SOCIAL STREET: The Bolognese revolution going viral

The global brand that would make Mark Zuckerberg drool.

Street photo exhibition by

Street photo exhibition by

Courted by the world’s press from La Repubblica to the NewYork Times and even reaching the dizzying heights of the internationally famous video network of TEDx events, Social Street is a new super brand created right here under the Bolognese porticoes.

The idea originated from the experience of its founders Federico Bastiani, 37, and his wife Laurell Boyers, 34, who felt isolated when they moved to Via Fondazza, Bologna, and didn’t know anyone. As Laurell recounted, “All my friends back home had kids and families so when we moved here, we felt so lonely. And of course we had no friends here as we just moved into the area.”

Federico set about creating a closed group on Facebook beginning in September 2013: Residents in Via Fondazza – Bologna, then proceeded to let his neighbours know about it by posting leaflets advertising the page. He said, “Within a few days we had over 20 members online and now just over 2 years later there are thousands.”

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The European growth of Social Street

Luigi Nardacchione joined this close-knit group as a co-founder and little by little many other neighbours began to take roles in organizing events. One such initiative is the free bike sharing in the piazzetta and set up by Marco Mazzetti. Each bike has been humorously dedicated to certain personalities in Fondazza.

Of course, the revolutionary aim of ‘Social Street is to socialize with neighbours in order to establish a bond, share needs, exchange expertise, knowledge, carry out collective projects of common interest and therefore reap the benefits of greater social interaction’. As their web site further states, ‘…the modern tendency to focus on the ‘self’ has an undeniable consequence, urban decay, lack of social control, loss of a sense of belonging’.

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Federico Bastiani – founder

This theory is not new especially in our modern internet age. As a result people are now living in isolation when humans are really social animals. Experts from the field of psychological, anthropological, sociological, economic and urban studies have been arguing the pros’ and cons’ for years about whether the internet is really benefiting or hindering our evolutionary race.

The ‘Social Street model proposes a possible solution from the ground up and aims to recreate social ties and acknowledgment as well as changes in behaviours/interaction between neighbours’.

This global movement, which has taken root further afield even to the far ends of the world in New Zealand has therefore been endorsed by important personalities such as:

Prof. Anthony Giddens – Sociologist,Professor and former Director of London School of Economics
Prof. Marc Augé – Anthropologist, former director Ecolé des études en Sciences Sociales in Paris
Prof. Pierpaolo Donati – Professor of sociology at University of Bologna
Prof. Anna Cossetta – Sociologist, University of Genova
Prof. Stefano Zamagni – Professor of economics at University of Bologna
Prof. Jacques T. Godbout – Professeur  émérite en sociologie Université du Québec
Rob Hopkins – Founder of Transition Town
Prof. Piero Formica – Innovation Value Institute, Maynooth University, Ireland

DSCN3108As a true measure of its success Social Street Via Fondazza is as its very name infers, social interaction within a network of neighbours who are doing what humans do best: talk to one another (face to face). Simply put, it’s a group effort that has seen its model grow, multiply and reach global proportions in a short space of time – ironically, thanks to the virtual world. And Bologna is very much at the heart of this phenomenon.

‘Zuckerberg eat your heart out.’

As to all the media attention now, Federico remains unfazed. “On the one hand it’s a little surreal. I’ve medial outlets contacting me from all over the world. Just recently emails arrived from America, Canada, and Pakistan. He added, “But on the other hand it’s great to see this model being replicated throughout the world.”

On future growth, Federico remains adamant that Social Street must remain unaffiliated to any type of ‘movement’ or political influence. “It’s very important that every Social Street must grow within its own borders. Keep it small and intimate. That’s the whole point of this.”

And at that, Federico walks back to take part in a small gathering of neighbours chatting away about the photography exhibit taking place in font of us while another one even brought out a tray of coffee from her house. There can surely be nothing more small and intimate about this community in Via Fondazza. This is Social Street.


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