Photo: Silvia Amato, Director of Education, Communication and Cultural Transformation at Opinno Italia; Giampaolo Colletti, journalist, founder of Wwworkers, during the presentation of the Circolare Future Manifesto at the Italian Chamber of Deputies. 

Wwworkers, a partnership between WWW and workers, is a platform created by journalist Giampaolo Colletti in 2010 which collects and shares stories of emerging Italian digital entrepreneurs. A community of networked workers who harness digital tools in order to develop their businesses. 

Over the years, Wwworkers has provided a space for these success stories, carrying out projects focused on specific topics, putting them in contact with each other and representing an important part of the region at an institutional level. 

The theme of the 2022 edition of Wwworkers, called Circular Future, involved circular economy and sustainability. 

“This year, for the first time,” Giampaolo Colletti told us, “we linked the theme of digital to that of circularity, placing the challenges of digital transition alongside those of ecological and environmental transition. It was an important step because it allowed us to dialogue with a hundred local SMEs during an event that lasted three and a half months.” 

What is the aim of this edition?  

“The goal was to create a Manifesto on Circular Future, a collaborative and visionary identity document, representing the identikit of Italian digital and circular companies, which we presented during the final event at the Chamber of Deputies. There is a lot of talk about sustainability and digitalization for large corporations, but small companies can do it too. However, in order to do so, it is necessary to know exactly what needs to be done and what the priorities are. This was the task we set ourselves with this issue. And to achieve it, we focused on concrete strategies to set practical, measurable, certified and shared actions. Actions linked to conception, production, distribution and reuse.” 

This was the background to the collaboration with Opinno Italia, which supported the Wwworkers project in this challenge. 

“We helped these small and medium-sized sustainable companies to identify the decalogue of key actions to be a circular company,” explains Silvia Amato, Opinno Italia's Director of Education, Communication and Cultural Transformation. We did it inspired by one of the tools of Open Innovation, through a hackathon that involved, in several meetings, the community of Italian digital entrepreneurs to tell their stories, compare notes and summarize experiences in order to better represent the best practices that can help and inspire other companies, to become more and more sustainable.” 

How was this project developed?  

“We created a virtual building dedicated to the Wwworkers community, where a hundred or so SMEs gathered virtually to discuss and work together, inspired by the speakers and guided by our mentors and innovation managers to bring out the most significant experiences and facilitate collaboration. Thanks to this structure, we were able to put together, like a jigsaw puzzle, a ten-point manifesto that can inspire all companies that want to focus on sustainability.” 

The project has also made it possible to take an up-to-date snapshot of the situation of small and medium-sized Italian companies. Giampaolo, what do we see in this snapshot? 

“Certainly, what we see is the fact that there has been a great increase in the attention paid to territories and proximity economies: SMEs have many more tricks up their sleeves because, unlike in the past, when they worked at the global level, today the focus has shifted to the local level and this means that the territories and the relationships that companies maintain in the territories where they are located have been enhanced.” 

“Wwworkers, over the years, has brought not only large companies but also institutions closer to the ecosystem of online workers. It is no coincidence that this year, as in previous editions, the final event with the presentation of the results of the project was held in Parliament, on December 15, in the Chamber of Deputies. 

This is essential. Companies must understand that it is necessary to be present in these ecosystems. This is the Anglo-Saxon approach of multi-stakeholder engagement. Without the involvement of institutional actors, it is difficult to create value beyond the mere realization of the product or service.” 

What are the most important challenges facing these companies today?  

“Basically, there are three. The first is an infrastructure one. To make a business digital and circular you must invest in technology as well as in processes and governance. This is a challenge that can only be overcome by working as a team. Smaller companies, joining together in partnerships and networks, can reduce costs and make the project scalable. The second challenge is cultural: it is necessary to exp.lain to the consumer why it makes sense to buy a circular and digital product. The third challenge is reputation: you must be assertive, to do things in a certified, transparent and responsible way.” 

What programs are planned for 2023?  

“After outlining the situation in Italy, we want to bring the best experiences by relating Italian stories to territorial stories in Europe and the world. Only by connecting all the dots can we really make a difference. And we will also pursue the relationship with Opinno Italia, which has proven to be a success. Because it allowed us to create, through a hackathon, an initiative not only of storytelling but also of co-creation between all the actors involved, which represents the added value of the project.”