Five former students from the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering of the Politecnico di Milano, together with others from the same university’s Schools and a number of under-30 volunteers, have established a non-profit startup to help shopkeepers overcome the COVID-19 crisis.
Unitipossiamo or Italian for “together we can”, is a non-profit initiative stemming from the desire of 15 young men and women from all over Italy – mostly unknown to each other – to help shopkeepers overcome the Covid-19 crisis. The project has developed with the voluntary commitment of young professionals and has been rewarded under the Hackforitaly initiative. At present, the platform pools together more than 4,000 business activities across Italy, who either sell purchase vouchers or home deliver their products. In the next few days this number is expected to increase to more than 43,000, generating cash flows of up to €90m for shopkeepers.
Why “together we can”?
Everyone is aware of the need to lend a hand, which is why Italy has seen a multitude of diverse initiatives crop up across the country in an attempt to help trade. But we believe that a fragmented approach is counterproductive. Therefore, we decided to pool together all these initiatives in a single platform, to facilitate those wishing to make a contribution. Aggregator sites simplify searches, meaning that users no longer need to wade through dozens of different sites, and increase visibility for shopkeepers.
The intention behind all these small-to-medium sized initiatives is laudable, but they are unlikely to have a systemic impact if they operate alone. Together, instead, we can.
The problem in figures and its potential impact
The temporary closure of shops could have important repercussions on employment. We are talking about 43,000 closed businesses and, in the darkest possible scenario, of 630,000 jobs at risk.
With an initiative like Unitipossiamo, we believe that, in just a few days, we can reach 43,000 business activities and 4.5 million users who, with an average expenditure of €20 each, could convey over €90m to shopkeepers in difficulty.
What is Hackforitaly?
Taking inspiration from previous initiatives in other European countries, the Italian edition of the event, Hack for Italy, involved an intense weekend (27-29 March) during which several teams worked online to find digital and non-digital solutions to the economic and social challenges arising from the crisis caused by the current epidemic, split by the following categories: Save Lives, Save Communities, Save Businesses.
Almost 1,500 people took up the challenge, putting forward more than 50 projects, developed, starting from simple ideas, during the intense 48-hour marathon. During the first day, teams were formed as the projects were presented, with professionals, experts and entrepreneurs, who had never met before, contributing their diverse backgrounds to the creativity and feasibility of the projects presented.