Have you ever wondered what happens when someone is in need and he/she goes to social services for help? Do you know how society in general is helping people in need? What are the costs of taking care of needy people? And what are the results in the mid-long term?

Social Care often trended toward the excess of welfarism. That means that when people ask for economical help, and they get it, nothing is asked in exchange. For example, take Sam, he is a 50 year old guy with a wife and one child. He lost his job and for now he cannot find another. His savings soon come to an end and he decides to ask for help from social workers of his town. He gets food and some money. He feels happy, he can feed the family for this month.

This is apparently a good solution for needy people: they get supported by the community. It’s also a civil right in a modern society. In the short term it is a good fix of the problem. But what then?

Often people that are helped in that way will quickly return for more help. We have seen it many times in the past. And now, in this period of economical crisis, you can imagine how many people try the same approach over and over again. In other words, this approach is not efficient and not effective in the long run: both for needy individuals and for the entire society. Furthermore, this one-way help creates addiction: people get used to getting free help, plus their dignity and self-esteem are lowered. It’s time to move towards a new model. Something that empowers people and allows us to see the problem as a resource for everyone insted of a cost.

We call it “GENERATIVE WELFARE”. This is actually not a brand new concept. Fondazione Zancan (an Italian foundation for social research) gave this name to something that has a long life in social work logics. Basically it describes the act of asking something back when someone is helped by society.

Let’s get back to our friend Sam. And here is what would happen when “Generative Welfare” takes place. When Sam meets social workers they ask him what his skills are. They get to know his passions, his hobbies and whatever he is interest in doing for society. In this way they discover he enjoys gardening. They arrange a meeting with Maria, a lonely old woman with a big garden who needs to keep her plants nice. And she needs some company as well.

Sam is more than willing to help Maria in exchange for the money and the food he receives from social care institutions. In the long run Sam gets more self-confidence and more motivation in becoming self-sustaining again. You can see it yourself. The “generative welfare” approach is a win-win solution.

People that were in need are happy. Society gets value too. This “new” way of doing welfare generates VALUE for just everyone. In the short, mid and long run.

From this perspective came the innovative idea grounded in, the new Social Network that helps communities in making visible all the existing skills and the hidden needs of people, companies and no-profit organizations. StarTempo is a brand new project that will be lauched between December 2013 and January 2014. StarTempo is a great tool to make generative welfare possible in any area.

Here is how it works. People signup and complete their profile filling it with their job information, their hobbies and passions and their specific skills. After that, they can search and find someone that needs something that can be covered with their skills and a little bit of their free time. People that sign-up at StarTempo can also enter their needs and look for others in the community that can be helpful. Needs can be of any kind: from learning something new to receiving a service or product.
All the exchanges are made through a virtual unit named STAR. Each hour of time donated to the community is “payed” with one STAR. Donating in StarTempo is also fun. Giving more and more time lets people reach higher “ranks” in the new Social Network. In this way, the act of donating time and skills becomes a game, where everyone wins.

StarTempo will go live soon and everyone since that moment can be a leading actor of the project by helping StarTempo’s Team in “spreading the word”. Soon, generative welfare can be a reality in every community.

About the author.

Sofia Spiga specializes in the new concept of generative welfare. A graduate in social work she is currently studying for amasters degree in the management of social enterprises. Her experiences in Italy inspired her to co-found StarTempo, with the mission to improve society with a bottom-to-top approach.

You can learn more about StarTempo at


5 thoughts on “GENERATIVE WELFARE by Sofia Spiga

  1. I’ll be really interested to know what people think of this idea. My own feeling is that it’s rather too close to the infamous “No work, no eat” cliche of WW2 POW camps. I understand that the intent may be different and that the Italian system is clearly different from UK’s but still I worry about what might happen to those who can’t (or don’t agree to) the plan. Do they just starve?

    Article 4 ECHR (prohibition of slavery) anyone?

    But I’m always open to suggestion. What do others think?

  2. I like the idea of this, but purely on a voluntary basis. Unless I’ve misunderstood the article you’re suggesting that people work for the community in return for help given by the welfare state including social services. If someone needs the kind of help that our social services can give they should get it with no strings attached. Most people in receipt of that kind of support get it because they can no longer support themselves, mentally, emotionally or financially and in the case of the people I work for will probably never be able to do so. No, what I’m seeing here could open the door to sanctions on care and support based on willingness to repay. It is enough that the people I support can manage the day to day routine of living their lives and that should be enough for anyone as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Hi there. I’m Alex, one of the founders of
    Thank you for your comments. We’d like to hear more!
    These topics are always serious and important and cannot be explained in 20 lines of an article.

    Generative Welfare is a model that can be used to improve the existing and standard welfare model.

    I agree with @Richard :”Sam has already given something in exchange – he’s paid into the system when he was working.”; This situation is not alway true. For example we have many Immigrants: people that did not pay for receiving help and are not integrated with society. An approach like Generative Welfare will bring more equity in the system (you receive help and when you can you give the value back to the society). This will give dignity to people (I recognize you are someone, you can do something other than receiving). This will keep the system balanced. This will help foreign people to interact with local communities creating network and helping the “helped” becoming self dependent.

    Generative Welfare is not compulsory so it’s far from “No Work no eat” like @Stuart suggested.

    This is a way to avoid those behavior where people go to ask for help over and over (there are many) and gets people on the right way to become self-sustainable. It’s meant to be a win-win-win situation!

    Coming to, It’s important to understand that the social network was thought to help people exchange their time and their skills to grow the economy and spread the knowledge. On a voluntary bases.

    The platform can be applied to help social services in activating generative welfare too. It’s just an application of the system.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We are here reading further observations! 🙂

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