Thursday, September 27, 2007

Continental Creative President: European Leader Calls for Culture, Diversity and Openness to Solve Global Problems

[25 September 2007 - Applied Imagination - By Steven Dahlberg, Editor, Reporting from the Global Creative Leadership Summit, New York] The Global Creative Leadership Summit, hosted by the Louise T. Blouin Foundation, wrapped up today in New York. Among the Nobel Prize winners, global CEOs, neuroscientists and artists who participated in dialogues about global issues were several enlightened political leaders -- including the president of Iceland, the lieutenant governor of Louisiana and the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

In the United States, advocates of creative community and economic development are hard pressed to find leadership at the federal level of government -- starting with the omission of creativity and arts in most of education. Yet at the state level, leaders such as Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu are spearheading projects like Louisiana's Cultural Economy Initiative to help put the state's culture and arts sector at the center of development -- including rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

I was particularly pleased that President Barroso's closing keynote of the three-day summit made a strong case for the role of creativity, innovation and diversity for addressing global problems such as climate change and fighting poverty. "Those are the two main tasks of leadership in the 21st century," he said. The other global issue linked with solving climate change and poverty is culture. "Culture is a solution."

Though President Barroso's call for creativity was somewhat aimed at the role that Europe can play in addressing global problems, it also is relevant to the rest of the world for engaging people, organizations and communities in creative problem solving.

I will let President Barroso's final words speak for themselves:
Because it is with a paradigm of openness, of acceptance of the difference ... almost the love of difference, to like the difference ... and to see the difference not as a problem, but as something that increases the variety. It is with this attitude that we can face those challenges we have today.

We are now in the position of moving from a parochial system to a real open paradigm where we accept the difference -- not tolerate, but to accept the difference (I don't like the word "tolerance") -- as something that increases the variety and the richness of our world.

We have some common rules, of course, and those common rules have to be based in the old principles of freedom and democracy ... but that sees differences, including multi-culturalism, as something that is positive, not as a challenge. So the increased plurism in our society, as a multi-cultural society, is being something good, the cross-fertilization being something good for mankind, for the economy, for the culture, in general.

And this is the change, the evolution, of the paradigm that we need today, where no regional diversity should be pushed out, no culture should be destroyed, that individual identities are strengthened in order to play on the new global stage.

Some days ago I was in Kassel at Documenta, the most important contemporary art event in the world. It was amazing there! It was the best school of globalization I've seen recently because African culture, Latin American culture, Asian culture were not treated as folkloric as (they were) before, but at the same level of respect with European or American culture.

So what's going on in the field of culture, of art, is really amazing. And we should find there the inspiration also for many of the political problems we are now facing.

What we should now do and work (toward as) political leaders, as creative people, from the sciences, is precisely:
  • Proposing, not imposing, solutions.
  • Not imposing results, but proposing solutions.
  • Asking questions where we try to establish the links and the connectivities between creativity and innovation.
We need at the same time, all the benefits of the innovation that is now brought by technological discoveries; but (also) the creativity making, very often, the links with the old humanities.

This is where we bring the idea of connection -- using knowledge effectively from science AND culture (when I say "culture" I include the poetry, I include the arts) -- bringing together those aspects, not just technological innovation, but creativity of spirit.

And this is the kind of leadership we need -- leadership that brings humanism back into (the) question. In the European Union, we can give a contribution to this because we are trying to promote an open, outward-looking, engaged society. That is why I believe we have to do that with others (around) the world. Not with the old idea of sovereign states that try to rule the world, but precisely working with the member states, with the idea of a "community of interest" with an ethic of a global responsibility. In Europe we are well-placed to do that and we want to do that with our good friends around the world.
In the United States, we need to start advocating for a similar approach and taking deliberate steps to make policies that both support and apply creativity in our cities, states and nation. Perhaps we will begin to hear more specifics about "creative communities" from the U.S. presidential candidates (are we moving that direction?). Indeed, such a position might even help that candidate differentiate himself or herself from the other candidates -- and make an important contribution to 21st century challenges at home and abroad.

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