Daniel has created an IT architecture that is enabling grassroots entrepreneurs to connect and collaborate to improve social matters across the Italian state and Europe. By creating this network of agents of change (changemakers), he is empowering them to shift the way in which the news is reported. Being asset driven and solution oriented compared to the negative focus driven by mainstream media.
The New Idea
Daniel is working on the ground in Italy to provide a strong structure to connect all entrepreneurs. Doing so, he is developing and spreading a new narrative around the possibility of change in the country and in Europe, where the idea of stillness and stagnation is still predominant. Starting from his experience as a journalist, Daniel began sharing through new media channels hundreds of positive stories of social entrepreneurship, change and creativity he met on the Italian territory, counteracting the negativity of Italian media that hardly ever share these sorts of best practices. Exponentially disseminating these good examples of changemaking, Daniel realized he was creating a demand for change, a “market for changemakers”.
Meeting more and more grassroots entrepreneurs around the country and their solutions, Daniel soon realized how they could play a crucial role in solving the big issues in society. He therefore connected them together and gave them the tools to combine their solutions to social problems, thus beginning to answer the demand for change he had created. Daniel has created a market and a strategy that allow changemakers to inform institutions and civil society who want to tackle problems, making the demand and supply for change meet: a new market where the “currency” is changemaking.
This creation of a grassroots movement of social entrepreneurs and their activation in the society around them – a so-called changemaker-to-changemaker movement – can be scaled and accelerated in many different contexts. Daniel has created an IT architecture that serves as a backbone to everyone else, anywhere else, to follow. The know-how and the IT infrastructure on how to create this movement is open-sourced and provides a set of tools for everyone across Europe.
Researchers Marc Trussler and Stuart Soroka, set up an experiment, run at McGill University in Canada in 2014. According to their studies, cynicism in the media is damaging hopes of a sustainable society. At the same time bad news sell more newspapers and make TV audience grow, making it a market issue rather than an opportunity one.
Focusing on problems and expecting the worst is having significant repercussions on how people deal with the challenges and opportunities that our rapidly changing world needs fast answers to. The media sector - despite the high education and professional level of journalists - dramatically fails to inspire our society. Tendency to focus on negativity rather than on solutions and best practices goes well beyond mass media and also reaches academic journals. An indicative example: out of 44,000 psychology journal articles studied by the positive psychologist Martin Seligman, 98.2% are about what is 'wrong' with the human being.
The case of Italy is particularly severe. AGCOM, the main regulatory body for broadcasting and telecommunications in Italy, reported that in 2013 over 90 percent of total revenues in the television sector were held by only three operators. It is therefore clear how the only driving force behind every piece of news or television programs is to attract as much public as possible. This has led to a growing diffusion of an extremely negative image of the country and to an extreme demotivation of young people, bringing Italy to a level of migration and brain drain comparable to the beginning of the century.
To give some numbers, since the 2008 financial crisis, young people have flowed out of the country at an alarming rate. By 2014, net migration was negative: the number of Italians emigrating exceeded the number of foreign nationals immigrating into the country, with almost 50,000 young Italians leaving Italy last year alone. The total number of Italians who migrated in 2015 was 107,529 - a 6.2 percent increase from the previous year, with 36.7 percent of those (39,410) aged between 18 and 34. Moreover, a survey conducted last fall by ISTAT, revealed that almost two-thirds of young Italians would leave their country if they had the means.
These data reveal a dramatic lack of motivation and proactive drive to remain in the country and activate change to move out of stillness and stagnation. The lack of information about the opportunities existing, the best practices already in place and the positive examples of successful entrepreneurs is fueling the status quo. This is also due to the very little engagement and communication power existing changemakers have in the country. Changemakers, in Italy as well as all over Europe, are mostly isolated, disorganized, not connected enough to work together and simultaneously tackle different social issues. Furthermore, changemakers have not had the chance until now to create a specific agenda for social issues, but the only solutions to urgent social matters have remained top-down. They haven’t had the ability to think together about gathering in a movement and changing social systems.
There is a shared sense of urgency across Europe and across different fields, especially with the fast millennials mindset being the new way to act. What is missing in Italy and in many other countries in Europe is the capability, the know-how and the connecting tools, to act as a society of changemakers. Daniel, with Italia Che Cambia, is responding to this need and empowering social entrepreneurs and changemakers around the country and in Europe.
Daniel has taken a widespread systemic problem and has transformed it into an opportunity. Through a mapping work he discovered that a network built upon trust and the tacit knowledge of how to change systems existed in people’s minds, but wasn’t well connected. What he is now creating are network-based trust relationships, strengthening those bonds. It is an evolutionary step from single issue focused organizations to broader movement building. Daniel helped to create the initial phase with the stories he has spread and told through his online platform and he is now taking the next step. Daniel has been playing a visible and trusted leadership role that has brought that field far in a very short time, modeling just the kind of behavior that he seeks to systematize now.
Daniel has created an online platform with a permanent mapping of about 1800 local actors that are contributing to Italian system-change. These include enterprises, associations, committees, people who act as changemakers in their local context. Such map provides a clear layout of the changemaking movement as well as, more importantly, making changemakers aways of their peers around them. After the first mapping created by Daniel himself, now the platform allows for citizens to report virtuous projects themselves. His initial strategy was therefore that of an initial provider of information looking to activate a snowball effect, empowering people to be “mappers” themselves.
Moreover, the online platform provides information about alternative economies, social entrepreneurship, sustainability. With the aim of creating bottom-up news, it shows how deep and prosperous the world of Italian social changemakers can be. Italia che Cambia tells stories that encourage changemakers to act. To date, Italia che Cambia has published 5000 articles and 250 video interviews, reaching 58.132 people per month in 2017 (42% more than in 2016) and spreading them through weekly features in the main Italian newspapers and radios (e.g. Il Fatto Quotidiano, Radio24, Radio Lattemiele), thus reaching millions of citizens. Daniel is creating a cooperative approach to communication changing the pessimistic behavior around social entrepreneurship and opportunities in Italy.
Finally, Daniel is empowering all the changemakers and connections of changemakers created, to work on the common grounds and find solutions to social issues together. He is setting up a shared conversation on thematic areas that can lead them to real actions, making concrete commitments of time and resources to do it. In 2015 one hundred ambassadors and ambassadresses from the mapped associations, enterprises, academic world, got together to discuss how to translate all of these widespread innovation into a small number of priority issues. After three months of work, they produced 17 thematic papers that offer concrete proposals to achieve change at the local and national level. These documents are the main propellant for campaigns and goal-setting initiatives. Moreover, they came up with a series of concrete actions that each citizen can do to contribute to this great process of change. The campaigns he then developed are based on these outputs.
Campaigns like “Campagna dell’1% per salvare l’Italia” activate common citizens to become changemakers themselves, supporting Italia che Cambia by contributing with either 1% of their monthly wage or 1% of their time (approximately four hours per month). In one year, 1300 people have subscribed to this campaign, offering 4164 hours per month and €1168 per month. Various other periodic campaigns are activated every few months, on the topics related to the 17 priority papers discussed above. For example, the latest one was directed to consumers to switch to one of the three energy companies in Italy providing 100% renewable electricity and in just a few months it led to 150 Italian families to change their energy providers converting 364.500 Kwh/year into renewable energy.
Meetings and training courses are held by the different social entrepreneurs of the network, to involve as many changemakers as possible and spread knowledge on different fields: from environmental sustainability to agriculture to economy or food and wealth. In the last year 10 courses were held by social entrepreneurs of the network in 10 different Italian cities, reaching 300 participants of the civil society.
Various local projects are developing to replicate at a local level what Italia che Cambia does at a national level. In the last two years 20 local projects were born, the last one being Piemonte che Cambia. These regional groups are strengthening the mapping activities. Meanwhile, in 2015 two projects in Berlin and Brandenburg were born beginning the replication of Italia che Cambia in Europe. Daniel’s whole set of different tools make up a backbone that other contexts can use to create their changemaker-to-changemaker movements. The IT architecture he created will soon be open-sourced, providing anyone with a step-by-step guide of the entire journey (from storytelling to acting).
Daniel’s objective is to reach 1% of changemakers in Italy, to create real awareness and a solid social movement around the field, disrupting the sense of isolation felt by social entrepreneurs and empowering them to self-lead the movement.
In 2012 Daniel started a 11-month camper journey to visit Italy from north to south. He managed to fund the trip through a crowdfunding campaign and his goal was to find out what positive changemaking stories existed in the country. He remained really astonished by the great amount of people involved in social enterprises and in activities aimed at positive change, in fields like the environment, education, economy. He began telling all the stories he met through his website, reaching a large audience. He soon realized that what was missing completely was the connection between all these changemakers, which led him to create the network of Italia che Cambia, a place where people could meet virtually and physically while continuing the mapping work of the best changemakers practices in Italy.
Daniel's story and his need to tell good news begins with his experience as a journalist and the disappointment and disillusion he felt during his years of work at a private television channel. Despite the good salary, his discouragement for the way media manipulated people’s perceptions of reality led him to quit the job.
In 2003 he founded one of the first online newspapers in Italy, Terranauta, where he mainly focused on the environmental field and news about the preservation of the planet. His priority was to describe reality with independence and according to his values. More than forty professional journalists, already engaged in official media channels, asked to work for him voluntarily because they appreciated the freedom their political and editorial freedom.
In 2010 Daniel founded his second online newspaper, Il Cambiamento, which then led him to establish Italia Che Cambia. At this time, he also starts participating in a wider educational project for young people in high school, called “new eyes for media”, which brought him in touch with youngsters. A specific moment marks his path, when a young 17-year-old answers to his question “What would you like to do when you grow up?” with “In Italy now everything is lost”. He then decides to take his camper and discover all the good experiences existing in the country.
Daniel's childhood was characterised by loneliness. He was an only child and his parents moved to Rome for work, leaving the extended family of grandparents and cousins in Piedmont. Daniel's elementary school years are marked by the contrast between the sad school months in the city and the summer months in the countryside at his grandparents’ place. His school was in a quite poor area of Rome, with a lot of bullying attitudes by the kids and teachers who wouldn’t take action to change the situation. He fought against bullies himself and he soon realized that things change if you start acting as a changemaker yourself.