Special Strokes Givers

For each pet owner willing to leave for a short period of time there will be a special stroke giver who will be more than ready to give love

Photo of Francesca Cavallini
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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize and, based on its description, I am eligible to apply:

  • Yes, I’m eligible
  • Yes, I’m 18 years old or older

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend:

  • Additional Skype interview(s) during the week of March 16-20th 2020
  • The Purina BetterwithPets Forum in Paris, on 3-4th of June 2020

Initiative's representative name

Francesca Cavallini

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • Italy

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?

Italia, Emilia Romagna, Piacenza

Website or social media url(s)


Date Started


Focus Areas

  • Fostering emotional intelligence and behavioural competences
  • Promote inclusivity

What is your current yearly budget for the initiative? If you are an idea stage, what early budget you would need to kick-off and run operations in your first year?

  • €50k - €100k

Organisation Type

  • nonprofit/NGO: an organisation that uses its resources to achieve a purpose outside of creating profit

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

Over the last year, 3 cats have come into my life: Fufu, Moon and Nala. My daughters love them and the relationship between children and cats conveys many educational values. It all seems wonderful but the problem arises during summer and Christmas holidays…. Who will be taking care of our pets while we are on vacation? Who, besides giving food, could give continuity to affection and maintain their habits? I work as a psychologist and manage an incubator methodology based on a co-production for youngsters with intellectual disabilities. My team and I try to support boys and girls with special educational needs to become digital social entrepreneurs. So the I Ah Ah moment was … "Why not to create a start up in which special educational need

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Almost half of Italian population live with a pet (43.3%). Research on animal welfare highlights that cats and other small pets do not like changing environments, several studies report the presence of stress and other maladaptive exchanges. Nonetheless, 100% of Italians go on vacation ……..then? How to reconcile ani……..then? How to reconcile animal welfare and and the need for holidays and rest for younger and oolder owners?

3. Your solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Special Stroke Givers (SSG) is a platform that connects pet owners who want to go on holiday with adolescents and youngsters with special educational needs trained on taking care of pets at owners' home. Owners who wish to go on holiday register on the SSG platform and enter holiday schedules and pet characteristics. The questionnaire about the pet concerns both physiological habits and behavioral habits. The platform associates the owner with a stroke giver who will take care of the pet while the owner is on holiday. The special stroke giver-owner association takes place on the basis of geographical characteristics (where the pet lives) and on the skills and relational attitudes of the special stroke giver. After the first association, 2 meetings are set at the owner's home where the stroke giver (independently or accompanied by a tutor or educator) gets to know the animal and is guided in understanding its habits. If the triangle (owner-animal-stroke giver) works, the owner, protected by a specific insurance, gives the keys to the stroke giver and is free to leave. for the holidays, sure that her animal will be looked after.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

Innovation of SSG project is to transform a concrete need for small pets owners into a learning and inclusion opportunity for adolescents with special educational needs. Before developing the idea we administered a questionnaire to 80 families with and without pets. The questions in the questionnaire for animal owners related to the main difficulties in handling small animals while the questions for those without animals related to the reasons why they did not have animals. We realised that the main problem for both topology is who to leave them to when travelling. But the real innovation is to bring an opportunity to became a change maker directly at home. Every pet owner can be an innovator and contribute to a more inclusive world

5. How does your project harness the pet-human bond to help people develop important social competencies (For example: emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy, resilience, inclusivity) and overcome serious societal issues (for example: violence, abuse, trauma, isolation, abandonment)?

Young people with special educational needs will have to learn many autonomies of life: personal autonomy (travel to and from home), skills for home security (use of keys and alarms), the skills of using the chat box, pets autonomy management (feeding, cleaning) expertise in the request for help in the event of a health emergency of a pet Children with special educational needs will also improve their ability to relate to different types of animals by coming into emotional and relational contact. The research shows how the relationship with animals promotes psychological well-being and participation in children with and without disabilities (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14616734.2017.1293702; https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/14/3/234). Animal owners will become builders of social inclusion and with the simple gesture of turning to special stroke givers they will fight social exclusion. For many animal owners who perhaps do not have the time and way to volunteer, contacting ssg will be the fastest and most useful way to get in touch with diversity and disability and feel like builders of change.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

-We will measure our social impact with the following indicators: -number of animal owners involved -satisfaction of the animal owners for the service received and involvement of the owners in the social challenge -number and type of animals involved -animal welfare measured by objective (physiology) and subjective (perception of welfare) indicators -number of children with special educational needs who become special stroke givers -well-being and satisfaction of special stroke givers measured through standardized psychological tests -well-being of special stroke givers' families measured through standardized tests and questionnaires -number of Italian cities involved in the project -visitors to the online platform -applied and published research investigating the enabling potential of the human-animal relationship

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

The aim of our project is that in every Italian and European city there will be special stroke givers ready to help owners to give continuity of care and love to their pets. And in every Italian and European city there will be an owner ready to became a inclusive change maker! We expect to train 10 special stroke givers a year and to spread the project in the first year in the province of Reggio Emilia. From the second year the project, which has characteristics of scalability and replicability, will be developed in 4 other Italian cities.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

Our goal is to create value for different categories of stakeholders. -Pet's owners: pet and home safety, the special stroke givers make the house alive even when the owner is on holiday and give the owner the possibility to feel close to the animals even from far away. -Insurances: with insurance companies that we will select, we will develop ad hoc policies to protect pet's owners, pets and special stroke givers. -Purina: Purina could provide specific clothing and gadgets for special strokes and calibrated portions for animals to facilitate special stroke givers in caring for the animals -Pets: more owners will be able to have pets and enrich their lives and those of animals.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

The first and second years of the project involve an investment by Tice and participation in the Purina grant. Thanks to the call for proposals we will be able to: develop online platform with chat box for master-stroke givers train the first 20 stroke givers with 2 psychologists trained in ABA develop the first applied research in this field (in collaboration with the University of Modena and Reggio) develop a marketing plan that makes the project known throughout the country From the third year we will provide rates for owners who leave the weekend or for weeks on holidays. The rate will be paid as a donation to the special strokes givers project which will use the proceeds as a reimbursement of expenses for Special stroke givers

10. Team: what is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

Francesca Cavallini, social innovator, president of Tice, contract lecturer at the University of Parma Federica Berardo: psychologist, BCBA, PhD in psychology with a master's degree in ABA Silvia Iacomini: psychologist with master's degree in aba is doing a PhD at the University of Modena Federica Alberici: graphic designer Davide Benedetti: computer scientist Gabriele, Francesco and Matteo: Special Stroke Givers

11. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize?

I believe that the project will influence the field by helping Purine inspire value. With a single clic, animal owners can become change makers who participate, with their pets, to a more inclusive world.

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Purina page or contact

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