Libera Terra meets the students of the Master in Business Management, Benefit Society

26 July 2022

The target of Società Benefit, Impresa sociale e Cooperativa track of the Business Management BBS University Master are recent graduates who want to start a managerial career in benefit companies and Bcorp, associations that carry out activities in the social interest, for solidarity purposes, adopting responsible, transparent and non-profit practices.

As part of the MGIncontri program, informal meetings with executives of companies who tell their stories, the students had the opportunity to meet Dr. Valentina Fiore, CEO of Libera Terra.

Libera Terra is a brand that brings together several cooperatives, members of Libera‘s associative network, whose mission is to give back to the collective good the territories freed from the mafias, obtaining high quality products, through careful practices that respect the environment and the dignity of the person. The goal of the Libera Terra Consortium is to create autonomous, self-sufficient and durable cooperative enterprises, able to create work, by generating a virtuous economic system based on legality and social justice. Finally, the broader objective is to restore the territory for the economic, moral and financial damage caused by the mafias.

Libera Terra’s success story is one of the most beautiful Italian entrepreneurial experiences: to excel, in order to bring a message of freedom and justice; to lead, with the tools that any company in the market uses, to create widespread well-being. A dream come true, especially for those who aspire to a career that combines the highest level of performance with an equally high ambition to improve the world around us.

The CEO Fiore explained the history of Libera Terra to the students. In 2001, the Libera association launched a public call to involve citizens: the social cooperative for the reintegration into the world of work of disadvantaged people was founded, dedicated to Placido Rizzotto, a trade unionist killed by Cosa Nostra. It is the first social enterprise project stimulated by an association: a completely pioneering experience, developing among many difficulties due to social and territorial context.

In 2002, the Libera Terra brand was born, having an explosive communicative impact: the storytelling of the war against the mafias is combined with the concreteness of a product that people can buy and use, consume.

Over time, other cooperatives become interested in the project and converge under the Libera Terra brand, offering new energy to the project, but generating at the same time a marketing problem: under the same name there are completely different products, with unequal levels of quality, and this causes damage to those who have started a self-supporting entrepreneurial path, far from the logic of aid policies. This is caused by the different, when not opposite, approaches of the cooperatives linked to Libera Terra: if for some the final result is only a symbol, the less relevant point of a solidarity-based vision dependent on donations, others are convinced that the only way to be reliable in the territory is to create high quality products through economically independent enterprises.

A debate was opened between the brand’s users and, in 2007, Libera decided to apply a specification for the use of the brand: whoever uses it must constantly demonstrate that the seized territory provides concrete, tangible and long-term benefits. A cooperative supervises everything, and carries out control, information and training activities: the aim of the regulations is to establish guidelines for new activity development, combining verification with the necessary support to set standards of excellence, sustainability and engagement through self-sustainable enterprises, independent from public and private charity.

A vision focused on entrepreneurship, expertise and excellence had the energy to reverse a critical situation, transforming Libera Terra into a leading player in the high-level food market: the product becomes the core, the improvement of the territory the cornerstone of the business: ‘the mafia is fought with excellence’.

In 2011, a strategic repositioning of product marketing was decided in order to understand how to develop the commercial activities of the cooperatives involved. The focus was on the identification of high quality products (e.g. wine and mozzarella), which allows the brand to be included in contexts which have nothing to do with Libera. This way, the idea is communicated to a customer who would never have been reached by the association. The product becomes a bridgehead to break through where the concept would not reach.

The innovation was to change the thinking, typical of Southern Europe, that all non-profit associations are unskilled, unable of producing wealth. Instead, by changing the purpose of the work, but not the tools, the virtuous effect was evident. “The best skills should be found in non-profit organisations and associations, such as in the large American charities, because in this sector the damage created by incompetence involves entire communities and the collective interest,” Dr. Fiore concludes.

The new track Società Benefit, Impresa sociale e Cooperativa of the Business Management University Master combines frontal lectures, MGIncontri, and Company Project Work: an activity, designed by Professor Angelo Manaresi, Scientific Director of the Master’s Degree, and Professor Barbara Lorenzini, marketing expert and lecturer in the Master’s program, that brings students into companies. Three cases in three months, proposed by BBS partner companies facing a real problem, the management of which is assigned to the students. An individual growth path to develop strategic skills such as public speaking, negotiation, and strategy formulation, combined with the opportunity to come into direct contact with the executives of companies, which could become partners or the destination of their stage.

An all-inclusive concept, a university Master’s program aimed to apply a high level of managerial expertise to the benefit world and to Bcorp, because there is no greater satisfaction than improving, with one’s work, the world around us.


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