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Meet Rita Elvira Adamo, founder of La Rivoluzione delle Seppie

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Meet Rita Elvira Adamo, an italian woman entrepreneur who works for the cultural reactivation of rural marginal areas to experiment with different methods of living and working collectively, mainly through non-formal education programs. 

How did you start your career as a changemaker with “La Rivoluzione delle Seppie”?

For me it was a fairly organic and unplanned journey. A series of fortuitous events meant that every time something happened, we knew we had to continue.

My experience, I would like to point it out, has not been a process carried out by only me as an individual, but we did everything always in a group and for me it was always an exchange of skills, knowledge and growth.

I started when I was still a student and inside “La Rivoluzione delle Seppie” I also grew as a person. Getting to today, where I am doing these interviews and we are starting Civil Service Projects with young people from the Calabrian area, was always a bit of a goal. That is, to be able to give different points of view to young people and make them understand that there are alternatives even in a place like Calabria, that has always been marginal and from which people are forced to migrate.

Of course, it was not always a linear and easy path.

What have been the main obstacles or barriers you have encountered?

It all started almost as a game, a kind of one-time project. We didn’t have a plan. Our project has always been a very fluid thing. However, this has also been a strength over time. It has been both a strength and a weakness of our project.

Fluidity is what makes everything special, but of course living within that fluidity in a society where you are constantly being asked who you are, what you are, what you do, what your future is, where you want to get to, when you want to succeed, when you are 30 years old you have to have a home and a family… it’s very difficult and often doubts arise. Living and working together in a very hybrid way, and therefore not having social barriers, is beautiful and very strong, but it creates many difficulties.

Another focal point is affordability; there is no point in denying this, especially if it all starts with students with limited funds. As the project is growing rapidly, however, there is a great need to understand what direction to take. Many of us have the willingness to invest in this project trying to make it their job one day, while others have taken different personal paths. This is also a fluid aspect to be taken into account. Since ours is a people-related project, where people are the fuel of everything, it is very difficult to make a plan five years from now.

From a purely bureaucratic point of view and working with institutions, we have found great support and a sharing of intent from the municipality of Belmonte Calabro, which gave us the opportunity to gradually reuse and redevelop some public spaces.

Instead, there have been some difficulties with higher levels of government (regional and national). This is because institutions are constantly changing and often tenders and fundings change several times in even short periods of time as people in government change as well. Certainly, at all levels, there would need to be an awareness among institutions of the work we do and that projects like ours generally do, so that we can continue in a common direction and support each other.

I truly believe that making the institutions understand what we can do together is first of all our own responsibility.

What professional success are you most proud of?

One of the most powerful moments for me, although there have been many, is when in 2017 London Metropolitan University signed a memorandum of understanding with the Municipality of Belmonte Calabro in which the two institutions committed to reactivate and regenerate this small town in Southern Italy through their respective resources: the university by bringing students and staff to Belmonte, and thus bringing critical mass, and the municipality through the provision of property to be regenerated through public tenders.

At the time I was a student at that university and the only Calabrese from Belmonte, and I really enjoyed seeing my two “homes” connect and seeing a city like London make some sort of connection with the small place I had left years before.

Of course, I didn’t do this alone either, but it meant a lot to me and had a very strong emotional impact. This thing has made people from all over the world come to Belmonte and learn about Calabria, an area that has always been a “love and hate” for me. These people cross paths and get to know the young people of the area, in an exchange that leads to recognize how good the project is for individuals and understand the importance of getting to know new people and new cultures, in a continuous cross-pollination.

Receiving these positive feedbacks from my local community is what gives me the motivation to move forward and overcome obstacles.

What knowledge do you think you should have or would have liked to have before starting your project?

I have developed many projects, but they have all always come from play or from the gut, because I was quite young and particularly “La Rivoluzione delle Seppie”, which I really devote a lot of time to, especially now that I teach at the university.

When a project is born like that, the head still doesn’t think about what it might entail… projects then grow, create expectations and responsibilities, and that’s when the rational part starts to come in. When that happens a whole series of “duties” enter. When “I have to” takes the place of “I want to”, I change as a person. Tension, fears and anxieties grow, relationship management becomes difficult. This is also felt by the rest of the team, whereas maybe before it was good because there was just the fun.

So if I had to point to one thing I wish I had known earlier, it is definitely how to be able to keep a balance between the heart and the head.

What professional advice would you give to your younger self?

Just breathe.

Don’t be overwhelmed by society’s expectations and don’t feel too responsible to others, but feel responsible to yourself and what you have created.

What advice would you give to a woman who wants to start a project or has just started her career?

Have confidence. In yourself, but also in the people you work with. This allows you to create a context in which you can work well. Everything starts with trust. I learned it too, recently, from people I feel very close to both as friends and professionally.

Do you want to share an inspirational phrase? (yours or from a famous personality)

The importance of trying without necessarily succeeding or producing is an important leitmotif for my daily life even though then in everyday society you often have to be strong not to forget it.

That is why I would like to share this quote from Ettore Sottsass:

“I would like to find a place where we can try, together, to make things with our hands or with machines, in any way, not as boy scouts and not even as artisans and not even as laborers and even less as artists, but as men with arms, legs, hands, feet, hair, sex, saliva, eyes, breath and make them, certainly not for ourselves or even to give them to others, but to try how to make things […] Will it be possible to try?”

Ettore Sottsass Jr, “C’è un posto dove provare” – Casabella 377 – 1973