This digital edition of Bocconi4Bookcity has been remarkable from several points of view, but surely the capability of organising engaging and immersive events even in this time of social distancing has made it special. From young and determined entrepreneurs to affirmed CEO and brilliant writers, there has been so much to learn and meditate upon. Below you can find a brief report of each of the four conversations organised by Bocconi, trying to give you a little taste of this unprecedented BookCity 2020.
Un contributo di Federico Bonezzi
Despite all the difficulties and recent developments, Bocconi4Bookcity 2020 has once again enabled us all to get to know young and brilliant entrepreneurial realities and to deeply explore crucial topics such as sustainability and the role of women in our society. We are going to share with you a brief summary of each of the four events organised by Bocconi, trying to give you a little taste of this unprecedent digital edition of BookCity Milano.
Rethinking the Publishing Industry
The first appointment to get the ball rolling was an open lesson by Professor Paola Dubini hosting Francesca Spiller, founder of “Reading room” and former ACME student, organised by Reading room, Boccconi University and Cartography. The young entrepreneur clearly illustrated the path of an almost withered industry (magazines publishing) that was able to rethink itself and go through a Renaissance process based on 5 simple points: digital media, new values, new advertising approach, new distribution and the creation of a community.
Starting form a sector that was desperately trying to fight, in a losing game, the world development of Internet, independent magazines were able to leverage on the power of the new media and focus more on quality of contents rather than following the latest news and trends. Also, new indie mags are more and more becoming collectable and timeless objects: a concentrate of trends and aesthetic suggestions able to create communities by penetrating across different niches. The new business model here proposed is not primarily focused on wide and generic ways of distribution and advertising, but on more precise fashions to select proper stores, collaboration, and partnerships.
“It is a new way of thinking. It is not just nostalgia of the paper. Nowadays, magazines readers are grown up in the digital area. They buy them because they feel the importance of owning a content that stands the test of time. This is a new kind of industry: the magazine is only a first step of many creative projects that go beyond the printed page” Ms. Spiller commented.
Women and Young People
From a female and young entrepreneur, the fil rouge of BookCity 2020 takes us to the second event, “Economia dei talenti: giovani e donne, le alternative nascoste”, organised by Bocconi University, Culturit and Egea. Danda Santini, director of the Italian magazine “IO Donna”, moderated the conference as a double interview: on one side Paola Profeta, Bocconi professor and author of the book “Gender Equality and Public Policy,” and on the other Laura Baruffaldi, SDA lecturer and author of “Leading millennials”. The two parallel tracks of the conversation (gender equity and youth employment) shed a light on the current situation both in Italy and globally.
“At the moment, no country in the world has filled up the gender gap, according to the last World Economic Forum for gender equality”, Professor Profeta reported. In Italy, cultural and social barriers have much contributed to creating fierce inequalities both in the workplace and at the institutional level. Public policies have a fundamental role in fighting gender asymmetries: childcare services and paternity leave have proven particularly effective in enhancing both employment and birth rates.
For what concern young people, Professor Baruffaldi explained that there has been a serious generational tear between Millennials and the precedent demographic cohort due to “the uncertainty of the social context in which this generation grew up”. Terrorism, economic crises, and the disruptive power of technology have set the ground for uncertainty and precariat.
Finally, when asked about the election of Kamala Harris as vice president of the USA, Professor Profeta welcomed it as a huge, iconic event: “We all hope it is just the beginning, I’m hopeful but there is still so much to do”. We should all embrace the mission of new generations in raising their voice also in this old-aged country, were young leaders are still far from view.
“Build Back Better”: this is the title of the third event, organised by Bocconi University and Egea, focused on sustainability, the economic and social side of the other big topic of BookCity 2020, “Terra nostra”.
The conversation centred on the book “The 360° Corporation: From Stakeholder Trade-offs to Transformation”, written by Sarah Kaplan from the Rotman School of Management. Other than the author, also Bocconi Rector Gianmario Verona, Professor Paola Dubini and Francesco Starace, CEO of Enel Spa, took part in the live debate.
Corporate social responsibility, Agenda 2030 and stakeholder theory are just some of the expressions used nowadays to indicate goals and strategies aimed to go beyond the maximisation of shareholders’ value. Ms. Kaplan firmly believes that companies need to tackle sustainability-related issues by systematically embedding this mentality in their business strategy, avoiding any form of greenwashing and involving the whole value chain.
Trade-offs should not be ignored, but put in the centre of this transformation process, being innovation exactly located in those points of tension, as Mr. Starace reported talking about Enel’s renovation. Companies implementing this mentality show a higher degree of employees’ prioritisation and a solid level of resilience and flexibility in overcoming risks. Enel’s experience shows how sustainability represents a key driver for innovation and how the two concepts are necessary interdependent: “The expansion of the innovation circles has reached areas we could have never thought of before”, said Mr. Starace.
Rector Verona reaffirmed that the best way to spread knowledge about sustainability in business is to hybridise and integrate the teaching activity with these topics. Generation Z has an outstanding degree of awareness towards CSR and the values of young people are aligned to this new mentality: they have changed their priorities, and the didactic supply need to evolve accordingly, he added. All the participants unanimously stated that the pandemic will and should not leave our society unchanged: we have discovered new sustainable ways of living and we should act now to capture and drive this change.
Utopia: a Young Publishing House
To conclude this virtual and rich edition of Bocconi4BookCity, young entrepreneur Gerardo Masuccio presented “Utopia”, the publishing house he founded this year, in a conversation organized by Bocconi University and Bocconi d’Inchiostro with Michele Russo, president of the literary association, and Simone Autera, professor at Bocconi.
Masuccio’s main goal, working also as an editor, is to propose true literature to the readers: “We aim to publish authors who are able to overcome human limits such as space and time and address fundamental existential questions to every single person”. Utopia defines itself as the youngest Italian publishing house, but it already shows a great degree of consciousness towards the most urgent issues in the Italian editorial world: “we should focus more on nations and languages with a glorious literature that are unfortunately forgotten by Italian readers and publishers”.
For instance, next January they will present a Nordic saga, conceived with a structure and a language atypical for the Italian public. Refinement of contents and a close relationship with readers are two essential pillars on which Utopia is built, with a specific focus on communication via social media and graphical esthetic. Masuccio stressed the importance of refining each step of the editorial value chain: a foresight that is very often neglected by small Italian publishers who generally tend to focus exclusively on the literary content.
Asked about the future development of Utopia, Masuccio commented: “Who knows. Only ten months ago we would have never imagined such a quick success and popularity: our books are currently present in all of the main Italian bookshops, big foreign publisher are collaborating with us and Bontempelli’s novel is already in reprint. What gives us great strength is the affection of our readers”. Let us all hope that Utopia will become a solid reality.
Summing up, we have witnessed four remarkable events, diverse in terms of topics and personalities involved, but all able to shed a light of hope on the future with examples of determinacy, enlightenment and lucidity: true lifeblood for these difficult months.