“How many of you wake up in the morning convinced you are making a difference?” This is the question posed for some time by Giulia Detomati, a 39-year-old engineer, who in 2014 founded InVento Innovation Lab, the first B Corp in Italy to develop educational projects on entrepreneurship and environmental issues for young people, companies and institutions.
This past November, she joined the Ashoka Fellows, a group of the world’s most pioneering social entrepreneurs, comprising individuals who pursue innovative ideas, transform social systems and benefit the lives of millions of people.
She is joined by another woman, Rosy Russo, the 50-year-old who in 2017, in Trieste, set up the Parole O_Stili project with the aim of raising awareness, empowering and educating internet users to engage in non-hostile forms of communication.
As an experienced communicator, she too began to feel the weight of the increasingly aggressive climate on the web and wondered: “Isn’t there anything I can do to change the situation? To alter the course?” She then discussed her ideas with some friends and colleagues. The hashtag #paroleostili (NT: wordplay for ‘hostile words’ <parole ostili> and ‘words or styles’ <parole o stili>) has reached 25 million people to date.
Over the course of five years, the Manifesto for Non-Hostile Communication, which is the association’s main means of dissemination, has effectively become part of the daily teaching activities of over one million students, and has become an educational reference point for over 250,000 teachers who meet on the www.ancheioinsegno.it platform (developed by Parole O_Stili with the Ministry of Education).
A women’s award this year
The two experts were selected for having suggested innovative solutions involving the younger generation. The one addressed to these managers is no small recognition. In the past, Ashoka selected only 20 entrepreneurs in Italy (ten women and ten men), corresponding to 1 entrepreneur per 10 million inhabitants. In 2021, only Russo and Detomati managed to crack the rigorous criteria. “And this is not by chance”, explains Russo. “In my five-year experience there have been so many women who have helped, accompanied and advised me in the countless initiatives we have organised with the world of education and business. They were the ones who encouraged me to share a new, modern, sustainable vision of social media and communication”.
Giulia Detomati has reached 20,000 students throughout Italy since 2014. “Such figures were once unimaginable to me. Initially, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to take care of young people and the environment”, she explains. And indeed, today, the aim of InVento Lab is to work with the new generations to involve them in building a more regenerative and environmentally aware society.
B Corp works with children, teenagers and young people ranging from 3 to 25 years of age, in different programmes for each age group: ranging from podcasts to sustainability projects aimed at encouraging children to make their schools more sustainable. “We realised that bringing them into contact with innovative realities, but also with places that are different from their norm, can actually make a difference. It can truly deliver social impact“.
This is also confirmed by Rosy Russo. “The Ashoka Fellows event gave me the opportunity to look back and retrace the origins, motivations, struggles and certainties of many of my choices over the past five years. Like an epiphany, I realised that my desire to work with ‘different’ logics had a name: ‘social impact’, which translated into the words of my world, it meant a desire to make that world a little better”. She adds that “Parole O_Stili aspires to redefine how people spend their time on the internet, spreading a positive attitude to choose words carefully and with an awareness of just how important words really are”.
Awareness is one of the words Detomati also often repeats. “We want to make young people think about what their talents are. Their skills and aptitudes. It may sound obvious, but very often at school they fail to think about what their capabilities actually are. So one question we ask youngsters is: ‘What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing?’ Also: ‘What do others, the people who care about you, see as something you are actually good at?’ And when children are forced to reflect on this, we see that things change”