Agriculture – Youth Welfare: a School of Entrepreneurship

Agri-Culture Youth Welfare

How can we activate entrepreneurship within a context where the school dropout and unemployment rates are among the highest in our country? This was the challenge at the basis of “Agri-Culture – Youth Welfare,” a project started in June 2021, working side-by-side with the youth from Pollica, in the heart of the Mediterranean Basin. 

It is a well known fact that Italy can do better in terms of schooling. Our country is third in the EU for school dropout rate, with data showing that in 2020, 543,000 young people between 18 and 24 years left school after the middle school diploma. Yet, it is in the South where we find the highest rates of Early Leavers from Education and Training, 17.3% in Campania, along with Sicily (19.4%), and Calabria (16.6%). The main causes are cultural, social, family educational background, and economic motivations, but also dissatisfaction with the educational offerings available, and labor market attraction factors.

A School of Entrepreneurship

It is precisely to fill these gaps that the “Agri-Culture Youth Welfare” project arises, a 10-day course at the Castle of the Princes Capano starting from the dreams and frustrations of Pollica’s youth, from within the challenges characterizing the territory but also from the potential that the local context can offer. Applying innovative methodologies of coaching and Design Thinking, the project aims to discover and enhance hidden values, creating new opportunities and distributing the beauty for collective wellbeing. 

To achieve this goal, the first phase of the project is knowledge-oriented: understanding the target, defining the final goals, and mapping the local stakeholder to increase youth awareness of the surrounding areas, its potential, and main difficulties. Working with youth rather than for them was the added value: increasing real-life connections, peer-to-peer interactions also reactivating the sense of unity that still characterizes these places so full of culture and history.

And from these challenges we commenced! Within a few days, the young people began to define the details of their entrepreneurial projects, by outlining the benefits of their ideas for both the territory and the population. This has been achieved by supporting them in re-discovering their land through different eyes, by accompanying them to visit farmer producers, their methods and activities, but also interviewing their target audience, from children to adults. 

The beauty of hearing from amazed locals emphasizing their revelations, "I didn't know the existence of this producer, it was very interesting to rediscover Pollica," was the real magic of this training experience.

Return to Values

The success of this project has been possible because values were at the heart. Values that have driven the Pollica youth to achieve their dreams, values on which they can return at any later step to assess their progress, values that can be shared to engage new stakeholders in the project. Values that include both people and the territory, and should be returned to the land. 

The most important outcome of this project was the seeds of change we saw among the youth in the project. The young people increasingly threw themselves into the project, becoming more confident each day. They started their paths towards this new approach to their daily lives, distancing themselves from a problem-based mindset and beginning to embrace a new vision, the opportunity-based lenses according to which they evaluate their routines and territory. 

The territorial issues have awakened an active interest and sense of pride to lead young people to start talking about their entrepreneurial ideas even outside of “class hours.” New communication skills have been improved, to be more effective in public speaking and more engaging in the phase of idea sharing. 

This self-awareness is the beginning of a long journey of knowledge, which is perfectly entangled in the sense of community and the peculiarity of the local territory. 

This is the agri & cultural revolution that we are envisioning. 

These are pivotal aspects that are beneficial to Pollica!