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2011 and Beyond for the Bassetti Foundation

by Redazione FGB [1], 23 January 2012

2011 was once more a busy year for the Bassetti Foundation, marking the beginnings of several projects that will run through 2012 and beyond. The following is a review of some of the major events that occurred throughout the year, things to look forward to in the new year now unfolding, a taster of the Foundation's work and a picture of its approach in addressing the problem of responsibility in innovation.

2011 saw the birth and development of the Foundation's Design Project entitled 'Milano Design, realizzare l'improbabile', a multifaceted project involving a large group of contributors, sponsors and events, and co-ordinated by the foundation, Manolo De Giorgi [2], Italo Lupi [3]  and Andrea Kerbaker [4]

Amongst those that contributed to the creation of the project are the following and all will be involved throughout 2012 as the project continues:
Camera di Commercio di Milano [5] 
Camera di Commercio di Monza e Brianza [6]
Cosmit [7]
Domus Academy [8] & Giovanni Lanzone
FederlegnoArredo [9]
PDMA Southern Europe [10]
Scuola del Design del Politecnico di Milano [11]

Part of the project involved the commission of a theatrical performance entitled "Mani grandi, Senza fine", first presented to the public at "Il Piccolo Teatro" in Milan on 11th and 12th Of February 2011.

The performance represented the culmination of a year-long research and production effort into the post war history of design and designers in Milan. The presentation, a monologue delivered by Laura Curino involved an intricate mix of video, music, theatre and stage design, and the capacity audience showed immense appreciation for what must be considered an impressive and historic body of work. There are some wonderful photos of the preparation and the show itself here [12]. This article [13] follows the Design Project extensively and offers links to all the documentation carried on the website (in Italiano).

The design project also involves the creation of a website entitled 'd-thinking café [14]' created by  Paolo Zanenga [15] and Federico Della Bella [16]. The site holds the ambition of "rethinking Milanese design tradition, facilitating the convergence of multidisciplinary content with the aim of constructing a rich and diversified community that works within this topic area". The site contains articles in both English and Italian and continuously publishes.

The project also incorporates two study bursaries. The recipients Avner Shaked and Manuel Garzaron presented the results of a year of research at the Domus Academy at the Bassetti Foundation conference suite in November.  The young artists received funding in order to take the Masters in Business Design at the academy, and the slides of their presentation are available here [17].

The project also included a conference held on 30th June in Milan at the Palazzo Giureconsulti entitled  "Realizzare l'improbabile. Il design a Milano, ascendenze e prospettive". Links to video of the papers and discussions as well as photos are available through this link [18]. The conference and all materials are in Italian.

As the project rolls into its second phase, its focus is on valorizing high tech arts and crafts through the interpretation and representation of particular case studies. These studies have been gathered thanks to the collaboration of schools specialized in cinematographic communication.


A second large project launched in 2011 but to run throughout 2012 is a research collaboration with Allianz, whose aims are to design, test and launch a Protocol for Responsible Innovation. The research team involves Pietro Marchetti, Allianz Communication Manager.

The research will involve interviews, actions and events jointly conducted by Alianz and the Bassetti Foundation, and question at the centre of this collaboration could be summarized as follows:

Can insurance protect against the possible negative effects of innovation? Third Party Liability coverage (product liability, for instance) could help make innovation more secure (though perhaps being unable to cover social consequences in general terms, not legal terms), but since the base of insurance is statistics and there are no statistics available on what was deemed as improbable, can this obstacle be bypassed?
Could re-insurance help at all in this respect?
Would a questionnaire investigating the process that led to innovation and inquiring into all the aspects taken into account by the innovator make the risk more acceptable to insurance companies? Who would have to endorse this questionnaire? The legal representative (entrepreneur)/the scientist (such as the inventor)/ or a third neutral party?

The website will follow the project as it unfolds.


The Bassetti Foundation also opened a collaboration with Mind the Bridge [19]. Mind the Bridge is an organization that selects innovative companies working in high technology in Italy and provides them with a 'bridge' (mainly through training and help in procuring capital investment) with Silicon Valley.
In particular September saw the Foundation participate in the Mind The Bridge Boot Camp [20] held in Milan.President Piero Bassetti delivered the final lecture of the day entitled 'Coupling Responsibility with Innovation [21]':

The collaboration continued with the creation of a survey designed by the Bassetti Foundation and Mind the Bridge. This survey was administered to the 25 startup semifinalists and based upon the results the Foundation gave a special mention [22] to the company that demonstrated the largest awareness and implemented the best working practices in terms of a responsible modus operandi. The D-Orbit startup was declared the winner, and the event received a great deal of attention and was covered by the Italian national newspaper Corriere della Sera [23].

2011 also saw long time contributors Cristina Grasseni and Jonathan Hankins move to the US.

Grasseni is the recipient of a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute, part of Harvard University and is jointly a fellow of the Harvard film Studies Institute. This year she is conducting research that follows on from her concept of 'Skilled Vision' and the apprenticeship of looking. She is also investigating how new media platforms may be used to present complex arguments and how what Sheila Jasanoff describes as  "socio-technical imaginaries" feed on techno-sciences to re-naturalize ethno-racial categorizations.
See this post [24] for her involvement in a recent Harvard STS Circle seminar.

Jonathan Hankins is currently based in Cambridge Massachusetts, where he is working on his Bassetti Foundation sponsored project. His personal project involves interviewing some of the major players in the Cambridge and Boston academic and political circles. His first interview with Congressman Michael Capuano can be read here [25], and the coming months will see the publication in various formats of conversations with leading academics, authors and media personalities about issues as broad as the Mapping Controversies project, medical ethics and the issue of responsibility in patenting, just to name but a few.

2011 also saw preparations for the Bassetti Foundation award for responsible innovation, in collaboration with an important US partner. The project is being coordinated by Ottavia Bassetti and Jeff Ubois.
The Prize seeks best practices and brings positive public attention to individuals and organizations applying them. It serves as a focal point of discussion among innovators, academics, policymakers, and entrepreneurs, all of whom who are engaged with questions of innovation and its social impact.

Amongst other highlights from last year C. Grasseni's and P. Bassetti's contributions were part of the Italian Council for Social Sciences' white book on Transforming knowledge, transferring technology, also presented in April 2011. See this review [26] in the Italian national economics newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore (in Italiano).

Ottavia Bassetti and Jeff Ubois also participated at the Den Haag conference on Responsible Innovation convened by The Netherlands Organization for Scientific
Research in April 2011. A summary and discussion of the event is available here [27] on Jeff's blog.

In May Margaret Curnutte presented her Bassetti Foundation sponsored research conducted as an STS Program Fellow at Harvard University entitled Consuming Genomes: Constructing the Genetic Consumer in the United States [28] here in Milan (here the video, slides and photos [29]).


May also saw the Foundation sponsor the "Le neuroscienze incontrano le altre discipline [30]"  (Neuroscience meets other Disciplines) conference in Padova, Italy, including the live streaming of the event. The conference took place in Italian and an introduction and videos of the proceedings are available here [31].

September was a busy month as The Bassett Foundation also co-sponsored the Milan Congress of the European Society for Analytical Philosophy, hosting the Bassetti Lecture by Dan Sperber entitled The Deconstruction of Social Unreality. The website contains several posts regarding this event including this introduction [32] to Dan Sperber's visit, this explanation [33] of Sperber's work and a video of his lecture available here [34].

November saw the Foundation participate in the 'Innovating Food, Innovating the Law' conference in  Piacenza at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart ( l'Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore). An explanation of the proceedings can be found here [35] in Italian and video can be viewed here [36], parts of which are in English and others in Italianand an extremely detailed report in Italian with photos here [37].

In March 2012, the FGB is sponsoring the 12th International Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference in Florence, with dedicated bursaries and travel grants for junior scholars and science journalists. The title of the meeting is Quality, Honesty and Beauty in science and technology communication. Information regarding the competition is available on the official website [38], as well as a provisionary program.
The panel sponsored by the Bassetti Foundation will be entitled From responsibility of communication to responsibility in science and technology communication. Following our institutional objectives to inform policy makers, entrepreneurs and the management class so that they understand and put the concept of responsible innovation into operation. Following the Foundation's mission we will again on this occasion try to place and co-involve culture, science and power on common ground. 
We have invited Dr. Ulrich Wilhelm to fulfill the role of chairman due to his professional experience as a communicator at the highest political level (as Secretary of State for Information) and head of the public television service Bayerischer Rundfunk.

So while a busy year closes we all have a lot to look forward to this year too!

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  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Redazione FGB
  2. 2] http://www.bol.it/libri/autore/Manolo-De-Giorgi/7/S/-0/
  3. 3] http://www.italolupistudio.com/
  4. 4] http://www.immaginazioni.com/im/
  5. 5] http://www.mi.camcom.it/
  6. 6] http://www.mb.camcom.it/
  7. 7] http://www.cosmit.it/
  8. 8] http://www.domusacademy.it/
  9. 9] http://www.federlegno.it/tool/home.php
  10. 10] http://www.pdma.org/
  11. 11] http://www.design.polimi.it/
  12. 12] http://www.flickr.com/photos/fondazionebassetti/5435860880/in/set-72157626023408458/lightbox/
  13. 13] /it/eventi/2011/12/milano_design_realizzare_limpr.html
  14. 14] http://www.d-thinkingcafe.org/
  15. 15] http://it.linkedin.com/in/paolozanenga
  16. 16] http://it.linkedin.com/in/federicodellabella
  17. 17] /it/focus/2011/11/scenari_per_un_design_innovati.html
  18. 18] /it/focus/2011/08/realizzare_limprobabile_-_il_c.html
  19. 19] http://www.mindthebridge.org/
  20. 20] /it/segnalazioni/2011/09/mind_the_bridge_boot_camp_2011.html
  21. 21] /it/focus/2011/09/la_fondazione_bassetti_al_mind.html
  22. 22] /it/segnalazioni/2011/11/a_d-orbit_la_menzione_speciale.html
  23. 23] http://www.flickr.com/photos/fondazionebassetti/6376453013/in/photostream/lightbox/
  24. 24] /it/segnalazioni/2011/12/cristina_grasseni_at_the_harva.html
  25. 25] /en/focus/2011/10/a_discussion_with_congressman.html
  26. 26] http://massimianobucchi.nova100.ilsole24ore.com/2011/06/trasferire-tecnologia-o-trasformare-conoscenza.html
  27. 27] /en/ubois/2011/05/notes_from_the_responsible_inn.html
  28. 28] /it/segnalazioni/2011/05/genetic_consumerism.html
  29. 29] /en/focus/2011/07/consuming_genomes_constructing.html
  30. 30] /it/segnalazioni/2011/04/le_neuroscienze_incontrano_le.html
  31. 31] /it/focus/2011/06/neuroetica_2011_-_i_video_del.html
  32. 32] /en/focus/2011/08/dan_sperber_at_the_european_co.html
  33. 33] /en/focus/2011/08/dan_sperber_new_ways_to_descri.html
  34. 34] /it/focus/2011/09/dan_sperber_la_lecture.html
  35. 35] /it/segnalazioni/2011/10/innovating_food_innovating_the.html
  36. 36] /it/focus/2011/11/innovating_food_innovating_the_3.html
  37. 37] /it/focus/2011/11/innovating_food_innovating_the.html
  38. 38] http://www.pcst2012.org/
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2011 and Beyond for the Bassetti Foundation
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