativity, we’ve designed a process that would alternate ideation and reflection.
To inspire action, we’ve organised talks and workshops supported by online co-creation.
And to consolidate solutions, we’ve set up a three-day hackathon with mentors and partners.

ImpactON is made to include non-coders, in order to bring into the game also designers, students, professors, entrepreneurs and the government.

After two design thinking workshops, we are now a few days away from the inauguration and the three-day hackathon where we are going to work on challenges that have been co-designed with 6 different government’s units and other stakeholders.

Why all this? Why involving the government and not just students, entrpreneurs and developers?

To us, is simple: because to solve everybody’s problems, we want everybody’s voice. And because every brilliant idea needs accountability and resources to grow.

Organising ImpactON has been a priceless experience already, and after this first edition we will decide on bringing this format to other countries.

Which, anyway, enables me to say something I love to say: this is just the beginning.

– – –

To register: impacton.org

We’ll be streaming the event, follow us!

We are Gatekeepers

Tonight is one of those nights when you walk home and you feel like there are things falling into place, one by one. You can’t say exactly what, nor why – and maybe it doesn’t even really matter.

It’s been one month since I landed in Santiago – a month that’s been dense like 3 months and that passed by quick enough to feel like just couple of weeks.

I’ve been writing already about why I like so much the Startup Chile program and its potential to create change in a unique way, also through the various initiatives that it allows you to set up.

Today for example I was joining for the first time a gathering of some entrepreneurs from Startup Chile Generation 10, whose business are particularly focused on social issues. I was with Luis Bajaña (Cyclemoney), James Shannon (LocalFoodLab) and Christopher Pruijsen (Sterio.me) having an open confrontation on social entrepreneurship in front of a small crew of people, talking about our own projects and also introducing the Hack4Good hackathon that is taking place this weekend in Santiago.

At one point I was impressed by how we were all saying that, no matter how long it’ll take to get some funding or a proper investment – we’re going to bring our projects on anyway. “It’s just needed.”

There was no hesitation in our voices or looks, and it wasn’t the type of situation where you have to try to impress someone. It felt just like the most honest manifestation of the urgency we feel to do what we’re doing. More because of a sense of social justice than a sense of profit.

This made me think of quote that I found a few months ago, thanks to another impactful being I’m honored to know, Davide Casali:

“We have an ethical responsibility to not do things we don’t want into this world. We are gatekeepers.”

Mike Monteiro

I personally think that it’s important to talk more about social entrepreneurship, to explore more its dynamics and its characteristics. But if I take a look beyond the details, I see one single overall principle that silently unifies any business that keeps in mind the consequences that it creates on a social, environmental, economical or cultural level. A principle that Mike Monteiro‘s sentence expresses perfectly:

this world is going to be about what WE will decide it will be about.

Considering what impact our business is going to have on reality is more that a triple-bottom-line trend, and certainly more than just joining a social-impact-centered program for startups.

It’s about choosing to feel the responsibility of manifesting a certain type of values, with every single one of our acts – or not.

It’s about remembering that our life is our message, and that each of our choices creates an impact, and that this same dynamic scales exponentially when you set up a business: because it will create impact on many different levels at the same time.

We ARE gatekeepers.

And if knowing this is not enough to remind us the importance of what we’re doing (and of how we’re doing it), then I don’t know what else could.