Ioana Casapu

Ioana is our Head of Marketing Communications. Much of her activity within the Institute is an extension of her curiosity and passion for working with words and turning stories into meaningful experiences. 

How would you describe your professional journey so far? What is your background, and what sparked your interest in currently working to support social cohesion and political innovation?

I have a background of fifteen years in writing, editing and immersive journalism. I write about love, immigration, and politics. My first book is a memoir depicting the way social media has influenced Millennials. My career has grown at the intersection of digital communication, storytelling and art, which is a constellation I’m grateful for. After several years of working as Chief Editor for cultural and lifestyle publishers, I joined the Institute to curate the stories borne by people who walk the talk when it comes to political innovation. 

Please share a story that moved you deeply in your personal beliefs. You can share a link or tell me about it in your own words.

I recently met a social worker who focuses on helping migrant Roma families and children who live in Germany. The most moving aspect she shared with me is the families’ ability to retain a sense of community and village in a big city like Berlin, where more people feel lonelier than in any other parts of Germany. People have come here for different reasons, but most are looking for a better future for their children. When they come here, the institutional barriers are very high. Of course you get support money, but you are always under pressure and you always have to answer letters, and if you don’t speak very good German or if you don’t have a higher education, it is very difficult. We are talking about the European Union and ‘growing together’. 

“But the Roma have been doing this for 800 years,” she told me. “They are a model for the European Union and they really live for the idea of ‘Europe without borders’.”

According to you, how can we get young people interested in politics?

I actually think most young people are interested in politics. I mean, everything about our lives is more or less political, and younger people seem much more in touch with how they experience politics, with how they act on political beliefs or make political statements. That’s because social media has given everyone a voice or the ability to build a community, but also because younger people live more consciously of what’s happening in the world, much more than we did 20 or 30 years ago. This manifests at different levels, whether it’s making more conscious choices to protect the environment by changing lifestyle habits, volunteering, advocating for mental health, for vulnerable groups, for inclusion, for raising awareness, for developing local communities, for taking a stand against discrimination, corruption, and so on. These are all examples of democratic engagement that many young people practice in their day to day lives. 

What is your comfort movie?

Van Wilder.  

You run seminars in storytelling and creative writing. What advice would you give to someone struggling with a creative block?

I would invite them to forgive themselves for experiencing the block and recognise the block for what it is: a temporary establishment. We place a lot of high expectations on ourselves when we feel blocked and that has to do with the way we’re socialized: to be competitive, to mark goals, to remain relevant in our chosen careers and projects. These are inherently good things but we tend to forget that creativity needs time and lived experience to unfold. So the first step is to acknowledge that and to give oneself some compassion. The next step, I would say, is to go out into the world and do something pleasurable without the expectation of getting automatically inspired. That can mean reading a book in the park, visiting an exhibition, watching a screening or just having a meaningful exchange with someone you haven’t seen in a long time. 

Good storytelling is dialogue.

Ioana Casapu

What is the essence of good storytelling? What can political professionals learn from this in their communication with the wider world? 

Good storytelling moves people and ideas from their usual places. It has the power to put emotion in motion, to contextualise individual experiences into collective narratives and to break paradigms. Good storytelling is dialogue. It means actively listening, acknowledging what’s heard, and giving back. Political professionals can benefit from telling good stories as much as anyone else – an individual, business or institution – would. That means they must recognise the two-fold aspect of storytelling, actively listen to citizens and open spaces for dialogue in their communities, all the while connecting to the real problems of those communities. To validate the concerns of the vulnerable, to show democratic leadership through personal example, to engage people in decision making which impacts their own quality of life – are some of the things political professionals should work to enable in their communication to the wider world. 

When you write, do you prefer silence, or do you listen to music? What kind?  

Before the Pandemic, I used to spend a great deal of my time writing from cafes. I enjoy the background hum of slightly busy places, especially in the mornings, the smell of fresh coffee, and watching glimpses of the days of strangers. Nowadays I mostly write from home – with an open window, which gives me a pleasant soundtrack of street life. If I do turn to music while writing,  it’s classical/fusion and baroque music. One of my preferred tracks remains Balanescu Quartet’s No Time Before Time.  

You love living in Berlin. What makes the city special to you?

Berlin reminds me of my hometown Bucharest, another big European city with a fractured history. On the flip side, it’s huge, fast, bold and furious, which is why many call it the New York of Europe. At the intersection of these two realities I found a great deal of freedom to be me, to further my search for what’s meaningful: connection, communication, creation. Berlin is a state of being in between worlds, especially for migrants. There’s hardship and beauty in that. There’s always something changing: people, environments, landscape, culture. I think what makes it special is that here, one can always focus on the beauty of finding or rediscovering parts of oneself. Jeffrey Eugenides puts it best in Middlesex: “This once-divided city reminds me of myself. My struggle for unification, for Einheit.”