Research, training and managerial innovation: a virtuous circle in EMMAP’s housing services case


Research, training and innovation are the key words of the individual innovation projects that were presented on June 30 by participants in the 12th edition of the Executive Master in Public Administration Management (EMMAP). These projects are their final work for the Master, and benefit their home organizations. The idea behind this is that change processes and managerial innovation are only strong in organizations when they are supported by new learning by the people in the organization, and that this learning is all the more solid and lasting when it is supported not so much – or not only – by knowledge of the most sophisticated managerial tools, models and theories, but also by actively and intentionally experimenting with new solutions. EMMAP’s innovation projects aim at developing the participants’ ability to act and their change management practices, along with making the skills they have gained during the Master’s program directly applicable to their home organizations. Constant interaction with EMMAP faculty, which is involved in these individual projects, allows participants to acquire new methodologies, models, experiences and frameworks that enable them to apply public management tools consistently with the organizational context involved in the project, and to be more autonomous in defining the solutions that best address the specific complexities of this context. This was the case with UtEnte, a project set up by Gabriele Comanducci, Head of ATER Umbria’s Condominium Management Sector – the administration in charge of the Region’s public housing assets – and the new User Service Center designed by Grazia Ricca, Director of ARTE Imperia, which manages the public housing assets in this Ligurian Province.

Both projects acknowledge a need for change that is rooted in the awareness of the strategic transformation taking place in the so-called Aziende Casa, the entities that manage public housing assets in Italy, which have gone from a traditional role as builders and maintainers of real estate to also and mainly being managers of services bordering on welfare and targeting an increasingly fragile tenant population. In a nutshell, this mutation in the role of the Aziende Casa is the result of two phenomena that started in the 1990s, at the same time as the regionalization and corporatization of the sector: on the one hand, the progressive reduction of national funding for the construction of new housing, combined with the drive to reduce land consumption; on the other, the increase in multi-dimensional tenant fragilities (income, employment, health, emotional, to name a few), which require welfare responses and services.

A group of EMMAP faculty has been working on these changes for years, in terms of both research and executive training, thanks to their collaboration with Federcasa, the Italian Federation for Public and Social Housing. While their research activity traces a very clear diagnosis of the public housing sector’s evolution, practical experiences rethinking services and the role of the Aziende Casa are still residual and often just being planned. After June 30, the sector can benefit from two important case studies to draw insights for renewing these services.

The UtEnte project leverages a new regional norm requiring, as of 2021, to draw up a specific record of condo managers to be appointed for properties wholly owned by the Agency, with a view to starting a stakeholder engagement and service model rethinking process. In detail, acknowledging that condo managers operate in different ways, and therefore tenants in different properties get heterogeneous responses, Comanducci has kicked off a process to revise internal processes according to a Business Process Improvement logic, as well as clarify assignments and foster integration among different parts of the Agency. After that, through stakeholder mapping, he has identified the different strategies to implement a specification capable of unifying the actions of condo managers across the region and ensuring a homogeneous and more effective response to tenants, focusing on sharing and co-producing the process with the managers themselves. This goes beyond the top-down decision-making approach which often characterizes administrative action, providing for constant and structured opportunities to discuss possible adjustments should critical issues emerge in the implementation of the model.

Grazia Ricca’s User Service Center is a new service that aims to bring fragility management responses in the Imperia area together in one single place, leveraging the opportunity of the redevelopment of a building for the Agency’s headquarters. The new Center will provide both services typical of ARTE Imperia and those provided by local authorities and other entities involved in dealing with social needs, both public (e.g., employment centers) and private (e.g., bar councils for counseling), in order to overcome the fragmentation of welfare services and facilitate access for fragile citizens. The Center has been designed based on a careful analysis of needs among both social housing tenants and frail citizens, and using service management tools to identify the service features most consistent with the strategic goals defined. This ambitious project relies on a careful sustainability analysis, activating a mix of own, regional and European funding. To date, the project has garnered support by Regione Liguria, which has already allocated €1 million also earmarked for the construction of the Center. The Center is expected to be inaugurated by the end of this year. Grazia Ricca’s project has also been awarded the “best project” prize by the Directors’ team of SDA Bocconi Master’s program, because it combines strategic service management with an in-depth analysis of needs and context, and is able to bring people on board and have them support the project both internally and externally, having a concrete impact on the community.

These experiences highlight the value that EMMAP can generate for public services, even in a particularly complex case like social housing, which is dealing with some of the greatest weaknesses among the population. The ability to generate and convey value relies on a teaching approach based on the permeability between research and training activities conducted by the program’s Faculty, which then find room for application and innovation in the participants’ organizations, triggering a virtuous circle between research, training and managerial innovation.

SDA Bocconi School of Management

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