Introduction to associations, foundations, committees, “Onlus” and social enterprise
For many years now, in Italy and throughout the world, the associative phenomenon has encountered ever greater consideration, in addition to a growing enthusiasm. The explanation of this progressive attention may be found in the ever more widespread awareness that the ideas, dreams and projects that each individual nourishes in the course of his/her existence may be concretely expressed, not only through acting in isolation, also by following a path which leads a number of persons to join forces with a view to pursuing common aims and objectives: even a minimal organisation, provided it is well structured, besides co-ordinating the contributions provided by each individual, exalts and facilitates, often considerably, achievement of the programmes which the members are desirous of carrying out. The purposes tend to be potentially infinite, so that it is possible to create organisations having a wide variety of aims: altruistic, assistance, cultural, medical, recreational, social, sports, professional, student, trade union, political, religious, patriotic, enological-gastronomic, and so on. The law gives everyone the possibility of setting up an association or a foundation: the Italian Constitution itself, in art. 18, safeguards and exalts such a tendency. This does not mean that any aim is allowed, since our system steps in systematically to prevent those potentially or concretely harmful both for the individual and for the community. The ways of achieving the aforesaid aims vary, even quite widely. The Italian law does not oblige citizens to follow a single way, but offers them several alternatives: recognised associations, foundations, unrecognised associations, committees, non-profit organisations, voluntary associations, social co-operatives, and so on. The multiplicity of the models proposed in the framework of what is commonly called non-profit organisations – that among other things, strong in the favour that the associative phenomenon is progressively encountering, sees the legislator benefiting from a process of continuous and progressive perfecting and expansion – while on the one hand it constitutes a source of considerable versatility, on the other inevitably leads to us to wonder which instrument on each separate occasion is best suited to the requirements of those intending to achieve the above-mentioned goals. Any unclear and imprecise structuring of the body which comes to be set up, besides impeding its functioning and disturbing achievement of the objectives set, will easily leave room and opportunity for misunderstandings or quarrels on organisational or managemental facts or else, more in general, relative to the agreements reached by the associates. Thus, it becomes especially advisable in such cases to have recourse to professionals and experts well versed in this sort of theme, who strong in the professional and personal experience matured, will suggest and indicate the most suitable solutions corresponding most closely to the interests of the parties, also in relation to the complex and changing taxation system. Recently, under Legislative Decree no. 155 of March 24th 2006, pursuant to Delegate Law no. 118 of June 13th 2005, a legal definition of social enterprise has been introduced for the first time in our legal system and the fields of activity have been delineated.