From scaling-up to scaling-out (Peace through Culture – a citizens’ dialogue)

I have collaborated with European Cultural Foundation in different roles and specially as adviser Connected Action for the Commons and Jury member Princess Magriet Award for Culture. On 10 May 2017 I had the opportunity to participate in the Peace through Culture – a citizens’ dialogue (Peace Palace, The Hague) contributing to the final Report edited by Bas Lafleur with a text about scaling up that synthesized the debates during the debate. The workshop confronted the following challenge: «Diversity in our communities is a fact. But how can we promote and nourish inclusiveness? What can we all do (more or differently than we do now) to promote a movement towards an inclusive society?». To organize the debate we organized around three questions:

  1. Break the isolation – How to create spaces of encounters (online and offline) where people can speak freely and let go of positions?
  2. Inclusiveness – How to ensure that all citizens feel included and empowered to actively engage?
  3. Scaling-up – Can more inclusiveness on the local level foster more solidarity in Europe? How would that work?

Here I share the introductory text to the dialogue and workshop and my text about scaling.

An Introduction to Peace through Culture – a citizens’ dialogue

We live in transformational times. The need to find ways of bringing communities together and creating more inclusive and just societies – where all are welcome, valued and listened to – is greater than ever. At the same time, there are countless interesting examples of citizens taking action and offering alternative solutions, providing inspiration for policy-makers and members of the business sector alike. The aim of the citizens’ dialogue is to catalyse these initiatives by providing a platform for co-working in order to gain new insights on how to build more cohesive communities.

This day is about bringing different stakeholders (some 200 people, including European policy makers, local change-makers, artists, collectives and NGO’s, business representatives, and especially a big group of students from The Hague University of Applied Sciences) together to create collaborative solutions and actions. The main challenge is divided into 3 questions that different groups spread over 18 tables will be working on. The participants were asked to think with an open mind about the whole picture and the broader context of the challenge/questions, develop pathways to response to them and in the final plenary reflect and share their feedback on the processes and outcomes.

Working together on a concrete case and being explicit about the problem, can create a shared sense of urgency and connects individual stories to broader systems and dynamics. At the end of the session, we want to get away with some concrete steps, ideas and solutions responding to the challenge and questions and make clear where the responsibility lies.

Keynote speech by Deputy Mayor Rabin Baldewsingh, The Hague’s Alderman for Social affairs, Employment, Neighbourhood Approach, Integration Policy and Sport (full speech).

From scaling-up to scaling-out

Juan Freire, who primarily focusses on the question of scaling up – Can more inclusiveness on the local level foster more solidarity in Europe and how would that work – adds the following points:

Good practices. Many local good practices about inclusivity and integration were identified in the different roundtables. Debates focused in the analysis of the key factors common to those practices and the ways to share and spread this knowhow and experiences to other communities and contexts.

Storytelling and hybrid identities. A new narrative is needed; one that helps to move the identity framework from the traditional one, binary, to one based in the concept of hybrid identities meaning that everybody (and not only the stated as migrants) are the combination of different experiences, origins and culture. Complimentarily we need good stories (as those identified in point 1) and not only the bad ones that are almost the only focus now of the media. This new storytelling is where the main responsibility of the media is.

Education and public space are two key enabling factors. Real public spaces, where diverse people can meet and interact in a safe and free context, are an essential «infrastructure» to develop any project. It is a matter of spatial justice; with the present spatial segregation we live in our neighbourhoods and cities any other action will confront formidable barriers. In this sense, education has a double role. First, working together for inclusion and peace is a collective learning process. Second, educational spaces, such as schools, universities, libraries and many other formal and informal ones, are some of the main public spaces where specific actions could be developed.

Active role of migrants. Projects should be designed as «symmetric» processes. Both locals and migrants need to have an active role and, especially, migrants have an strong knowledge and experience of value for the local communities. Following the metaphor of the dance that was used during the debate, everybody has to dance but also everybody should have the possibility to opine and participate in the decision about the music to dance. In this sense, inclusiveness is a two-sided process, coherent con the new hybrid identities (or in other terms, all we are migrants and locals at the same time).

Role of politics and institutions. Change is not only a responsibility of citizens and communities; the challenge is huge and institutions need to assume responsibilities … but a new responsibility. It is not a matter of traditional politics and policies. So we need more scaling out than scaling up. We have 4, not 3, levels of organisation, action and policy-making: local, municipal, national government and European institutions. The local, mostly informal and community-based, is the start and end of this process, so citizen empowerment is the key. Institutions have to act more as infrastructures and enablers of citizen-based processes.

Acceleration and sustainability. We confront an acute challenge but at the same time we need to apply a long-term perspective to develop really sustainable policies. Complimentarily, we have to take into account that we are living in an accelerated and accelerating world where technology and globalisation are drivers and the fears caused by their growing impact are increasing at the same pace. So we need to accelerate the processes working for peace and inclusion to keep the pace of the change. How to design and implement policies that are sustainable and fast at the same time is another side of the challenge we are confronting.

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