"Community Thinking used to be that society should be made up of small communities - I want to say again that we are talking about a post-War Italy with a population that was very different from what we have today – and these small communities would then form some sort of confederation and choose their representatives.
Thus there would be a series of representatives leading all the way up to central government.
One of the things that Adriano Olivetti held in the highest regard was ability." Laura Olivetti
The political structure of the communities
First of all I would like to say hello to all the friends of Beppe Grillo’s Blog. My name is Laura Olivetti, President of the Adriano Olivetti Foundation and the youngest daughter of Adriano Olivetti.
I have been asked to say a few words about the work done by the Foundation that I head up, and indeed what is the reason for its existence since, given its name, namely the Adriano Olivetti Foundation, it is closely linked with Adriano Olivetti the person and his mission.
Adriano Olivetti died in 1960 and the Foundation was established in 1962 as per the wishes of my father’s family and my elder brothers. I am the youngest of four children and I was born when my father was already elderly, perhaps not quite elderly by today’s standards, but in those days it was unusual to have children when one was over 40 years of age. He died when I was only 9 years of age.
Nevertheless, my elder brothers, who were born out of my father’s first marriage, and my father’s brothers wanted to establish this Foundation in order to continue the work that had been started by Adriano Olivetti, namely studies and experimentation in the field of the social sciences in the broadest possible terms.
Our Foundation does not award grants and indeed we receive grants because the Foundation's assets are barely sufficient to support the structure itself but absolutely don’t allow us to do any sort of research, so we are extremely reliant on bringing in donations from outside.
The Foundation has had its fair share of ups and downs given that it is already 50 years old, but during those early years after Adriano Olivetti’s death the Foundation focused mainly on completing a number of Adriano Olivetti’s social projects in the Canavese region, in Basilicata where it was very involved with various community centres, and in Lazio, at Terracina.
I mentioned the community centres so I had better explain exactly what these were. Essentially these were centres established by the “Comunità” movement, a movement that Adriano Olivetti established after the War, a movement rather than a political party, which had its own, very specific structure as described in a soon to be re-published book entitled “L’ordine politico delle comunità” (Literally “The political order of the communities”), a sort of constitutional engineering treatise as certain people referred to it, in which he explained precisely how the State should be structured in terms of his personal view of community.
The community centres were established in the Canavese Region, the region in which Ivrea is located, as well as in other parts of Italy. These centres were open to everyone and also had libraries, often mobile ones, in other words these libraries moved from one centre to the next. The centres had reading rooms and periodically they even organised debates and conferences, however, they were essentially places that where open to all and where anyone could was welcome, even people who were not members of the “Comunità” movement. Remember that this was happening 50 years ago, when Italy was a very different place to what it is now, so people could go to the community centre to watch TV, like in a bar or suchlike.
One by one these community centres began to close down after Adriano Olivetti’s death, partly because all this care for the territory and for the culture of that territory was something that he and the members of the movement were particularly passionate about. Clearly it was something that didn’t go down too well back at the Olivetti factory, partly because it was personally funded by my father and therefore the Olivetti company had no intention of contributing towards the upkeep of all this, so the Foundation stood by helplessly and watched as these centres were shut down or restructured and, even though they continued to exist in the various communities, at that stage they were either taken over by the local municipalities or basically shut down completely.
Then, going back to the Foundation, there were periods when it dealt mainly with, let’ say the repercussions that the new technologies had on man, and here we’re talking about the early ‘70s, when a famous seminar was held in Courmayeur back in 1970 or71, and I say famous because it is well known in these circles, to celebrate the Foundation’s 10-year anniversary. That seminar was attended by a number of international experts who studied and reflected on, as I said, the effects of the new technology on society.
I we consider that this took place 40 years ago now we realise that this was something truly cutting-edge for the time since the new technologies were only in their infancy at that stage.
Community Thinking used to be that society should be made up of small communities - I want to say again that we are talking about a post-War Italy with a population that was very different from what we have today – and these small communities would then form some sort of confederation and choose their representatives.
Thus there would be a series of representatives leading all the way up to central government.
One of the things that Adriano Olivetti held in the highest regard was ability.
In this book the author theorises about the move away from the smaller Community to a larger Community, but still represented by people who are highly skilled in their field of representation.
A form of true democracy
So I spoke about a constitutional engineering treatise because all these aspects of the type of person who would represent the community in the institutions had to have certain very specific characteristics.
In any event, all the decisions that would subsequently be expressed at the institutional level would in fact be made by the representatives elected by the community. It’s very difficult to explain this in just a few words, but it has always seemed to be a form of true democracy, perhaps also a little utopian in that it was never going to be very easy to make this come about, but let’s just say that at least here in the Canavese region they tried and even succeeded.
And that’s that as far the Movement is concerned.
It must also be said that these concepts, using a slightly different formula, were indeed also applied at the factory in that it always functioned as a combination of intelligence, skills and service to the territory. In Adriano Olivetti’s view, the factory was merely a means to an end, the end being the rebirth of the territory. A means by which people could express themselves through their work while at the same time giving a sense of meaning to that work, hence, in his famous address at the inauguration of Piozzuoli, he said: “Can industry give itself a purpose? Yes indeed, because industry becomes a means, merely a means by which to improve the quality of life of the people and of the territory in which the factory is located”.
In his mind the factory should have been run by a foundation made up of the shareholders, the workers, the local universities and the local municipalities and I think that this explains the business concept fairly well.
He tried to do this back in the early 50s, however, he faced quite a bit of hostility and so nothing was done, or rather they did nothing.
Adriano Olivetti always placed the person above all else, that is true, but focusing on the person’s wellbeing.
Let me tell you, there was a great interview with Massimo Fichera, which can perhaps still be viewed on the Foundation’s website at www.fondazioneadrianolivetti.it, in which Fichera, who worked very closely with my father in the “Movimento di Comunità”, subsequently became the Foundation’s first General Secretary and went on to become one of RAI’s most revolutionary directors back in the 70s, called it the factory of good, in which the person was important as an individual and viewed in his/her entirety, so it was important that, in the workplace, which was where their biggest impact was made, the person could live and work in an environment that was as non-alienating as possible but because assembly lines tend to be alienating by their very nature, hence that beautiful architecture that enabled the workers to escape the drudgery by looking at the view outside, looking out onto fields, mountains and blue sky and also via a whole support network of services designed to assist employees in all aspects of their lives. That is precisely what happened in the factory, an example of best practices that is pretty widely acknowledged. Still today Olivetti is highly praised for what the Company did for its employees, but for him the person was important, firstly as an individual and then as an employee. The worker is like an expression of something divine. My father had a very very strong sense of spirituality that transcended man, in which man was part of something divine, hence, I believe, his respect for man as a harmonium part of nature, so man should be treated harmoniously and the harmony around him must be conserved.
These days the Foundation is very involved in the Canavese region around Ivrea, particularly at this time. We are dealing with the intellectual capital, the human capital if you will, that has remained in this area, part of which has already been absorbed into new enterprises and new operations aimed at recovery in this area that has been very seriously tried in recent years.
At the same time the Foundation has reacquired the rights to the “Edizioni Comunità”, which we are in the process of re-publishing under the guidance of Beniamino De Liguori, two books, two of Adriano Olivetti’s addresses. The first is entitled “Ai Lavoratori” (Literally “To the workers”) and the second is “Democrazia Senza Partiti” (Literally “Democracy Without Political Parties”), which are the writings of Adriano Olivetti in the form of a book that was released just one week prior to the recent general elections, which was not planned but was nevertheless a very fortunate coincidence.
The books are available, even on the Internet, for anyone who wishes to delve a bit deeper.
Everything that the Foundation does is published and everything that we publish is downloadable so I sincerely hope that this will help us to continue with our work.
So all that is left for me to say is “Spread the word”.
The buildings that Adriano Olivetti conceived as places for living and working in Ivrea are now candidates for inclusion as UNESCO World Heritage Sites thanks to the efforts of the Ivrea Municipality and the Adriano Olivetti Foundation with the backing of the Ministry of Cultural Assets and Activities.
Posted by Beppe Grillo at 07:18 AM in Information
(1) | Comments in Italian (translated)
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