The recent opening of Eko, the solidarity emporium of the Terre di Castelli Union, indicates that more and more territories are choosing to acquire a general store, a sign that this type of intervention is now recognized as innovative and effective. But what is their social impact on the territory? Is it convenient to open a general store?

These are complex questions, to which a research carried out by the CAPP – Center for Analysis of Public Policies of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, entitled “Evaluation survey on Portobello Emporio Sociale di Modena” by Massimo Baldini, sought to answer. Marco Ranuzzini and Giovanni Gallo.

The research was carried out in 2017 and refers to the 2016-2017 data. It consists of two parts: the first is based on interviews with beneficiaries; the second is a cost-benefit analysis with the aim of assessing whether the contribution in terms of benefits for the community is greater than the costs that the community must bear to face the project, attempting to give a monetary value even to variables that tend to difficult to quantify, such as the value of volunteering. The data used for the research were collected thanks to the operators of the Volunteer Service Center – which commissioned the research and coordinated Portobello until 30 June 2017 -, and of the Municipality of Modena, to the volunteers and beneficiaries of the emporium, to a sample of donors.

The survey shows that Portobello represents a significant aid for families in socio-economic difficulties. Crossing the administrative data and the results of the interviews to which a sample of families was subjected, it is evident that the general store covers on average 40% of the household consumption expenses of its users, resulting in an overall increase in purchasing power equal to approximately 800 euros in the six months of access and allows 50% of the beneficiary families to repay the overdue bills. The emporium also supports the job search and guides towards a more adequate management of the family budget, increases social inclusion and encourages voluntary work, improving job activation and the mood of those who access it. Finally, Portobello encourages the purchase of healthy food and the adoption of a healthier lifestyle and reduces food waste, redistributing all incoming products to its users or to those of other associations.

The social value of Portobello in 2016 was positive, net of all costs. The store, in fact, is able to activate from a social point of view volunteers who produce both personal and community benefits; the emporium, then, based on its own strength, creates value through the total redistribution of the goods received in the form of donations, and also generates positive benefits for other sectors of society, including donors. If we isolate the only social value that is generated by the Portobello activity in terms of the relationship between the value of the activities created by the volunteers and the costs necessary to manage the activities of the volunteers themselves, it is observed that 1 euro invested in the Portobello project makes at least quadruple in terms of volunteering.
Some elements to be developed in the future could be these: further enhance the involvement of beneficiaries in consultancy activities and – in light of the new minimum income policies made official in recent months both at national and regional level – increase integration by providing structural support to the latter in terms of social inclusion and the fight against food poverty. The complementarity between social services and the reality of the sector of which Portobello has been an active part for five years will therefore be important.

CSVNet e Vita Non Profit also spoke about the research

At this link you can read a summary of the report on Portobello.