By the Editorial Staff

The Ortygia Business School Foundation is a platform that aims to foster innovation and development in the southern and Mediterranean area of Europe by supporting businesses and valuing human capital. The project was the idea of Italian economist Lucrezia Reichlin who, following a career pursued mostly abroad, felt the strong need to contribute to relaunching Southern Europe, and particularly Southern Italy, and called upon her network of global thinkers and business leaders to join the cause.

The main activities through with the Foundation pursues this objective are by valuing Mediterranean talent in order to stop the “brain drain” from the South – young people who choose to be educated and work in Northern Italy and Northern Europe – and attracting local and international businesses and professionals so they act as catalysts for new resources and competences locally. The actions taken have the aim of bringing new stimuli, content and experiences that have an international component to regional actors, thereby contributing to developing the territory by valuing human capital. The individuals involved in managing and developing the school include, in addition to the Founder and President – Lucrezia Reichlin – the two co-founders, economist Francesco Drago, lecturer at the Università di Catania, and Piero Fillioley, lawyer. The operational team is led by Managing Director Gini Dupasquier and two young professionals who have migrated South, in a counter-exodus, to work on the project: Camilla Fortunati, who is Business Development Manager and Rosangela De Carolis, who is Operations Manager. In the last few years, the Foundation has developed an executive education programme for managers of large companies with strategic interests in the South of Italy and in the Mediterranean area, and for SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) and family businesses.

Lucrezia Reichlin

The training programmes, taught by lecturers from the best international business schools, sometimes also host debates about topics such as the development and growth of the South and Italy, through the involvement of institutions, local and international business leaders and global thinkers during networking opportunities and discussions that are open to all citizens and the local business community. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the Foundation wanted to contribute to defining post-crisis scenarios and created a public dialogue about the priorities for relaunching the country by inviting CEOs from leading Italian companies to have their say. These discussions featured Catia Bastioli, Novamont; Luigi de Vecchi, Citi; Luigi Gubitosi, TIM; Corrado Passera, illimity; Marco Patuano, A2A; Alessandro Profumo, Leonardo; Elisabetta Ripa, Open Fiber. They provided important ideas and stimuli, and made it clear how important it is today to invest in human capital, starting with young people, and to defend inclusion and equal opportunities in terms of gender and other issues. Thus was born the Manifesto for Human Capital in the South, created to draw the attention of the business community, policy-makers and the media to the opportunity that the South could have to stimulate employment and productivity and tie itself more closely to the rest of Europe. The Manifesto is built around three main objectives, around which the OBS Foundation intends to gather the best energies, skills and resources, starting from the South: training based on the skills of the future, gender equality and a sustainable turnaround.

The first concrete project to contribute to the relaunch of the South by enhancing talent and gender inclusion, in an area where the female employment rate is stagnant at 30%, is YEP – the Young Women Empowerment Programme. YEP is a mentoring programme dedicated to female students enrolled in a master’s degree course at the main universities in Southern Italy, who are mentored one-to-one by professionals from the Foundation’s partner companies: The aim of the programme is to bring female students closer to the professional world by offering concrete support in identifying the best path for them, helping them to acquire an awareness of their strengths and weaknesses and of the skills that are in greatest demand in the market. Mentoring is a powerful tool for empowerment and inclusion, and through the YEP programme the Foundation enhances female talent and encourages ambition and confidence in the future of young women in the South, offering them the chance to come into contact with experience, professionalism and valuable opportunities to better define their own career path.

The programme has so far involved 150 female students enrolled in a master’s degree course in STEM subjects at the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, the Politecnico di Bari, Università della Calabria, Università degli Studi di Catania and the Università degli Studi di Palermo. The first edition, launched in autumn 2020, was made possible thanks to the support of Intesa Sanpaolo. No less than eight important corporations participated in the second edition as partners in the spring of 2021: Accenture, Citigroup, Credimi, Enel, EY Foundation Onlus, Open Fiber, Sifi and Sparkle. These are the companies that have made their professional expertise available through employees who, as mentors, guide the students on their path of awareness and growth. All the participants in the YEP programme, students and mentors, receive methodological and training support from the OBS Foundation. Training seminars for the role of mentor and mentee are organised, as well as intermediate moments to facilitate sharing experiences and make the process concrete and effective.

The YEP programme attracted a lot of interest and applications, many of which could not be accommodated due to a lack of available places. This is a sign that the YEP programme responds to a real need in the area, which has prompted the OBS Foundation to commit itself to finding the resources and partners to organise future editions and to have an impact on an ever wider audience of recipients: thanks to initiatives like ours, we hope that more and more young women in the South will be able to face the future with more confidence, capitalising on their studies and pursuing the professional fulfilment, which will contribute to their economic independence and to the rebirth of the areas they come from.

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