Obituary: Carlo Borzaga, social economy expert and honorary president of Euricse

Borzaga founded and supported a number of co-op organisations and played a key role in developing Italian co-op law

The global co-operative movement is mourning the loss of Prof Carlo Borzaga, a researcher, lecturer and social entrepreneur, who died this month at the age of 75.

Borzaga played a key role in the development of one of the most significant Italian laws on social co-operatives and organised volunteering.

Born in 1948, he graduated with a degree in sociology from the University of Trento in 1972. He joined the university as a professor in 1976 and continued to teach there until 2021. He held various roles, including dean of the then Faculty of Economics between 2003 and 2006, and deputy dean of the Department of Sociology and Social Research between 2015 and 2018. He he was also director of the Institute for Nonprofit Business Development Studies from 1997 to 2009 at the Faculty of Economics.

In 2008 he founded the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Euricse), which he presided over until May 2022. He was also involved in setting up the Iris network, which brings together Italian researchers and institutions, studying and working on social enterprises.

Throughout his academic career he published hundreds of essays, publications and academic articles on topics related to the labour market, social and co-operative enterprises, and welfare systems. 

He founded and supported a range of organisations, including Villa Sant’Ignazio in Trento, one of the first co-ops engaged in social work, which he led for nine years; Federsolidarietà, the National Federation of Social Cooperatives; and the National Consortium of Social Cooperation – CGM, of which he was a director. Between 1989 and 1993 he was the president of the Trentino Consortium of Social Cooperation Consolida. 

An active supporter of the social economy, in 1996 he founded the country’s first master’s degree programme in management of social enterprises, which carries on to this day.

He played a crucial role in the adoption of one of the most important laws on social co-operation, labour and social enterprises, working closely with the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policies and the country’s co-operative movement. 

His work brought him a range of accolades, including the honorary title of Commendatore dell’Ordine “Al Merito della Repubblica Italiana” from the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella in 2023.

For his friends and colleagues at Euricse, he was not only a founder of the organisation but also a mentor and friend. Mario Diani, president of Euricse, paid tribute in a statement: “With the passing of Carlo Borzaga, we have not only lost the world-renowned economist who helped bring the issues of social enterprise and social economy to the centre of international debate. We have lost the social entrepreneur, the inspirer of public policies and legislative innovations, the visionary who never gave up the idea that the third sector, volunteerism, and co-operation could change the world in which we live. But above all, we have lost a wonderful person who will remain in the hearts of all who knew him”.

His family asks those wishing to pay tribute to him to consider donations to the Nemo Center in Trento or the Living in Hospice Association