Building a social enterprise Lab!

Building a social enterprise Lab!

The second module is about to start! How will students’ initial planning ideas become a final project proposal?

On the 28th of February the workshop “Entrepreneurship” will take place in classroom 305b from 4pm to 6pm in the Luiss campus located in Viale Romania, 32. The Urban Clinic will host prof. Alessandro Cavallo, founder of Cavallo Consulting and lecturer & mentor at Luiss Business School. The focus will be on digital analysis and marketing strategy as well as product design and development.

On the 29th of February the co-working “Building a Social Enterprise” will take place in aula Polivalente from 10am to 5pm in the Luiss campus of Viale Romania, 32. During this session the students will present their planning ideas elaborated during the last co-working session and reshaped during the week in teamwork. The ideas will then be judged by a panel of experts who will highlight the strong points, the feasibility and the originality in terms of social impact, sustainability and innovation of every proposed idea. The ultimate goal is to come up with a final merged idea that will be further analysed during the second part of the meeting so to start building a business model.

Aren’t you curious to find out what the final idea will be? Stay up to date by following us on our social channels Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

The Co-City Baton Rouge Project: Understanding Plank Road, Part I

The Co-City Baton Rouge Project: Understanding Plank Road, Part I

Over the next few days we will be sharing a series of articles presenting the Co-City Baton Rouge Project, developed by our partners at LabGov Georgetown. The articles were originally published on their website and are available here.

Plank Road Historical Timeline, Courtesy of Studio Zewde

Co-City Baton Rouge is developing and implementing innovative institutions to transform the Plank Road Corridor (Corridor) of North Baton Rouge into a community of opportunity. By focusing on neighborhood scale governance innovation, the Co-City Baton Rouge project outcome is centered on the needs and interests of the residents of the Corridor. However, desk research alone is not enough to fully understand a city, let alone a neighborhood. Given the history of urban renewal and other planning efforts in this community, there is widespread suspicion and distrust of top-down planning processes. The Co-City protocol is the opposite, to work with residents and stakeholders to identify what they think is best for revitalizing their neighborhood and to increase their capacity to be full collaborators, not just bystanders, in their economic development.


The success of the Co-City BR is grounded in the first two phases of the Co-City cycle: Cheap Talking and Mapping. The Cheap Talk phase involves face-to-face, informal and pressure-free communication among key local actors (experts, practitioners, activists, residents) to activate the community of stakeholders that will be involved in the collaborative project. The second phase, Mapping, involves understanding the characteristics of the urban or neighborhood context through surveys and exploratory interviews, fieldwork activities, and ethnographic work. Over the last nine months the project team has been cheap talking and mapping in Plank Road to develop community redevelopment ideas into actualized projects. The next two posts will provide context for Co-City Baton Rouge with a brief history and demographics of the area which lays the foundation to understand the historic structural and institutional barriers for development in the Corridor.

A History in Brief

Baton Rouge has been inhabited since at least 8000 BC. The history of modern-day Baton Rouge goes back to 1699 during an expedition up the Mississippi River a French explorer named Sieur d’Iberville found a red-colored cypress pole (baton rouge) with bloody animals marking the boundary between tribal hunting grounds. In 1719, Baton Rouge was established as a French military outpost, then lost to the British in 1736, followed by Spanish in 1779 until 1810 to the Republic of West Florida. It was an independent republic for 74 days until the Americans in New Orleans raised the American flag, was incorporated in 1817 and became the capital of the state in 1849.

Plank Road’s history starts around 1709 when the first enslaved Africans were brought to Louisiana to transform the region to grow cotton and sugar cane. To increase productivity and profits, plantation owners decided to construct a road to connect Baton Rouge to a train depot north of the city in Clinton, Louisiana. The path was constructed of wooden planks, lending itself to being called Plank Road. A more detailed history of the growth and development of Plank Road and Baton Rouge can be seen here.

Plank Road Today

A blighted property on Plank Road (Photo by LabGov Georgetown)

Plank Road is located in the northern area Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. The Co-City Baton Rouge project area is  a 4.3 mile area along Plank Road bound by 22nd Street and the Harding Boulevard/Hooper Road intersection (the “Corridor”) but extends into the neighboring town of Zachary, LA. The Corridor oscillates between four to five lanes and has a diverse built environment.  The Corridor is bordered by mostly commercial land uses and has residential lots along the intersecting side streets that extend for several blocks in either direction. It is one of the most blighted corridors in Baton Rouge yet remains a significant anchor for the neighborhoods of North Baton Rouge.  The heart of Plank Road runs through the 70805 zip code, where many of Baton Rouge’s social and economic challenges are concentrated with respect to transit, crime, and income.

The Corridor has the highest concentration of zero-car households and the second highest transit ridership in Baton Rouge. Although there are sidewalks, they are inconsistent and not continuous.The combination of high vehicle speeds, limited or no provisions for pedestrian or bicycle access (like crosswalks, consistent sidewalks, etc), and minimal amounts of landscaping, have contributed to the rise in pedestrian and bicycle accidents in the area and the Louisiana overall (see here and here). During my visits to the area I have seen first hand how dangerous it is to be a pedestrian trying to cross a street. 

Local resident crossing Plank Road (Photo by LabGov Georgetown)

The neighborhoods around Plank Road are predominately black and poor, a reflection of Baton Rouge’s deeply entrenched racial and spatial stratification.  70805 is 93% black and reflects the consequences of historical patterns of racial segregation and racialized poverty. The area underperforms state averages in many categories.  Its 2016 median household income is roughly $27,000 compared to $45,146 statewide. 36% of households in 70805 live below the poverty line, with almost 20% living below 50% of the poverty line (as compared statewide of 20% and 12%, respectively).  The median home value in the zip code is $86,240, well below the state average of $158,000. 55% of the residents in 70805 rent their homes, compared to 36% statewide.  

In 2014 a British Broadcasting Company (BBC) documentary titled, BBC Pop Up: Life in Baton Rouge’s most dangerous neighbourhood, profiled 70805 as one of the deadliest zip codes in America.  In 2016 Baton Rouge was ranked as the number 22 murder capital on 24/7 Wall St.’s list of America’s 25 Murder Capitals. That year, 943 violent crimes violent crimes occurred in 70805, and almost half of them occurred within 100 feet of a blighted property.

Over the past years there has been a growing awareness of the spatial dimensions of the city’s long-standing racial divide.  Growing concerns that Baton Rouge has become a “tale of two cities” are validated by the stark divergence in the quality of place, racial composition, and social value attached to neighborhoods on either side of Florida Boulevard, the corridor considered by many to be the city’s “Mason-Dixon line.” All these factors present an unsafe and unappealing aesthetic environment for residents, visitors and merchants and where Co-City Baton Rouge intends to be part of the spiral up.

Open Innovation and Business Modelling: towards a more sustainable and innovative approach

Open Innovation and Business Modelling: towards a more sustainable and innovative approach

On Friday 21th and Saturday 22th the students of the Urban Clinic Edu LabGov 2020 participated to the first workshop and co-working. The main goal of the meeting was to deepen the knowledge about an “Open and Collaborative Innovation” methodology that is lately gaining popularity.

On Friday, Professor Maria Isabella Leone, Director of the master in Open Innovation and IP at Luiss Business School, carried an interactive lesson, successfully involving students in a reasoning process, instead of flooding them with theoretical knowledge which hardly manages to capture students’ interest. The laboratory was based on the analysis of the innovative aspects and strategies of noted fashion brands, namely Ferragamo, Burberry, Piquadro and Stella McCartney and than investigate for business models of companies whose main scope is to revolutionize their activity and differentiate themselves from competitors. The students brought out interesting elements that were a source of reflection for the work they carried out the following day.

What emerged as a common trend is the transformation of waste materials into renewable resources so to create new fibres at low environmental impact. What has been stressed even more is that “Open Innovation” implies collaboration with actors coming from different realities, namely stat-ups, universities, customers, tech industries, incubators, consortia, spin-offs, industries and so on. This means there has to be trust in partnerships but whenever there is a common scope, the collaboration is more prone to be successful and consequentially improve the revenues of all participating actors.

The following day, Alessandro Piperno, PhD student in management at Luiss, exposed what a social enterprises is and how to help communities grow and develop in an urban context. After a brief talk about some important social enterprises like 4ocean, Made in Carcere, Patagonia, and Progetto Quid, students were inspired enough to propose some of their ideas in a process of brainstorming so to come up with three specific ideas to analyse more in detail for the next meeting. The laboratory’s outcome was an important step forward to understand new trends based on upcycle sustainable fashion and circular economy.

Next meeting will be on Friday 28th with the workshop “Entrepreneurship” held by prof. Alessandro Cavallo and Saturday 29th with the co-working “Building a social enterprise”  in which EDU 2020 tutors together with a jury of experts will listen to LabGovers’ pitch on their design idea. The laboratory will be an occasion for students to  test their ideas and get a feedback from experts in the field so to continue shaping their ideas and let the project evolve throughout the laboratory.

Oslo and the Legal Aid Clinic – how can a bunch of students improve the life of a metropolis?

Oslo and the Legal Aid Clinic – how can a bunch of students improve the life of a metropolis?

Jussbuss early history

Written by: Ida Maria Andenæs Galtung and Carlo Epifanio

A bus of young legal aiders – who are they?

Back in 1971 a bunch of law students from the University of Oslo started a project on a bus. Driving the streets of the Norwegian capital and its outskirts, the students decided to map the need for legal aid. It turned out to be a major need for legal support among the general public, so the group started a free law informing service to help provide equal rights. With their mobile bus, the students reached out to all the corners of the city and managed to help the vulnerable groups of Oslo. This bus became the student-managed legal aid clinic “Jussbuss”, which is Norwegian for “Law bus”. Jussbuss still exists today and currently consists of roughly 30 employees working with free legal aid every day. Despite not providing urban services per se, it is legitimate to wonder if and how the Legal Aid Clinic model can contribute to cities and reduce the number of conflicts in society. This story is worth sharing because of its creativity and courage to improve: Jussbuss is certainly an inspiring example for those who are reading these lines.

Can the clinic reduce conflicts in society? 

It can be alienating for many people to enter and reach out for help from a law firm. If it is not the formal, corporate, and suit dressed-atmosphere that scares you off, the price of the consultation will. At least for many people. That is why the clinic specialized in a few areas of legal practice to benefit disadvantaged social groups. They give concrete advice in specific cases while at the same time gain knowledge about the structural oppression at play. The clinics’ decennial activity resulted in an expertise in immigration law, prison law, debt law and financial assistance, and social security benefits. There is also a specific wage-limit for clients as the main raison d’etre of the clinic is to reach out to those with the biggest need of help. In some cases, the clinic manages to successfully defend its clients rights. In cases where the clinic is not able to achieve the client’s goal, the task at hand is to explain the legal situation to the client. It is important that the clients understand how the clinic worked for a different outcome of their case, but also to understand the final result. An important principle at Jussbuss has been “help to self help” and making the clients understand the legality of the situations they are in. 

Jussbuss doing outreach work, and handing out law information brochures.

The research that led to the organization Jussbuss kept inspiring legal aid research. The findings are clear: the need for legal aid is proportionally larger in the poor neighbourhoods. As the project is no longer located on a bus, but in an office in the center east side of Oslo, one of the project’s fundamental activities is to reach the client groups who might not contact them otherwise. The most vulnerable groups often don’t ask for help themselves. In many cases people in difficult situations may not be able to sort out the legal issues of their life problems. This is why certain help centers, Caritas, and specific neighborhoods of the city are chosen as a base to take in new cases and for informing people in an informal atmosphere. By staying mobile, the clinic makes the city smaller and tries to reduce class distinctions. Weekly, a part of the team travels outside Oslo and visits organizations, schools, and prisons to give answers to legal questions.  

A challenge for the clinic is the procedure to ensure that the advice they give is correct. Many are surprised to hear how independently students give legal aid, and move around the country with such authority. In the short term, their work can be solely informative, as the students can’t  give more than general information when they travel. However, when they need to give concrete advice in cases, they take them to the office, study them and let them go through group meetings which usually take place once a week. This is an important learning mechanism for knowledge and expertise reproduction. 

Independent governance, active research role, and internal organization based on learning

Somehow surprisingly, the clinic remains a popular place for law students to work since 1971. The students have to complete two years of law school to apply for a job at the clinic. This is to ensure that they know the basic legal method before starting. Then they have to take leave from the university to work full time at the clinic for one year. As a final stage, they are obliged to work 20 percent of their time for six months to train the new students who start working. It is all based on helping each other to understand the law and working close together. With this system, the students usually have to postpone their graduation for a year. For most students it is still worth doing because of the engaging environment and work experience. Also, the students receive a small salary from the university, the size of a university monthly Norwegian stipend. 

The students learn to see where the law and the legal system comes short and apply their expertise in the public sphere. Indeed, through legal political work they can address the authorities and politicians, by participating in different foras. Students debate in the media and speak in parliamentary hearings, for example on how the laws should be formed. After finishing their year at Jussbuss, some students come back later on to do some research and write their thesis on questions related to the legal aid gap in society. 

A conflict resolver in the urban arena

The Legal Aid Clinic turned out to be a successful model in Norway. Shortly after the establishment of Jussbuss, a sister organisation providing legal aid for women was established in Oslo. Jussbuss was also replicated in other major cities such as Tromsø and Bergen, and it elicits international interest by people who want to bring the project to their city outside Norway. The clinics work independently and exchange their activity during annual meetings in national congresses. A key-necessary factor for such success is an informal yet supportive relationship between the clinic and the Norwegian state. Even though the clinic works actively with legal politics, and sometimes criticizes the government, the clinic has been well respected and supported financially throughout the years. The state recognizes that the clinic deploys a welfare service to groups of society which are often difficult to reach. Despite the occasional need for pro-bono lawyers when handling court cases, the students function as a true bridge between neglected communities and society. 

The growing multicultural settings of cities make it necessary for lawyers to understand how the law and the norms work in different cultures or society layers. Law and legal considerations might need a contextual perspective for the premises to function for the groups intended, as reminded by Hellum and Taj in the project of informing Pakistani women in Norway  to help solve their problems. For a joint effort including legal advice and sociological considerations, the positive relationship of the clinic with other organizations and the state in an independent autonomy of their governance is crucial. 

The new challenges that cities are facing, such as open data and active democratic processes, call for a higher awareness among citizens. Cities can be governed effectively only with a consistent contribution of participation and activism in the decision making process. Knowledge is the first key step for involvement and engagement. Bridging such gaps in citizen awareness, and filling an economic gap, is an efficient way to be in touch with people living at the margins. Lawyers can be fundamental actors in the making of collaborative cities. The work of the clinic is inspirational because it shows their new role: a relation between communities and lawyers as city builders. 

Let’s begin! The first module: Idea Generation Lab will take place on February 21th and 22th

Let’s begin! The first module: Idea Generation Lab will take place on February 21th and 22th

The first module will be dedicated to Open Innovation and Open Business modeling.

 On Friday the 21st the first workshop will take place in classroom 305b from 4pm to 6pm in the Luiss campus located at Viale Romania 32.

The Urban Clinic will host Maria Isabella Leone, professor at the department of Business and Management and executive director of the master in Open Innovation and Intellectual Property. As an expert in open innovation she will analyze some examples of firms that successfully adopted approaches based on open innovation. This workshop will provide students many insights to stimulate their creativity so to come up with some ideas to tackle our challenge.

On Saturday the 22nd the firs co-working session will take place in classroom 103b from 10am to 5pm at the Luiss campus located in Viale Romania 32.

The Urban Clinic will host Alessandro Piperno, Luiss PhD student in Management. During the co-working session, the students will be divided into three groups, each group has to develop an idea’s proposal able to overcome our challenge. Every group will then present its idea to the rest of the students and work on a power point presentation to redefine it and analyze in depth the topic. Once the idea generation process will be gone underway, Alessendro Piperno will explain to students the basic notions to carry out a business model so to provide students with practical skills that will help them turn their ideas into reality.