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Ethical Deliveries

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Ethical delivers is a home delivery platform founded in 2020 to address the needs raised by the Coronavirus pandemic as an alternative to extractive capitalist platforms. It provides basic goods and services while respecting workers' rights and environmental sustainability. Designed following cooperative principles through an urban codesign process, it has clear pillars: a fair rider salary, the use of vehicles that minimise environmental impact, and a more direct relationship with small traders.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, citizens have used home delivery systems much more, almost as a public service, which brought light to the structural extractive approaches of the gig economy. We have seen a new phenomenon entirely dependent on riders – workers who deliver for big platforms with scant protections – also taking advantage of the situation of small traders, without any public purpose or protection for the most fragile communities. In response to these challenges, the Municipality of Bologna and Fondazione Innovazione Urbana - an urban regeneration centre founded by the Municipality and the University of Bologna - have launched the Ethical Deliveries project to provide an alternative. Bologna was an ideal ecosystem because it is characterized by strong cooperative movements, a vibrant riders’ union, the first in Italy, and several organizations that during the lockdown demonstrated significant innovation skills, with the aim of replacing the capitalism platforms with a new collective and solidarity-based response.

With this in mind, we organized a public co-design process, an innovation lab, trying to push forward a movement, an alliance, to imagine and create something different. Thus, we launched a public call with a clear message: involve all city stakeholders to start a debate on the issue in order to go beyond the current situation and to imagine something different. Then, at the beginning of May 2020, we conducted an assembly and interviews with traders, riders, the riders’ union, trade associations, entrepreneurs, and researchers to identify what could be an alternative ethical model to existing private platforms. This led to the creation of a Manifesto of Values, from which we have started to co-design the collaborative governance model and a concrete prototype of a collaborative service for home delivery. Not only a Manifesto of Values, Ethical Deliveries is a public process to design a cooperative home delivery platform that returns value and dignity to the delivery service, guaranteeing rights and protections for the workers, sustainable logistics, and conscious relationships between traders and citizens.

By using an agile approach, we first connected the existing: the first trial was carried out thanks to two cooperatives, Dynamo (already active in cargo bike deliveries, a service they launched during the lockdown, using workers who were losing their jobs due to the pandemic) and Idee in Movimento (active in social projects such as the Partisan Food Relay that aids people in disadvantaged situations), with the support of the university centre for training and promoting cooperative enterprise AlmaVicoo. After a first trial between May and June 2020, when the two cooperatives delivered 1,700 masks to people's homes with the collaboration of the Bologna-based company Macron, we realized that it would be possible to concretely improve the project. Hence, in September 2020, we developed a web site ( that people can use to order groceries – thanks to the involvement of two neighborhood markets and two supermarkets – borrow books from municipal and university libraries, order food, and purchase goods from local business. Without making a significant financial commitment to the website, we have opted for an agile approach to connect traders and citizens without the use of a complicated digital system, but rather by developing an interface that enhances relationships.

So far, 3873 ethical deliveries have been made, and even after the pandemic emergency, the service has remained active. In the future, we plan to expand the distribution network with the collaboration of public administration to:

  • Implement business engagement actions through an inclusive approach with a team dedicated to digital training, especially for traders who cannot manage the digital transition.
  • Identify more targeted development axes.
  • Design an ethic logistics system to try to change the management of deliveries in the last mile, in proximity.
  • Activate equity crowdfunding with a community governance.
  • Partner up with other metropolitan cities.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

The project is one of the first examples of public sector organisations addressing the challenges of the gig economy by actively engaging in the creation of an alternative to platforms. Ethical Deliveries is co-designed by citizens, traders, trade unions, riders and citizens which generated a cooperative governance in antithesis with the vertical organisational of the platforms. In the system of platform capitalism about 30 percent of a trader's earnings goes to platforms: Ethical Deliveries ensures fairness by having them managed directly by local organisations and providing riders with a minimum wage of 9 euro/hour net - almost double the average wage that riders usually earn - as well as worker protection. It involves the use of sustainable means of transport using bicycles and cargo-bikes has no environmental impact. It encourages citizens to make ethical and conscious choices, knowing that an ethical home delivery service that respects the rights of workers, traders, and the environment is possible. The project demonstrates that cities can be promoters of new municipalist models enabling collaboration, distributing value, and being no longer spaces from which private companies extract value.

What is the current status of your innovation?

So far, 3873 ethical deliveries have been made, and even after the pandemic emergency, the services have remained active, developing the part with more social impact, distributing books from libraries and basic necessities in two particularly fragile areas of Bologna. Now starting form what we have seen that the model works, the goal is to create a larger alternative business model.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

Ethical Deliveries is the result of a public participatory process that involved citizens, traders, researchers, riders, riders' unions, public administration, public libraries, cooperatives, such as Dynamo and Idee in Movimento, AlmaVicoo, and companies. The cooperation of these actors resulted in the co-design imagined and designed by the Civic Imagination Office of the Fondazione Innovazione Urbana.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

The primary beneficiaries of Ethical Deliveries are the riders and the traders. However, citizens and administrations benefit from it too, for three reasons:

  • Ethical Deliveries reduce the impact on the environment.
  • It has built networks and communities based on cooperation and proximity.
  • The presence of Ethical Deliveries fosters the development of a collective consciousness of the power of the consumer to make the market fair and and sustainable.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

The number of companies, riders, and traders who have joined the project, as well as the number of deliveries made weekly, have been documented through the website in order to monitor the operation and effectiveness of the project. Specifically, currently 3873 ethical deliveries have been made and many services have been activated such as home lending with 14 municipal libraries and 32 university libraries, home shopping with 2 markets and 2 supermarket, food delivery with 3 restaurants, and home meal delivery to vulnerable people. Further, we produced documentary on riders in Bologna (, our project was covered on Wired international, and we won the Compasso d'Oro price, one of the oldest and most influential design awards worldwide. Our goal for the future is to implement the digital and distribution infrastructure by involving the public administration, and to engage new businesses while supporting community governance whereby everyone is co-responsible and co-participant in the collective future.

Challenges and Failures

Cities are often seen as passive victims of large platforms. The dominant idea is that cities are powerless over the worrying situations for riders' and traders' working conditions. However, moving beyond the manifesto of values, we have co-designed Ethical Deliveries and demonstrated that an alternative to capitalist platforms is possible through the creation of alliances oriented toward the same purposes. In addition to providing food delivery services, Ethical Deliveries has evolved into a relationship-carrier. Our riders, in fact, are not passive workers but they identify with an ethical platform. Citizens are conscious of this, as do merchants: which is why the cooperative concept with collaborative governance works. Unfortunately, the failures we are facing is that we are not currently scaling the prototype, and we have not yet determined whether we should focus on food delivery or home service, or logistics.

Conditions for Success

Several aspects fostered the success of the project:

  • A bold political vision, which was able to provide value-based direction by clearly identifying the goal.
  • The context, as Bologna is characterized by strong cooperative movements, a vibrant riders’ union, the first in Italy, and several organizations that during the lockdown demonstrated significant innovation skills.
  • The process of citizens' consultation, which yielded creativity, dynamism, and concrete engagement.
  • The awareness that one does not make public policy alone, but needs to create movement by addressing a concrete need of citizens and workers.
  • The attention devoted to taking care of relationships and to create alliances.
  • The realization of a prototype through which to strengthen relationships and direct further development of the project.
  • The co-design has it given value to the creativity of the many communities already active in the cities.


The innovation has not been replicated yet but our plan is to scale it and also get in touch with other municipalities.

Lessons Learned

From our project, we learned that to reinvigorate the collective idea of the city, we need to discuss power, time, space, and empathy. Specifically, we learned:

  • The significance of empowering the stakeholders; if we want to redesign a service, or a policy, we have to reimagine the power balance giving more resources to the stakeholder that became partners.
  • The necessity of giving the community time to form and cooperate. After years of approaches focused on individualism, we must take time to convey a new way of doing: only with care for relationships we can rebuild relationships between people and civic realities, no longer used to creating alliances.
  • We know that in neighborhood relations there is more trust: we can resume relationships and clearly find needs to respond to, but we need to activate paths especially with the realities already active in the area.
  • In face of social, political and economic challenges, in addition to multi-professional skills, it is necessary empathy. We have digital tools and enormous capabilities, but empathy is the main skill otherwise we will have innovations for a few.

Anything Else?

It is not just a question of linking creativity, research, administration, economic organizations and citizenship, but of identifying a design approach that overcomes the models now in crisis, enhancing the skills and energies that cross the cities. In the social, health and entrepreneurial fields, there is no lack of examples of experimentation that adopt a new concept of organizational care. Ethic deliveries have tried to rethink the forms of design, t building a new collective response, redesigning the asymmetries of power betwnn cities and digital platform. Starting from a conviction: co-production is not the emblem of a retreat of organization in favor of communities that solve their own problems independently, but a mechanism for recovering energy and creating new type of organization.

Supporting Videos

Year: 2020
Level of Government: Local government


  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

Innovation provided by:


Date Published:

16 November 2022

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