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In this #PROFILE series, we touch base with the recipients of DESIGNSCAPES’ 3rd and final Open Call for design-enabled Innovation Scalability Proofs.

DESIGNSCAPES recently sat with Elisa Saturno, Martina Monelli, and Nadejda Cervinscaia from the project T.Ospito. Among the topics we discussed: the most recent developments of their initiatives, the shift they had to effectuate in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and finally, what the future holds for the team.

T.Ospito in a word

T.Ospito aims at creating a community-based service for caregivers coming to a hospital to assist their loved ones. The goal is to put them in contact with a community of “neighborhood friends”, local citizens from the same area that dedicate time to assist caregivers, organize social moments, or give orientation in the new environment. The pilot, started in Milan, is now replicating in Barcelona.

What is T.Ospito currently busy with?

The team is currently working on the development of the project in both Milan and Barcelona. After the conclusion of the prototype phase in September, in Milan, T.Ospito is now developing a digital platform to host the service. In the meantime, the initiative is also understanding how to best embed in the new context, in Spain. “In Barcelona, we are in a discovery phase,” Elisa Saturno told us. “We are doing field and desk research to prove the adaptivity of the service to this specific context while investigating what wouldn’t work and what could work but needs to be adapted or changed completely.” She added, “what happens next is that […] there will be prototyping sessions in Barcelona, the results will be shared with the team in Milan.”

Regarding current hurdles and obstacles

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, it became harder for the team to reach out and engage crucial stakeholders in the project. “We had some contact from the previous phase of feasibility, but they were not in town or they were far away from Milan”, Martina Monelli said, “so it was hard to then build other connections with other caregivers and the hospital itself because it was very busy.”

Given the situation, T-Ospito had to shift approach during the prototyping phase: “We thought about focusing on the neighborhood itself, because it’s a very important component in our service model,” Martina explained. “For sure, there’s the hospital, the caregivers — but also the neighborhood and all the people that need to, let’s say, provide emotional support. […] So we thought about focusing on them.” 

“The neighborhood is a very important component in our service model.”


“We were able to keep the project alive through these changes, through these adaptations”, she told us. And, for now, this also seems to be the best way to go for them in Barcelona “Now we are still facing the same problems” she mentioned, “so we want to continue what we have been doing in the second stage.”

About the team behind T.Ospito

The idea behind T.Ospito originally came from a students’ project in Politecnico di Milano; the project was initially led by these same students and their professors. As far as the team members’ background is concerned, Nadejda Cervinscaia told us that “all of the team is specialized in design and is interested specifically in design for social innovation.”

As the project grew, so did the team: “We had former students, but for this replication phase we needed a senior [design] expert, so we added one person who joined our team.” Adapting to a new context also meant that a different expertise was also necessary. Nadejda explained how in the new context at Barcelona, there is a need for people to put the team in contact with locals “to facilitate that project happening” in the new neighborhood. 

Regarding what has helped them embed T.Ospito in the two cities

“It’s really important to work on community building”, Elisa told us. “In Barcelona, we started working with local associations that are keen to participate in-person to the prototype sessions and are looking forward to understanding which of the projects they are already running could be supported and improved by T.Ospito’s developed model.” Because of that, she explained, “the connection of the topic was very strong. The potential of a future collaboration is what triggered the interest.”

Elisa also mentioned how in Milan, T.Ospito managed to generate trust in their project from the very beginning: “If you have stakeholders trusting you, then you gain the trust of the community they work with and they have contacts with”. She continued, “[The stakeholders] helped us get really close to people and talk to them. This was very fundamental in our project: a mediator who helps you gain the trust of people. Either you’re very local in your neighborhood, or you need someone to help you go around, someones who opens doors you didn’t know even existed.”

“It’s really important to work on community building.”


Moreover, the team wishes to engage other types of urban stakeholders. As Elisa added, “we’re also thinking about trying to work with the public administration, but we haven’t managed to find a way to do it. So this will be one stakeholder we’re interested in, although we’re still trying to evaluate what the relationships could be”.

Image may contain: text that says 'Il Chiacchierone Il Creativo Etu,che tu, ,che Niguardiano sei? Il Dinamico Filantropo Ospito'

What main lessons did T.Ospito learn from the scalability phase?

The team told us about how delicate it is to build and nurture relationships in projects like this one: “One problem I see,” as Elisa put it, “is the consistency of a relationship.” “If you are in a relationship and then you have to stop — it’s very difficult to start again. You cannot go back to the point where you left. So you have to rebuild this trust.” She also explained how they experienced this firsthand in Milan: “Associations were more capable to reconnect from where we left but then with single people we involved in prototyping and usability studies, it was more difficult — because time has gone by and maybe they expected something … you build a lot on expectation.”

When testing the service, the team also learned that “there are very many creative ideas in the community, and people support each other”. Nadejda continued, “but then, actually, it’s very difficult to move from envisioning and imagining that it would be so great to have this cool public space — to actually organizing it.” A lesson that has led the team to focus more, on this third phase, on supporting neighbors in the realization of their ideas and not only in their ideation. 

Looking ahead

To conclude our conversation, we asked the team what they would like to achieve next. 

“Our main scope first in Barcelona and also in Milan would be to gather together a community that knows about the projects, that believes in the project and wants to keep it going,” Martina said. “But we also would really like to find a business model, that would help us actually sustain ourselves. In a way, that could be achieved through grants or through other sources, but we need to find also maybe our own model that can work for the entire project.” 

“The hope is that we will be more able to then re-converge into what we were doing, with a stronger feeling of belonging in the neighborhood.”


To which Elisa added, “We changed the project, we shifted the target, but […] we don’t want it to be a long-lasting shift. It was temporary and done in order to reach a bigger target of people in the local community.” “The hope,” she concluded “is that we will be more able to then re-converge onto what we were doing, with a stronger feeling of belonging in the neighborhood, of mutual help, and of really doing something important for ourselves and the other people.”

The team at T.Ospito has successfully adapted and reframed their process in view of the obstacles that the COVID-19 pandemic presented to them. The next challenge now lies in making their initial vision for the project sustainable in the long term.

Photos: T.Ospito