Why we are all on a superhero duty with urban planner Eranda Janku
“Starting to work with Except was a love-in-the-times-of-Covid kind of a situation”, smiles Eranda Janku. A fresh addition to the team, Eranda took up the role of urban and spatial planner. She bridges her professional and academic experience to come up with improved theoretical and practical tools for researchers and planners. The intersection of strategic planning with design thinking is where she feels most comfortable professionally, enjoying to apply co-creative approaches to complex policies and systems. She considers herself to always be on duty when it comes to searching and coming up with innovative ways to solve problems in our daily challenges.
Throughout her journey as a practicing urban planner and a Ph.D. candidate, she witnessed the pivotal role of “sustainability mentors”. The people with expertise that implement sustainability, demand it from governments and businesses, and teach others about it are, in her eyes, supermen and superwomen on a collective, not a solo, duty. As a “city-superwoman”, she feels part of the positive wave.
Eranda’s drive towards sustainability started in her childhood. “I cherish the culture I grew up in, that taught me later on about the things I discovered later to be sustainability”, she explains. She now sees it as her (superwoman) mission to learn about it and pass the knowledge to others. Working in sustainability entails understanding how things work, in a general, broader picture, so we can contribute to improving whole systems. This is what, according to Eranda, makes sustainability interesting to work with.
Yet, “with so many components that make sustainability, we need to take a holistic and systemic approach for our interventions to actually work”, Eranda makes a case for systemic sustainability. “It is not only fun but also insightful and effective to understand our role within the systems, and how they all connect,” Eranda argues that sustainability is tightly related to our consciousness and behaviors that arise from it. Being aware of the consequences of what we do and how we do it can guide our decision-making, to improve the well-being of ourselves, those around us, or the environment.
Eranda’s drive towards awareness manifests itself in her love for healthy, local, and sustainably grown food. “Conscious consumers should always understand the value of the food in front of them: nutrition, origin, costs, what a lack of this food means”, she states, evoking that the world’s second-largest mafia controls avocado farms. In her eyes, the complexity of growing something as innocent as the world’s most-loved fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) gives ever-more reasons to look at sustainability from systems thinking perspective.
Combining her passion for food and her eye for design resulted in her co-founding of Kikiliciouss, a family start-up dedicated to slow food. “We teach people the value of food, especially local produce”, explains Eranda. Kikiliciouss is a community that holds open talks in schools, develops delicious recipes from locally grown fruit and vegetables, delivers food, and collaborates with large local actors. “We just started working on one thing and they started adding up”, recalls Eranda. “This way, we make different connections in the food network and can analyze how the network impacts us from different angles.”
Asked about her ambitions for the future at Except, Eranda put the bar on an Except-level high: “I’m really looking forward to developing some groundbreaking projects together.”
By Zuza Nazaruk, a sustainability journalist.