Narrating Climate Change: Milan’s story map

Milan is the first city in the REACHOUT program to publish the climate story. We talked with Simone Nardicchia, who is leading the project within the municipality, to gain deeper insights into the process and how Milan is transforming its climate story into tangible actions.

In October, the team started shaping Milan’s climate narrative, creating a baseline that connected the city’s specific needs with the outcomes from the other climate services of REACHOUT. A central question guided their efforts: “What is important for us?”

For Simone, the answer was obvious: community engagement.

Visualising Climate Impact

The city strategically used pictures of the 2022 summer—the hottest ever recorded in Milanese memory—to capture people’s attention. This is a time people can easily remember, making it easier for them to connect with the story. This real-life event has contributed to the positive response to more technical outcomes like the heatmap, making the impacts of climate change tangible and immediate.

The climate story is emerging as a potent tool for introducing Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in Milan. It is helping people realise the potential for positive changes in their everyday environment, leading to increased public participation.

“People first feel themselves in the story, then, when people see the map, they begin to understand the practical uses and benefits of the tools we’re implementing,” Simone explained, referring to the green space map. “In the Urban Heat Island map, people see the situation we have and understand that the policies that the city is implementing will change the map’s colour to blue—they agree that we must take those actions and that it will improve their lives,” he added.

The City of Milan is highly committed to the city’s environmental transition. Indeed in 2022, the Municipality adopted the Air and Climate Plan, a strategic document that guides the city to reach carbon neutrality in 2050. To achieve the expected results, however, citizens must be aware of the need for a cultural, infrastructural and productive turnaround. This is why for Simone,“The Climate Story perfectly represents the communication tool that Milan and every city need to make citizens understand the importance of climate policies.”

Building synergy with other departments

The success of the climate story extends beyond residents’ engagement to fostering cross-departmental collaboration within the city administration. The workshops to develop the climate story narrative initiated the collective effort towards the project. They also ignited a growing interest in REACHOUT’s outcomes from various departments. “The climate story is helping us think about the possibilities of joining other projects and departments. For example, why not use it to talk about urban regeneration? Colleagues from data management or energy departments are asking about the tools and seeing different potentials to the climate story,” Simone explained.

Expanding Climate Awareness

It can be difficult to secure a spot on Milan’s social media channels for sharing news about topics like the REACHOUT project tools, as there is a high demand from the Mayor’s office and other departments of the administration. “So, we started to plan the activity connected to mainstream events,” Simone recalls. The team created a list to map all related events taking place in the city, such as Milano Green Week and Fa La Cosa Giusta.

Fa La Cosa Giusta is a fair centred around sustainable consumption that draws over 30,000 visitors. They showcased the climate story in a stand at the fair. People were engaged, asking how they could contribute with their actions and learn more about what the city is doing.

Milan’s team is capitalising on numerous other events, using them as platforms to present the Climate Story and gather public feedback.

“We are gaining citizens’ engagement and have already presented to all relevant audiences. In events like the like #Webstival, we presented to the scientific community. We have been to schools and fairs to present to children and the elderly—our most vulnerable audiences to heatwaves and the leading character of our climate story. And to young adults in presentations in the Politechnical Milano.”

Testing the tool in different contexts and with different audiences has helped the team gain a better understanding of its value and potential. As a result, Ambrogio & Gaia’s story will be included in the campaign that the mayor of Milan is launching in the coming weeks to raise awareness about heatwaves.

Powered by AI

The city turned to artificial intelligence to meet the project’s deadline and ambitious goals. AI tools played an instrumental role in developing Ambrogio and Gaia, the characters featured in Milan’s climate story. By analysing data and drawing on a broad range of information, AI helped to create relatable characters, making the story engaging for Milanese. Because of the great response, the city is considering hiring an artist to develop these characters further. This hybrid approach of using AI to create the initial characters and then enhancing them with human creativity shows Milan’s forward-thinking approach. By leveraging technology, the city was able to make rapid strides to effectively test the tool and improve.

Lessons to share

Simone attributes the success of the project to several actions but emphasises three:

1. Alignment. They connected the project to the Air and Climate Plan so that every action can be directed to support climate policies.

2. Collaboration. “All REACHOUT partners are super helpful,” acknowledged Simone. “Everyone has the time to guide us and think what works best for Milan”, he added.

3. Setting an immovable deadline. Committing to mainstream events helped the team mobilise and advance the project.

For Simone, “REACHOUT is a fantastic project because every city can customise their solution. Every city conducts workshops to implement the tools and build the climate story, drawing inspiration from the other cities involved.”

Watch the video!

Go to Ambrogio & Gaia, a Milanese climate story or learn more about other REACHOUT cities climate stories.

Link to the climate story in English
Link to the climate story in Italian



Not available yet

The climate story of Gdynia​

Short summary: A story about Jan and Maria during extreme precipitation.

Theme: Flooding

End user: Citizens

Link to the story: under construction