Understanding the Public Sector in Veneto: The Case of InOltre

By Giacomo Loperfido 

The relation between public and private sectors in this region is an overarching and all pervading matter that opens up and encompasses a series of subordinated questions, especially when it is put in relation with the epistemological space of the crisis, and its transformative energy.

The best place to observe the functioning and emerging tendencies of the public sector is the InOltre help desk, a service that provides 24/7 assistance to entrepreneurs who are under the heavy pressure of economic distress.

The service is known locally as the anti-suicidal help-desk, and has become necessary since Veneto has experienced the most impressive epidemic of entrepreneurial suicides. In 2010 The Veneto region had 320 suicides. Official statistical data are not available after 2012, but according to a study of Link Lab Between 2012 and 2014 Veneto has kept the highest rate of economic crisis related suicides with 18,6.  InOltre offers consultancy to entrepreneurs that have reached a critical situation of indebtedness by providing psychological, economic, and also social advice. The main work they do is to “put things into context”, try to develop anticipation skills, and make entrepreneurs who contact them able to “use public resources, strategies, and instruments that are available in their ‘community’”.

In fact, it appears that people reach out to this service in a state of stunned isolation, paralyzed by a secretive attitude and the shame of “not being able to make it anymore”. All this seems to obstruct any ability to strategically handle the situation they find themselves in, pushing many of them to take their own lives. This epidemic of suicides is partly the product of the strong overlapping between a particular meaning of work and personal identity in a region like Veneto. Indeed, the worker-entrepreneur appears to be an ideal-typical figure around which the symbolic repertoires of Venetian identifications seem to be mostly organized. This is, very briefly sketched, part of the reasons why the InOltre public service was instituted as a LEA (Essential Level of Assistance) and ranks at the top of the Regione Veneto’s funding priorities.