Key Points

This article explores how the two main Italian foundations of banking origin, Fondazione Cariplo and Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo, are internationally contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals agenda through Coopen, a cross-fertilization process between nonprofit organizations and the innovation ecosystem.

Guided by the United Nations 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals, which identify innovation as a focal point in SDG 9, the foundations recognize the value that product, process, and methodological innovation can bring to Italy’s international development cooperation sector and its partnerships.

Coopen encourages the development and implementation of innovative solutions in Africa to respond to specific challenges related to three themes: sustainable food and agriculture (SDG 2), good health and well-being (SDG 3), and circular economy (SDG 12). The process is organized in four main steps toward a final goal to identify challenges; gather user-centered, user-designed, data driven, or technological innovation solutions; develop them through an incubation or acceleration program; and, via specific mentorship, release a proof of concept in the market.

The Coopen projects have demonstrated the ability to achieve relevant environmental goals and, in the context of sustainable food and agriculture, contributed to improved agricultural productivity and job creation. The health and well-being projects have shown that targeted interventions can increase the knowledge and competencies of health care workers, leading to improved services and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.

Coopen’s open innovation process represents a modern strategic philanthropic approach by which Fondazione Cariplo and Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo are promoting a huge transition from local grantmaker to international impact developer. Over the past 10 years, their work has resulted in the promotion of initiatives aimed at achieving food sovereignty, rural development, and maternal and child health in various African countries.

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