Southern canton Ticino has joined forces with the online platform of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), SwissCommunity.org, to reach out to its diaspora around the world.
On October 4, the Ticino government and the OSA signed in Bellinzona a partnership agreement covering the project OltreConfiniTI (“beyond borders”), which will be implemented at the beginning of next year.
“Ticino is the first non-German-speaking canton to participate in this virtual community,” said Marco Borradori, president of the Ticino government, at a presentation of the project.
So far, only cantons Zurich, Lucerne and Aargau have been active on
SwissCommunity. Ticino will be the first though with its own dedicated page on the OSA’s social platform.
“Out of the 700,000 Swiss who live abroad, 100,000 are of Italian-speaking origin. The project will allow Ticino to get better acquainted with the history of its emigration, a pivotal event in the canton’s history,” Borradori stressed.
Emigration from Ticino was one of the most important and substantial in Switzerland. From the middle of the 19th century, poverty drove inhabitants from their valleys to seek fortune somewhere else in Europe, in Italy or France for example, where some of them prospered as plasterers, sculptors architects, pastry chefs or chocolatiers.
But many preferred even more distant places such as Australia, the United States or Latin America. “Some of them returned to Switzerland after having made their fortunes, while others died far from home in abject poverty,” added Borradori.
Migrant communities today often have two passports, but nevertheless often feel a strong attachment to Ticino.
“The canton is a pioneer in many domains such as the economy, the culture, research and historiography of its diaspora, and it is a reference for the historiography of the Swiss abroad,” explained Rudolf Wyder, president of the OSA.
The SwissCommunity site“will encourage the authorities, associations and private individuals to interact with the Swiss Italian-speakers abroad and bring this community closer to its canton of origin,” said Giampiero Gianella, chancellor of the Ticino government.
Beginning of 2013
But what does the OltreConfiniTI project , which will be part of SwissCommunity, exactly consist of?
Initiated by journalist and emigration expert Piergiorgio Baroni, a working group developed the project over the past two years. The Ticino government accepted the group’s propositions and conclusions on September 19.
“The page OltreConfiniTI will be available in Italian on our site from the beginning of 2013,” said Ariane Rustichelli, who oversees SwissCommunity.
The contract with OSA allows the canton to operate on the platform and run its pages according to own wishes. “For the moment, only 417 Italian-speaking Swiss have signed up, but we expect to get a lot more,” added Rustichelli.
The cantonal government also wants to reach out to the latest generation of emigrants, the scientific diaspora and other Ticino personalities who have distinguished themselves abroad.
The Ticino government has named a coordinator for the page. “Our budget is of course limited, and we will make do with a 50 per cent position assumed by one of our employees,” explained Gianella. “It goes without saying that we will also try and find private sponsors.”