How The Echoing Green Fellowship Helped Juliana Gutiérrez Develop Low Carbon City

Mar 28, 2023
Juliana Gutiérrez standing with other Echoing Green fellows in a group photograph
Juliana Gutiérrez (far left) with her cohort of Echoing Green fellows.

The Echoing Green Fellowship is a full-time, 1.5-year fellowship for people working on a plan to make the world better in a big way through their own organizations. Echoing Green Fellowship looks for fellows based around the world.

Juliana Gutiérrez is a former Echoing Green Fellow, Ashoka Fellow, and co-founder of Low Carbon City. Low Carbon City is a citizen-led global platform that builds collective solutions to tackle climate change in cities. Through the Echoing Green Fellowship, Juliana was able to further develop her organization Low Carbon City.

In this interview, Juliana speaks about how her professional journey led her to the Echoing Green Fellowship, the day in the life of a fellow, and her tips for those interested in applying to this fellowship.

Tell us about your background and professional journey. What led you to the Echoing Green Fellowship?

I am a transdisciplinary leader motivated by the search for well-being and the generation of a positive impact in the social and natural capital. I have led recognized projects for the public, private, and academic sectors, in Colombia and internationally, and I have been an entrepreneur and co-founder of different social and community initiatives. I have worked in areas such as microfinance, entrepreneurship, education, early childhood, urban planning, governance, internationalization, and international cooperation but have focused on sustainability, climate change, and regenerative development during the last 7 years. During that period of time, I co-founded along with a group of friends and led  “Low Carbon City”, a citizen-led global movement working for building collective solutions to tackle climate change. Which was selected as an EG fellow in 2017.

At present, besides advising and volunteering in a number of social organizations, I work as a consultant in climate change and regenerative development in Colombia contributing to high-impact projects like the Cities4Children Global Alliance. I am passionate about teaching, researching, and volunteering, arts, tai-chi, traditional Chinese medicine, and learning and spreading knowledge about technology and futurism. 

Juliana Gutierrez in selfie photograph with a group of Echoing Green fellows
Juliana Gutiérrez (back left) discusses climate solutions with her cohort of Echoing Green fellows.

Can you describe what a week in the life of an Echoing Green Fellow is like? How did this opportunity allow you to advance your career and expand your professional network?

A week in my life can be quite dynamic and varied, depending on the projects I’m engaged in or any specific challenge they are facing. However, not everything has to do with work. One of my top priorities since I experienced burnout as an entrepreneur is working for my well-being. If I want to change the world I have to change/take care of myself first. So I make sure I include and nurture various dimensions of my well-being in my routines, like practicing pilates, and taichi, studying traditional Chinese medicine, dancing jazz, cooking healthy food, and talking to my mentors, among others. But job-wise, a general idea of what a typical week might look like includes: Planning and strategizing for the week ahead, preparing and participating in meetings, attending conferences or events, networking with other entrepreneurs, experts, and thought leaders in the field, collaborating with other people co-creating projects together, reviewing budgets, engaging with local communities, and reflecting on progress or challenges for following weeks.

The work of a climate leader is often fast-paced and demanding, requiring a combination of technical expertise, business acumen, and passion for making a positive impact on the environment. That is why the Echoing Green fellowship has been an amazing support for my work, not only during the time I got the fellowship in 2017-2018 but also now, because once you become a fellow you are a lifelong fellow for the EG community.

EG for example has helped me to develop new skills and enhance the existing ones, to make new connections and expand my network of colleagues, mentors, and friends, to access resources such as funding that I may not otherwise have access to, and even find chaplaincy support. Overall, the EG fellowship gave me valuable opportunities for personal and professional growth.

The Echoing Green Fellowship is for people working on a plan to make the world better in a big way through their own organizations. Talk a little bit about this mission and how it has influenced the way you go about your work or view the world. What has it been like navigating some of these issues through your own organization Low Carbon City?

I think the Echoing Green Fellowship has influenced the way I go about my work in several ways, but what I value the most is that it taught me how to understand and address challenges from a systemic perspective. If I want to be a leader that creates solutions for a better world, I should understand how problems are interlinked with other problems and therefore solutions. An example from my field of work which tries to provide solutions for the climate crisis has to do with understanding its root causes, like our hegemonic economic system, therefore focusing on initiatives like planting trees won’t solve the problem. I’m not saying that planting trees is not important, of course, it is, but when you think about systemic change, perhaps creating alternatives to the economic model that are redistributive and regenerative with nature can generate more impact. So, when you are an entrepreneur, you have to maximize your impact with a few resources, and understanding systemic change is definitely a way to have more impact. In the case of Low Carbon City, it helped us to understand that working with a single organization won’t make a relevant change for changing behaviors, that is why we work with media, universities, schools, companies, governments, experts, communities…

Another thing is that Echoing Green is a lifetime community, once you become a fellow you are always a fellow, and they believe in fellow’s leadership even if they change careers or leave the organizations they founded. That is an explicit pact of trust in you. Because they believe in whatever path we decide, we will keep working for a better world. An example is that after 6 years leading Low Carbon City,  EG helped me a lot in my transition from being the co-founder and director to having a less protagonist role while finding new challenges for professional development. At first, when I wanted to do those changes I thought I was disappointing the community but something amazing happened: They have always been there supporting my path and believing in my potential to be a changemaker even in other projects. is one of the examples of what it means to be a lifelong fellow.

Juliana Gutiérrez (front right) with her cohort of Echoing Green fellows.
Juliana Gutiérrez (front right) at an event to discuss Low Carbon City with her cohort of Echoing Green fellows.

What advice do you have for others applying for the Echoing Green Fellowship?

First of all, try to have a theory of change for your project/organization, even if you are not incorporated yet because it helps you to put your work in perspective and understand what exactly you do and how you do it. Read about the experiences of past fellows and see what kind of projects and initiatives they have worked on and what you do differently. Be clear about why you are interested in the fellowship, what you hope to gain from the experience, and how you want to contribute to the community. Tell your story of leadership to demonstrate your commitment to social entrepreneurship through your past actions and experiences. Seek feedback from peers or others in the field, they may have insights and suggestions that can help strengthen your application. But the most important thing: enjoy the application process. In our case (my co-founder Juan Manuel Restrepo and I) we learned a lot from the application form and had the chance to dream about what we wanted in the future. Just going through the application we could clarify many ideas and our strategy.

Can you speak about your experience with the PCDN network? How has the Career Campus helped your professional journey and what resources have they provided that you found useful?

The PCDN network has been an invaluable resource, and I’m really grateful I found them. In my transition from being a founder of a social organization to exploring new career paths and adventures, PCDN Career Campus has given me the opportunity to connect with other professionals working in the same field, build relationships, and network with others who share similar interests. It has offered me a range of opportunities to build new skills through courses, webinars, and training. It also has a collaborative environment where members can work together to share their experiences and support one another in our professional development.

Additionally, since I’m interested in global affairs, its global reach not only allows me to be updated on global opportunities but also, participate in a global platform to connect, share ideas, and collaborate.

I’d recommend the platform not only to people interested in social careers and opportunities but also to those looking for professional development.

Interested to apply for this fellowship? Bookmark the Echoing Green Fellowship to your ProFellow account.

Juliana Gutiérrez Juliana is a transdisciplinary professional with 15 years of experience in the public, private, and academic sectors, mobilizing and articulating social and environmental causes. She has worked for organizations such as UNDP, UNHabitat, Amnesty International, and Low Carbon City. Comfama. She studied Finance and International Relations and has a Master’s degree in Environmental Projects and another in International Development from Korea University. 

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