17 December 2020

Paolo Buonvino and social entrepreneurship: knowing how to get involved and help others

It takes great faith in the future and a firm belief in human abilities to leave a multinational to work in social entrepreneurship. Paolo Buonvino has both, as well as altruism, willpower, and an awareness that you have to challenges the limits of the impossible to learn to help others.


Paolo, what kind of student were you? What do you think your time at Luiss taught you?

I would say that I was always a very curious student, and that I tried to go beyond books and lectures to take advantage of all the training opportunities that an academic career can offer. What truly counts, especially today, are experiences rather than qualifications. In this regard, Luiss, in addition to offering a stimulating and multicultural environment, guarantees many opportunities to develop on a personal level such as Radio Luiss, Rivista 360°, sports, events, reviews and conferences of all kinds. All of this allowed me to grow on many different levels.


What led you to leave your job with a multinational to go into social entrepreneurship? What aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?

On the one hand, I wanted to use my experience and skills to serve a wider social community in need. On the other hand, I was curious and wanted to continue trying things and learning new skills that I am convinced will enrich me on my path, both personally and professionally. We can no longer think of our development in a single, vertical way. On the contrary, I strongly believe that the great challenges of a complex and interconnected world like ours require transversal skills and experiences.

There are two things I like most about my job. First, the daily personal contact with my students. Helping to shape their future is a source of great responsibility and pride for me. Secondly, the unexpected: when you work with people in very stressful structural and social contexts, you can’t make plans, only forecasts. You have to try to embrace change as it comes and to learn from your mistakes with kindness, both towards yourself and others. In this context, it’s not always possible to be positive, but the important thing is to stay determined.


What is the role of innovation in education and culture for sustainable development? What elements contribute to breaking down social, educational and economic inequalities?

As is often the case with overused terms, innovation has, in my opinion, become a dangerous mantra that we must be brave enough to question. In saying this, I don’t mean that creating and driving innovation is not essential. Rather, I believe we must look at innovation honestly and critically, asking ourselves if and when it’s necessary to innovate and, above all, who will be the ultimate beneficiaries of a given advancement. By reasoning in terms of a particular development that is always necessary and useful, we risk losing the holistic sense of continually looking toward the horizon. Inequalities can be overcome by recognizing them and then understanding that they require articulated and non-singular solutions that demand our full collaboration. I think that today it’s a duty, as well as a necessity, to give up a small piece of our individuality – be it personal, economic or political – in order to build something larger that everyone can access.


What can we learn from the pandemic and its impact on all aspects of our life and processed linked to the world of education and labor?

How I see it, this new, slow time that we are experiencing is forcing us to reflect on two aspects of our existence. The first has to do with ourselves, with what we truly consider essential. This reasoning can be applied to all levels of our society, from the spaces we live in (reimagining our homes, offices and cities) to the way we reconsider human relationships. We have been asking ourselves the same questions: What is really essential? What can I not live without? I won’t pretend to have a collective answer to these questions, but I am certain that each of us will emerge from this crisis with a new truth. On the other hand, this period has made us all more aware of how interconnected the current world is, and that certain questions and problems can only be resolved together. These questions will, without a doubt, lead us to seek greater integration and reciprocal understanding. Prophecies of self-destruction and apocalypse are merely momentary illusions that, in the long run, have never outlived man’s determination to survive and evolve.


How do you see the future? What are your next goals?

I certainly imagine the future will be better than the present. I don’t want to venture to make an actual prediction, but I am convinced that we will never stop believing in human capabilities, otherwise, we’d have a self-fulfilling prophecy. If, just for fun, I had to imagine a great dilemma for the future world, the ability to come to terms with our histories, to know what to save and what to forget, comes to mind.

Instead, I’ve always found it difficult to imagine the future in terms of goals, while its easier to see if I reflect on the person that I’d like to be. I’m passionate about human development and I believe I will continue to pursue it as a field of study. At a certain point in my life, I’d like to take a year off, perhaps a sabbatical year or a long trip by myself, to have a more intimate experience, far from the social world, but I don’t think now is the right time.


What is your motto or mantra that you repeat in moments of difficulty?

Never confuse the impossible with the improbable.


Virginia Gullotta, Journalist