About me

Photo by Chiara Certomà

My interests focus on innovative forms of urban governance&planning in the context of pressing environmental challenges and the digital revolution.

In my academic life, I am Assistant Professor in political-economic geography at the Excellence Department of Economic, Social, Mathematical and Statistical Sciences (ESOMAS), University of Turin.

In 2020 I’ve been granted a SPIN Grant at the Department of Management, Ca’Foscari University of Venice with a research project on Critical Digital Social Innovation and Urban Governance (DSI4EU). The project explored the revolution brought forth by digital social innovation practices on traditional governance processes in the planning, organization and management of European cities; and the relationships between different stakeholders of the quadruple helix innovation model to find out what are the main assets and dynamics operating in social innovation-supporting ecosystems.

In the meanwhile, I collaborate as affiliate researcher with the Institute of Management of the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa (Italy) and the Centre for Sustainable Development – CDO @ Ghent University, where I conducted an EU IF-ES Marie-Curie project  titled “Crowdsourcing Urban Sustainability Governance. Exploring innovative governance models for addressing urban sustainability through ICT-people interaction” from 2017 to 2019. This last dealt with the emergence of new sustainability governance models characterized by digital social participation in the urban context. The aim of the project was to investigate whether and how crowdsourcing (an online, distributed problem-solving process for creative solutions development) is appropriate for dealing with the mutable, multi-scalar and complex character of urban sustainability; for activating real participatory processes in knowledge production and decision-making; and for empowering technological agency of heterogeneous actor-networks and narrowing the gap between research results and policy applications. 

I have a multidisciplinary background and research experience in philosophy of science, human and cultural geography, sustainability theory and urban studies (including smart city, participatory planning and environmental governance studies). I hold a degree in Philosophy of Science from the University of Rome La Sapienza (2003); a Master in Environmental Communication from the University of Pisa, Human and Environmental Sciences Department (2004); and a PhD in Political Science from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa (2009) I used environmental theory as a conceptual frame to investigate the politics of knowledge at the center of disagreements over the management of space, and to chart the great diversity of opinions over the significance of place identity for different actors involved in preserving, planning, or contesting spatial developments.

In the past years I have been research fellow at Sant’Anna School – Dirpolis Institute and Institute of Management, working on Smart City and Communities, urban sustainability and informal planning (2014-2017), and on the development of environmental political theory (2009-2013).  Overall, the research expanded the dominant role of spatial thinking in the formation of global environmental political agency.

In the meanwhile, I have been honorary visiting researcher at the University of Waikato, Hamilton (NZ) (2019);  guest professor on Spatial and Environmental Justice and Urban Gardens Planning at the BOKU University of Vienna (2016); visiting researcher at The Open University  Geography Department, UK (2007), and at the Université Paris La Sorbonne – SciencePo, France (2011); Rachel Carson Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU, Germany (2012); and visiting research fellow at the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, Ghent University, Belgium (2013).

I currently serve as Honorary Research Associate at the School of Engineering, Faculty of Science & Engineering, The University of Waikato; External Collaborator at the Responsible Management  Research Center, Pisa University; Alumna of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU, Munich and Senior Research Fellow of the Earth System Governance Research Network, Utrecht University; and in 2016/17  I contributed as affiliate member to the Open Space Research Centre at The Open University, Milton Keynes.

For what concern teaching activity, I have been nominated adjunct professor in Environment and Society (Cultural Geography) at the Department of Science for Peace  University of Pisa (2014-2017), and in Development Studies at Sant’Anna School (2017), while I obtained the italian professorship habilitation in Geography (sector 11/B1) in 2017. In the a.y. 2019/20 I have been adjunct professor in Geography at the University of Bergamo.

As Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society with IBG  I am engaged with the following research groups: Digital Geography, Geographies of Justice , Participatory Geographies , Planning and Environment and Urban Geography. As member of the AGeI – Associazione dei Geografi Italiani I took part in the research group “Geografia dell’ambiente” (Geography and Environment) and “Geografia dell’Innovazione e dell’Informazione” (Geography of Innovation and Information).

Outside of the academia I consulted and worked as internal with environmental NGOs (Legambiente, Greenpeace, ASud and the Centro di Documentazione sui Conflitti Ambientali – which I contributed at establishing in 2003, and Fondazione dei Diritti Genetici); and the National Institute of Statistics, Structural Business Statistics Dep. (2010-2012). Presently I am member of the Scientific Committee Legambiente Nazionale. In this position I collaborate with the Working Group on “Disuguaglianze ambientali- Disuguaglianze sociali”; and with the Forum Disuguaglianza e Diversità where I have been recently nominated as project partner. From january 2016 to February 2020, I served as Director of the IRTA Leonardo  Research Institute on Territory and Environment, an interdepartmental research center supported by the University of Pisa.

I’m passionate with visionary people practising disruptive social alternatives and speaking them aloud. Dangerously curious about innovative ideas, I found a home in many places and shared food with a wide variety of human (and non-human) beings. Experimental (urban) gardener, relaxing with indie-folk and punk music, a cup of tea and some XIX century literature. Have written and played theatrical pieces, climbed volcanos and tramped New Zealand’s woods, slept in the Sahara and sank in the Polar Circle snow, served as character for a fictional novel, lived in eco-villages, volunteered in caw and vegetable farms, played in Irish pubs, travelled up and down the world, and went through unexpected storms. And just discovered I like wave suping.

Photo by Chiara Certomà