From the Mayor’s chamber to a “sustainable living” advocate

Communities across Europe call for change towards sustainable lifestyles, making local voices and action crucial elements in this quest to address climate change, and environmental degradation.

An innovative and multidisciplinary approach is critical to enhance the social and environmental resilience of cities, and this has been Stefania Giannuzzi’s vision when she changed careers to become a change agent, leading from the grassroots.

Stefania was a public administrator for years when she joined Pioneers to work on social innovation. She served as the Deputy Mayor of Turino and is familiar with the limitations the public sector faces in advancing disruptive policies for change, due to the bureaucratic nature of local governments, slow implementation processes, and a lack of short-term results and visions. Her extensive background in public administration, advocacy for environmental policies and animal rights is unmatched.

“I worked for over a decade for public administrations at municipal, provincial and regional levels (across Europe), to support strategic planning in the environmental field, promoting local development of the territories,” she says. Stefania is a not only a pundit, but a “jack of all trades” with a clear mission in focus—to become a change agent, focusing on sustainable cities, specifically building different models of cities that citizens deserve, and one that integrates urban planning, food systems, public spaces, and sustainable mobility.

“While exploring options for my placement, I wanted an “out of the box” experience from the public sector, and I chose to do it at Brodoto,” she says. Brodoto is a social impact agency that specializes in campaigns, design and media and has its footing in Serbia. The agency allowed Stefania to organize and create a project of her own, while also taking lead on content development for her group project. This enabled her to oversee the project (as a leader) from start to completion.

During her placement, she developed and created a sustainable living and zero waste toolkit, which could be transformed into a service for sustainable events, and sustainability consulting for those who want to work and live sustainably. Stefania also learnt to design various toolkits for crowdfunding campaign strategies; develop zero waste strategies that integrate circular economy to minimise waste generation; and create data waste strategies for private NGOs from the region—help them become more resilient and sustainable.

Another innovative project she worked on was the creation of an open source platform for data waste management which could be utilized by citizens. This project enabled her understand how to change the behavior of citizens to become sustainable. Through her interaction with the local communities, it was evident that there is a gap within the municipalities in what kind of policies are in place to advocate for sustainable lifestyles. She is keen to organize advocacy initiatives to raise awareness and increase demand for sustainability, for instance, she organized the Jane’s walk “The nature in the city” (In honor of Jane Jacobs, an urbanist and activist who championed community based approaches in urban planning) this past May 2019, in Turino. She believes people who lead sustainable lifestyles are happier than those who do not. As such, happiness is linked to sustainability as it teaches us to be kind to others and the planet.

Aside from engaging in interesting projects, Stefania has acquired diverse skills, both technical and leadership at Pioneers. For instance, through the systems innovation process, she learnt how to identify climate change influencers on social media using tools such as social media listening, which allows one to understands the profiles of climate change influencers. She also enhanced her problem-solving skills through group projects at the programme’s workshop.

It is through Pioneers that I have built strong relationships and networks of experts and cohorts of Pioneers around Europe. It has also enabled me become a Pioneers Coach and mentor to others.

As a parting shot, Stefania is not short of words to those who are uncertain about joining the program. Her advice is: “If you have some crazy or bold ideas you care about, and it is something outside the realm of your expertise, ask yourself: Why not? Go ahead and tackle the problem as best as you can, in your own way. You may be pleasantly surprised.”