'Stories of people. Since 1816’

We recently presented our Foundation’s philanthropic program for 2018, putting a fresh spin on our tradition dating as far back as 1816. Archival records show, in fact, that as early as that year, more than 2 centuries ago, our predecessor was already in existence. We are referring to the philanthropic organization that two years later, in 1818, exactly 200 years ago, was named Commissione Centrale di Beneficenza, the name our Steering Board still bears today.    

For 2018 philanthropic efforts our Foundation has committed over €184 million.  But it is not just a matter of figures. What counts most is people: the people who year after year are at the center of our efforts and benefit from the over 1,000 projects we back.  Those people and their stories were again front and center at the event we held in collaboration with Milan Piccolo Theatre last February 22 when we presented our 2018 philanthropic activities. Speakers at the event included our President Giuseppe Guzzetti, our Director General Sergio Urbani, Milan Polytechnic Professor Francesco Zurlo and Intesa SanPaolo Archives Director Barbara Costa.  

That occasion provided also the opportunity to inform about our re-branding journey  that took us back in time, retracing our long, long history. 

TO VIEW THE EVENT CLICK ON THE LINK > bit.ly/StoriediPersoneStreaming

This is the start to a momentous year, actually the last full year of tenure for the current members of our governing bodies  – said Giuseppe Guzzetti Fondazione Cariplo’s President -  a year with a rich program of activities and commitments. We start the year anew, including with the presentation of our new logo, reviving our tradition and reminding us all, at the end of a journey that lasted more than one year, that what we do today is the modern, professional version of something that started over 200 years back, and is grounded in deep-rooted values. We cannot and should not forget who we are and where we come from. I still and always look ahead. I look at the thousands of children who do not have enough to eat, at those – and there are millions of them in Italy – that live in culturally, educationally and economically deprived contexts. I think of those young people who are jobless, those youngsters who have lost their way, have become disenfranchised, are not in school and no longer seek a job.  I think of those who, instead, have a burning desire to put their skills and entrepreneurial spirit at the service of innovation and scientific research. I think of families looking for a home, of city suburbs and their huge potential for regeneration in terms not just of infrastructure, but of people reconnecting to one another. 2018 has been designated the European Year of Cultural Heritage. We have done much to promote our heritage and much still needs to be done. Ours is a never-ending engagement as our assets are not just monuments and artworks, but people - men, women, children and elderly people – and what is most valuable to them is feeling part of and participating in a process of citizenship that goes beyond national borders.  Education and citizenship are two key words also in relation to the protection of our environmental assets. I think of people who live on the fringes, and that only lively communities can keep anchored to life. I think of the elderly. The elderly population continues to grow, we are getting older. And yet again, we must not be fearful. Our communities and scientific research, as well as well-planned social policies, will help us not just live a dignified life but feel useful in our older years. We must see the elderly, and more generally all people, as a resource. If we see them as an issue, we won’t be able to look ahead. And we cannot look back. Focusing on the moment, living from day to day, lacking a perspective, is the worst thing to do, in every realm of life. We are at a juncture which is very similar to over 200 years ago when our Foundation’s predecessor was just taking its first steps, raising funds to help those in need. History shows problems recur, but it also shows there has always been someone responding to those problems, and there will always be.”  

IMG 0231
President Guzzetti on stage with Dario Bolis, Head of Communications

Our rebranding journey  

In June 2016, we embarked on a journey to arrive at a new representation of our Foundation’s identity, our new brand. The journey started from in-depth analysis, taking a bottom-up approach and listening to what external people had to say. A somewhat new avenue that we travelled and which led to a tapestry of perceptions and suggestions offered by people from their different vantage points.  Milan Polytechnic Professor Francesco Zurlo and his young colleagues were engaged to conduct the rebranding task, involving more than 120 stakeholders, employees and people from our Foundation’s governing bodies. The goal was to arrive at an image that would be more aligned with what our Foundation is today: close to people with its philanthropic action, every day.  

Upon completion of the process of analysis, in June 2017, some young design students were involved as well. They were asked to provide their suggestions and ideas about a visual identity that would reflect our mission and be capable of communicating what we are and what we do using new languages. Concurrently, the firm Inarea was engaged as technical advisor to assist the Milan Polytechnic working group with the task to refine the proposals made by the young creative designers, to structure and organize our Foundation’s brand.  

We wanted our modern-time, institutional traits interpreted by young people, i.e. those who by definition are capable of looking ahead, beyond the present. In  the fall of  2017, the proposals were shared at different levels within Fondazione Cariplo up to the Board of Directors that made the final decision. All proposals focused on the monogram as the graphic representation capable of uniquely identifying our Foundation simply and effectively, like a person’s first name and surname. The monogram is joined by our Foundation’s Latin motto, TUTE SERVARE, MUNIFICE DONARE (Preserve wisely to donate munificently), which is the link connecting our modernity with our tradition and institutional mission. A clear, concise statement of what our Foundation does: preserving the value of its assets and investing to generate income for its modern, professional conduct of philanthropic activities. And to round it off, emphasis on the true roots of our Foundation. Unlike what is commonly held, our roots are not in a Bank, but in a philanthropic organization that was already active in Milan as early as 1816, and soon thereafter, in 1818, exactly 200 years ago, was named Commissione Centrale di Beneficenza. The Bank Cassa di Risparmio delle Province Lombarde, established in 1823, came after and originated from that entity. In a way … the Foundation was created before the Bank, philanthropic activities preceded banking. A simple way to debunk erroneous beliefs, inform about what our Foundation truly is and does, and remind people that the Foundation’s roots run back to hard times, just like today. 


The origin of our Foundation’s Steering Board or Commissione Centrale di Beneficenza Central Charity Committee, (originally  “Committee to create jobs for the poor”) can be traced back to 1816, sadly become known as the “year without a summer” (or the ‘Poverty Year’). The massive eruption in 1815 of Mt Tambora, a volcano in what’s now Indonesia, temporarily changed the world’s climate with serious repercussions across the globe in the following years, especially in 1816-1817. The freezing weather in the summer of 1816 brought about massive crop failures and famine, possibly the last large famine that hit countries across Europe, and, in a way, the first global crisis in contemporary history. 

What to do to react to such a catastrophe that could disrupt the social fabric?  The actions taken in 1816 by the Austrians -whose rule had just been restored in Lombardy - and, especially, of Lombardy’s enlightened aristocrats were inspired by principles of social solidarity, subsidiarity in the actions of public and private players, and independence in decision-making. Those interventions and the principles that inspired them can certainly  inspire us, in our time, to reflect on the political, economic and cultural forces that can come together to react to a crisis of such proportions. 

The projects drafted in 1816 by Commissione Centrale di Beneficenza to combat that crisis were primarily aimed at job creation (and income generation) for those who had become destitute. Over a period of two years, zero-interest loans were granted to municipal administrations across Lombardy for them to invest those funds in public works which provided a job to over 16,000 people. Those municipal administrations were also given funds to build new workhouses, and, for those who were unable to work, shelters to limit begging. 

Through the Savings Bank, whose profits from 1860 were largely given back to the  community as charitable funds, the virtuous cycle of ‘saving and giving’ gained formidable momentum. That steady stream of funds given over the years had a profound and long-lasting impact on some key social infrastructure in Lombard society (hospitals, day care centers, centers for those in need, primarily the poor) significantly contributing to the establishment of a social welfare system

A few examples: Established in 1903, the Hospitals Fund supported a broad renovation of hospitals in Lombardy, providing as many as nine million liras of the time initially, plus  another 25 million liras in the 1911-1914 four-year period “for an effective solution of the hospital issue.” In 1905, the Umberto Prince of Piedmont Fund supported construction and renovation of day centers where working mothers, mostly shop-floor workers, could leave their children by providing financial resources for refurbishment and coverage of maintenance expenses, thus helping child care centers become an established presence across the region. In more recent times, the Cariplo Social Works Foundation formed in 1965 funded emergency accommodation solutions and services primarily for migrants (in particular those who had migrated from the South to the North of Italy) and students, including those coming from developing countries.