Corporate Action Speaks Louder Than Words

Corporate Action Speaks Louder Than Words

The Business Roundtable has released a new definition of a corporation, which advocates that companies account for all their stakeholders, not just their shareholders, when distributing corporate value. To fully implement their stated intent, companies will need to invest not just in their own strategic objectives but in processes that allow communities to self-determine their priorities and direction.

Earlier this month, Apple announced it would invest $2.5 billion to address the housing crisis in the SF Bay Area. Joining Facebook and Google in their investment, Apple has never placed much stock in “philanthropy.” Why the change?

Corporate investment in socially beneficially initiatives may have finally reached a tipping point. This August, the Business Roundtable released a new statement on the Purpose of a Corporation, the first time this credo has been updated in more than twenty years. Signed by 185 member CEOs, including those of many of America’s largest companies, the new statement stipulated that a corporation would no longer solely seek to deliver profits to its shareholders but would instead seek to maximize value for their broader community of stakeholders.

While in recent decades, many companies have increased their philanthropic investments in social programs that benefit communities where they operate, this statement marks the first time that such a large group or business leaders have explicitly changed their shared understanding of a company’s operational intent. 

While the new statement offers cause for celebration, it is likely to be met with a healthy dose of skepticism from social change advocates. Adding a CEO’s signature to a one-page letter of intent, while culturally significant, is a simple act that doesn’t itself deliver any social value. Adapting supply chains, business models, and revenue management to account for the holistic needs of a company’s constituents is orders of magnitude more complex (not to mention, expensive). 

Companies should be judged, not on their intent, but on their actions and follow-through. Revised intent will only matter if corporate leaders make investments that drive results. The three big tech giants’ co-investment in Bay Area housing is a promising start. But more of those 185 companies need to make billion-dollar commitments that advance solutions to pressing social challenges. 

As more companies seek to make good on their new shared intent, it’s vital that journalists and activists alike scrutinize not just what social issues companies choose to address but also the process they use to make those investments and the way that communities are engaged in determining the parameters of social value and wellbeing.

So who exactly are the “communities” these 185 companies will now seek to benefit? A majority of US corporations are headquartered in cities. In 2010, McKinsey reported that 85% of US GDP was generated by cities of 150,000 inhabitants or more. As such, when companies commit to improving the lives of their stakeholders, they should actually interpret this to mean the ecosystem of the cities in which they operate. 

Urbanization worldwide is on the rise. More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, including 82 percent of Americans and 41 percent of Europeans. Human consolidation into urban centers helps companies find easy access to skilled labor. But increased human density creates its own slew of hairy problems. Housing is one issue that is well met with a private-sector solution. But what about education, transportation, childcare, healthcare, and general economic inequality? 

Corporate leaders are accustomed to using the leverage of hierarchy to make choices from the top down. Based on whatever sources of information they choose to consider, a select group of senior leaders within any one company will typically decide how resources are allocated and utilized. When it comes to making meaningful, long-term investments in the health and well-being of cities and their residents, a top down decision making model will often fail to deliver meaningful outcomes. Indeed, companies could learn from the experience of the international development sector, where many practitioners have finally realized how vitally important it is to involve target stakeholders from the very beginning in the process of defining problems and devising solutions. 

Why? Because the most effective solutions to the biggest problems facing the world today cannot be mass produced. Each city, each community is unique and requires an approach that is adapted for its specific challenges and needs. Service designers have demonstrated that those with the most direct experience of a problem often have the best insights into how to address it. For example, if you would like to understand the ecosystem of soup kitchens in a city, the best person to ask would be a homeless person. Yet, involving the users who are most affected by a problem requires that those making the investment appreciate that the process used to arrive at the solution is just as valuable as the process itself. 

As companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook seek to operationalize toward their new collective intent, they will likely be rewarded for their attention to how, not just what, they seek to address. In cities, where many of these investments will likely originate, a collaborative process focused on intentional innovation and community involvement is likely to deliver the greatest return. 


Perspectives on Tor Bella Monaca’s Planning Outcomes

Perspectives on Tor Bella Monaca’s Planning Outcomes

“We’ll raze Tor Bella Monaca to the ground and rebuild it from scratch, people are happy of it,” mayor Alemanno announced after his election in 2010.[1] The plan was never approved, and few things have changed in this suburban district in the south-east of Rome, still synonymous with illegality and problems. Rome’s newspapers relate Tor Bella Monaca to episodes of drug dealing and criminality instead of a deeper understanding of the territory. This article briefly introduces the results of mixed-method research conducted in 2018, looking at the hidden planning potential of the area.

Image 1. Kids Playing in an abandoned parking.

This neighbourhood shows a sharp contrast between a strong community network and the highest number of people under house arrest in Rome (250 adults). A troublesome context can easily distract from opportunities and solutions. Drug rackets and easy money attract young people; 15 % of minors are under judicial orders, and one-third of the 28.00 inhabitants, [2] mostly living in relative and absolute poverty, has criminal records. An actual ‘Territory of Poverty’ [3] that counts low education levels and the highest number of low-income families in Rome.[4] Only 3% of the population has a university degree. The early school drop-out rate is high, and the employment level is the lowest of the Italian capital: 37%, eleven points below the average of Rome of 48% in 2011. Similarly, unemployment is 19% against an average of 9.5%. [5][6]

The social barrier depends on a center-periphery fracture that is primarily physical. The location contributes to a concrete relegation often described by the documentaries and set of movies, which is also psychological and financial. To make ends meet, a part of the population supports the cocaine traffickers storing cocaine in their homes for instance.[7][8]

As other examples of social housing complex, Tor Bella Monaca became synonyms with something allegedly negative. And data support this narration often exacerbated by media and used by politics. Nonetheless, the infield analysis presented in this article sheds light on the material and immaterial resources hiding in the informality of the community habits, abandoned urban layout, and social activism. Before doing so, the article retraces the history of a top-down planning approach that co-created the same peculiar settings now blamed by policymakers and experts.

Emergency planning and co-creation of a problem

“To relegate (from the late Middle English, relegaten, meaning to send away, to banish) is to assign an individual, population, or category to an obscure or inferior position, condition, or location.” [9]

Was better planning possible? This territory was at the center of political, economic games, and it represented the only solution to live for many. The inadequate urban planning mainly results from the action of public authorities and private developers and a context of informality due to massive migration. During the housing crisis in the 30s, people living in abusive barracks, cheap labor force from the surrounding rural areas, and the South of Italy were offered this physically isolated housing complex by the Fascist regime next to war factories. In the following decades, public action consisted of passively legalizing informal settlements. In the 1950s, residents privately upgraded their home into 5 store buildings. It was only in the 1960s that primary services, such as sidewalks, water, and sewers, slowly caught up with the urban development of the area. 

The planning intention of the government was conflictual in the 1970s. The disagreement between city authorities and the regional government impeded the construction of public infrastructure key to connect the districts in the east side of Rome.[10] Tor Bella Monaca’s new social housing complex was built between 1981 and 1983, with the double aim of providing homes for many evicted households and redeveloping the eastern sector of the suburbs, whose planning had been compromised by informal settlements.[11] This is how the construction of the massive complex counting the iconic 22 grey towers took place.

The government crammed as many people as possible in the neighborhood for the many affordable housing applicants. People moved in those towers still standing today as cathedrals at the margin of the countryside, distant more than 20 kilometers from the city center. A great transverse road bisects the area dividing the residential areas into parts (the area in blue in the map), making the use of cars necessary even for local mobility.[12]

Image 2. Social Housing zooning. In blue residential area, and red mixed use buildings.

A bomb of protest was about to explode. On the one hand, the new neighborhood was lacking primary services such as schools, shops, proper public, and transportation. On the other hand, the area gathered the most fragile categories as assignees of the public housing such us evicted families, destitutes, newly formed families, elderlies, and families with disabled people. Not surprisingly, the situation became critical. A few months after the inauguration of the complex, the protest group Comitato di Lotta formed in 1984. The social housing residents occupied the main street connecting to Rome city center, via Casilina, to obtain a bus to get the basic needs. It was only the first of a long series of protests that  are still going on today.

Immaterial resources 

Arriving at Tor Bella Monaca, visitors see with their own eyes the visible contrast between the above mentioned disastrous quality of life indicators and the atmosphere of collaboration and commitment to local social events. Differently from the privateness of wealthy neighborhoods, residents live actively their public spaces.

Image 3. Via Quaglia. Elders use of a public corner.

An intense activism is present, and many residents try to improve the quality of their everyday life by participating in committees or with their spontaneous and mutual support. Catholic charities, associations like the community library Cuba Libro, the social center ElChentrothat gives after school assistance and recently supported the street art regeneration project ColorOnda-, or TorPiùBella are among the vast and rich associative landscape of the neighborhood. They boost a strong community spirit that stands as a lotus in a muddy pond being a survival strategy for many. Initiatives of resilience and community welfare are a horizontal collaboration where community, high schools, and NGOs partner for events, public space maintenance, and artistic projects for free. Re-appropriation of public space is not only physical but ‘symbolic’.[13] Painted walls give hope and positive message for the many kids; for some families, the cultural and artistic activities offered by the associations are the only affordable amenities they can access for their children.

Material resources

Image 4. Analysis of public space. In green the green areas, and yellow the parking.

The map above highlights areas of public interest, such as green areas, sports facilities, parking, or other collective areas. The apparent decadence of the urban layout, hides the material resources of the area. A solely quantitative analysis of the Master Plan shows excellent potential for the area. The number of public spaces and green areas overpasses by far the minimum surface provided for  by urban standards. Moreover, by measuring the surface through digital photo-interpretation and direct investigation, it surpasses by far the urban standards.[14]

Image 5. Tor Bella Monaca. View on the church Santa Maria del Redentore on the left, and towers on the right.I

Despite the vastness and relative importance of the total space of the neighbourhood, the inhabitants claim they do not have enough. How is it possible? The answer resides in their quality. Interviews and site visits showed several weaknesses. The lack of maintenance, presence of criminal activities, and high-speed streets make public space not always usable. A car-centered design and the lack of general connection among the different components of the district isolate the social life. All these elements combine in a vicious circle. The lack of maintenance favours the use of the space for criminal activities, which in turn enhances the lack of maintenance; the lack of connections makes the district car-centric and vice-versa, so the pedestrian frequentation of public spaces is discouraged.

Community needs, existing resources, and political continuity to draft stable solutions

Quantity without quality is not enough. Public spaces have a high potential for better planning, because of its unusual abundance, and because of the fervent social movement that enlivens the territory. Tor Bella Monaca was planned without thinking about how to govern it. The European project “Urban” [15] brought great vitality and a new theatre to the neighbourhood for a few years in the 1990s. Though, similarly to other projects, it lasted for a short time. Despite their innovation, the life and creation of Tor Bella Monaca have been subject to a ‘spatial and temporal discontinuity’ from the public action that has limited its economic development.[16]

Within precarious conditions, social life self-organized. Existing practices, including criminal activity, show where there is a need to develop economically and socially. NGO’s and the community took over public spaces organizing their use. But their action is often dependent on the state, owner of the land, that has to give more continuity in enabling and encourage the action of those actors that have developed a vast knowledge of the territory and established a resilient community. Given restrict budget and staff, the survival of these virtuous actions depends on an institutional dimension to survive in the long term.’ [17]

Supporting these actors to give new life to the existing material potential can bridge the physical and mental boundaries that separate the territory. The arrival of the metro in 2016 nearby is a bridge to escape to other areas for some. However, occupation and opportunities on-site would help moving out from a perceived feeling of peripherality. Solutions for a multi-ethnic and complicated area do not come in pre-packaged Masterplans; history teaches us. No proper plan arrives from the top when the needs of those at the bottom are not carefully listened to.




[3] Roy, A., Shaw Crane A.(2015) ‘Territories of Poverty: Rethinking North and South’. University of Georgia Press, 2015. JSTOR,

[4] Families with minors with a lower income than 25.000€





[9] Wacquant, L. (2015) ‘Class, Ethnicity, and State in the Making of Marginality: Revisiting Territories of Urban Relegation’ in Roy, A., Shaw Crane A.(2015) ‘Territories of Poverty: Rethinking North and South’. University of Georgia Press, 2015. JSTOR.


[11] Cremaschi (2012) ‘Perspectives on Public Space in Rome, from Antiquity to the Present Day. LONDON:Ashgate

[12] Cremaschi (2012) ‘Perspectives on Public Space in Rome, from Antiquity to the Present Day. LONDON:Ashgate

[13] Cellammare (2011) ‘Progettualità dell’agire urbano’.

[14] Urban standards are a measure expressed in [mq/inhabitant], and for the Italian urban law there is a minimum amount of these standards that has to be met for each listed urban services (such as green areas, public spaces, parkings, sport facilities, collective activities etc.) in every urbanized area of the national territory, for these parameters are supposed to assure a certain quality of life

[15] La prima fase dell’Iniziativa comunitaria URBAN (“URBAN I”) ha riguardato il periodo 1994-99. I fondi europei stanziati complessivamente hanno superato i 900 milioni di euro e hanno interessato 118 città dell’UE.

[16] Le Galès, P. and Vitale, T. (2015) ‘Diseguaglianze e discontinuità nel governo delle grandi metropoli. Un’agenda di ricerca, in ‘Territorio’, 74, pp 7-17

[17] Bragraglia (2016) “La rigenerazione urbana nelle periferie: i casi studio di Falchera e Tor Bella Monaca”.


Bragraglia (2016) “La rigenerazione urbana nelle periferie: i casi studio di Falchera e Tor Bella Monaca”

Cellammare (2011) ‘Progettualità dell’agire urbano’

Cremaschi (2012) ‘Perspectives on Public Space in Rome, from Antiquity to the Present Day. LONDON: Ashgate

Francesco Montillo, Tor Bella Monaca, una periferia scomoda, 2011

Le Galès, P. and Vitale, T. (2015) ‘Diseguaglianze e discontinuità nel governo delle grandi metropoli. Un’agenda di ricerca, in ‘Territorio’, 74, pp 7-17

Monni Tomassi, “Le mappe della disuguaglianza” 2019

Roma Capitale, Assessorato allo sport 2019 “Indagine sui giovani romani, under 35 ai raggi x”

Roy, A., Shaw Crane A. editors. Territories of Poverty: Rethinking North and South. University of Georgia Press, 2015.

Wacquant, L. (2015) ‘Class, Ethnicity, and State in the Making of Marginality: Revisiting Territories of Urban Relegation’ in Roy, A., Shaw Crane A.(2015) ‘Territories of Poverty: Rethinking North and South’. University of Georgia Press, 2015.

Luiss Debates – Civic Engagement, Heritage and Sustainability

Luiss Debates – Civic Engagement, Heritage and Sustainability

The Luiss viale Romania Campus hosted the Luiss Debate “Civic Engagement, Heritage and Sustainability” organized by the Luiss School of Law and Luiss LabGov.City in collaboration with the Roma Tre University Architecture Department and Eutropian.Org. The Debate was organized in the framework of the Third Consortium Meeting of the Horizon 2020 project “Open Heritage” ( ), that aims at creating sustainable models of heritage asset management by putting the idea of inclusive governance of cultural heritage sites together with development of heritage communities at its center (it involves an open definition of heritage, not limited to listed assets but also involving those buildings, complexes, and spaces that have a symbolic or practical significance for local or trans-local heritage communities). This means empowering the community in the processes of adaptive reuse. LabGov – Luiss is part of the project, thanks to its engaged research conducted in Rome. 

Luiss Rector, Andrea Prencipe, opened the meeting underlining the importance of the three key words: Sustainability, a crucial theme in these days; Heritage, as Rome is the homeland of cultural heritage; and Civicness, as Luiss students must be Engaged and good Citizens before being professionals. 

The Vice Dean of the Department of Law Antonio Punzi continued exposing how relevant are civic engagement, heritage and sustainability in innovating and updating the academic curricula of the Luiss Law Department, through the creation of a master degree in Law, Digital innovation and Sustainability. 

The debate, moderated by Raffaele Bifulco (Professor of Constitutional law – Department of Law Luiss University) continued following the keynote speeches from national and international scholars and members of European institutions, an interesting discussion on civil engagement and sustainability as cross-cutting principles for the governance of cultural heritage. Among the participants, Erminia Sciacchitano, Eu Commision DG Culture Policy Officier and Chief Scientific Advisor  EYCH 2018, exposed the new EU cultural policy framework underlining the crucial role of an Open Governance through the Urban Innovative Actions, an initiative of the EU that englobes all the pilot projects for sustainable urban development, launching the 5th call for proposals that will expire on December the 12th.

Mark Thatcher, Luiss Professor of Political Science, has deal with the link between identity and markets within the Eu Cultural Heritage. What he stated is that the “EU can create a cultural identity through markets, but markets are too technical and therefore lack of political participation and support”. In addition, he highlighted that, even though Europe is a young Union, this does not mean that a cohesive identity cannot be created. It is thus necessary to create a link between political identity and markets so to create a parallel european citizenship that does not overcome the national one. 

Luisella Pavan Woolfe, on behalf of the Council of Europe, exposed “the role of the Faro Convention for the promotion of equality, inclusion, and development of local communities and minorities trough heritage”. The focus was on the relevance of the role played by a community itself. As a consequence, it is essential to work together in order to preserve and protect the Cultural Heritage for the present and future generations.  

Moreoever, as underlined by Sandra Gizdulich, member of the Urban Agenda Partnership for Culture and Cultural Heritage and Italy Territorial Cohesion Agency, one cannot left behind the importance of preserving the quality of landscape. To do so, it is necessary to build a stronger environmental heritage. This is not an objective itself, but the greatest aim necessary to achieve social and ecological cohesion. She in facts added that as Urban Partnership on heritage they will launch an action on better regulation to apply the legal approach used by Turin, Bologna and Naples on commons.

The debate continued with Esmeralda Valente (Contemporary creativity and Urban Regeneration Directorate – Italian Ministry of Culture) presenting “Cultura Futuro Urbano”, an innovative public policy based on promoting the adequate conditions for citizens to improve their creativity and human talent. This is, in her words, one of the most ambitious projects launched by MiBact and it has been created with the scientific support of LabGov.City and the Luiss Business School.

Not to leave behind the Cultural Heritage’s role when dealing with Archaeology, Peter G. Gould, from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and Professor of Archaeology at the American University of Rome, explained the success factors associated with economic development projects within communities adjacent to archaeological and heritage sites. Under his view, the success of community projects is linked to the mechanism community members use to govern their projects activities. He also cited the work of Elinor Ostrom and her attention to the polycentricity principle. 

The Luiss Debate was concluded with the intervention of Giovanni Caudo, from the Roma Tre University’s Architecture Department and Elena De Nictolis post doc of the Department of Political Science. The Open Heritage project and the whole debate has shown that there is possible room for improving, thought the commons approach, trough better regulations, institutions and communities’ inclusion. All these realities are fundamental in creating a new regulatory framework, new policies, and in general an higher awareness and knowledge in managing the Cultural Heritage.  The Debated ended with the greetings of Professor Iaione.

Save the Date! LUISS Debate on Civic Engagement, Heritage and Sustainability

Save the Date! LUISS Debate on Civic Engagement, Heritage and Sustainability

Link to the event.

A public debate on “Civic Engagement, Heritage and Sustainability” will take place on December 9th 2019 at the LUISS University’s Viale Romania campus (find the details here) as a side event to the third Consortium Meeting of the Horizon2020 project “OpenHeritage.Eu”, a pioneering engaged and problem-based research project on community-led sustainability mechanisms for cultural heritage in cities, organized by Luiss LabGov.City and Roma 3 University Architecture from December 8th through December 10th.

The debate will host scholars, international, European and national public institutions to stimulate a discussion about civic engagement and sustainability (social, economic and environmental) as cross-cutting principles for cultural heritage governance and applied research to trigger sustainable development processes at the local level.


Institutional greetings
Andrea Prencipe Rector Luiss University
Giovanni Lo Storto General Manager Luiss University
Antonio Punzi Department of Law Vice Dean Luiss University

Raffaele Bifulco Department of Law Luiss University

Erminia Sciacchitano EU Commission DG Culture Policy Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 “The EU Policy framework on participatory governance of cultural heritage”
Mark Thatcher Professor of Political science Luiss University “European Cultural Heritage policy: identity and markets”

Panel discussion
Nicola Borrelli General Director Urban Regeneration Italian Ministry of Culture “Civic Collaboration as the engine for culture based local economic development – the Italian Policy Culture Urban Future”
Peter Gould American University of Rome “EmpoweringCommunities through Archaeology and Heritage”
Luisella Pavan Woolfe (tbc) Council of Europe “The role of the Faro Convention for the promotion of equality, inclusion and development of local communities and minorities through heritage”
Laura Colini (tbc) Urbact “Integrated urban development and cultural heritage”
Sandra Gizdulich (tbc) Urban Agenda Partnership for Culture and Cultural Heritage and Italy Territorial Cohesion Agency “The key actions of the Urban Agenda on Culture”

Concluding remarks
Giovanni Caudo Roma Tre University – Architecture Department

The Luiss debate will be focused on one side on the role of Universities and other knowledge institutions like cultural NGOs and independent research centers as problem-based and engaged institutions and on the other side on the role that participatory governance in the cultural sector can and should play according the Faro Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for society and EU policies on participatory governance of Cultural Heritage.

Universities and other knowledge institutions like cultural NGOs and independent research centers are playing a key role in disseminating civic engagement around cultural heritage to generate economic, environmental and social sustainability in cities, which become laboratories of democratic, institutional and economic innovations based on culture. It is indeed necessary that Universities start experimenting people-centered, place-based, innovative and integrated approaches that can maximize the social and economic benefits in urban areas. 

This requires a participatory governance approach that includes a broad spectrum of stakeholders that work together on experimenting innovative forms of financing cultural activities and cultural heritage through public-community partnerships.

Under this approach Universities and other knowledge institutions like cultural NGOs and independent research centers can act as platforms that enable cooperation among public, private, social and civic actors to generate direct and indirect social benefits on marginalised communities and target low-income areas to trigger sustainable development processes. The prototyping of sustainability models supported by multi-stakeholder partnerships that interpret the role of the knowledge institutions as an enabling platform for these processes and that enhance the role of civic and non profit actors, but also the implementation of the Faro Convention and EU policies on participatory governance of culture, might represent an innovative strategy to achieve the sustainability objectives promoted by the Agenda 2030 and its SDGs (e.g. “SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” under which target 11.4 calls for strengthening efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage and “SDG 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development” under which target 17.17 encourages and promotes “effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships”).

Read more about the program and the participants here.