Our world is changing. Global population is growing; cities are expanding at the expense of the countryside; natural resources, food, and services are in increasing demand. At the same time, some countries and regions are suffering from declining population, shrinking economies, and financial and fiscal problems. These changing circumstances have led to a growing awareness that we can no longer count on our economic welfare and way of living to continue as before. Institutions, businesses, and families feel insecure, anxious, unstable, and indecisive. But this situation also makes us alert, active, and innovative. It brings up forces and energies we had forgotten when we were asleep in our comfortable cocoons.
One topic of worldwide interest is the question, “How can we create a more sustainable society?” In relatively prosperous countries and regions such as the Netherlands and Flanders, we have not until recently felt the urgency to deal with the issues that accompany global change. Especially in these well-to-do areas, the fear of losing all (or even a little) of what we have gained can be frightening and paralyzing. From this perspective, the different crises we face might be a blessing that moves us toward action.
Some leaders are beginning to shift from making decisions based solely on economic parameters to also including social parameters. Pluk is one of the movements that is experimenting with ways to facilitate this paradigm change . Pluk started five years ago in the Netherlands to provide a platform for a variety of public, private, and voluntary organisations to join forces to contribute to ongoing social development. From its modest beginnings, it has expanded to include organisations throughout the country.
By connecting people and organisations in many different ways, Pluk’s structure facilitates learning, working collaboratively on complex issues, and experimenting. In support of this goal, Pluk held its first Innovation Festival in Delft on September 23, 2011. With 10 different stages, international speakers, music, games, and coaching, the Festival brought together more than 200 participants who are piloting new developments in the field of “social sustainability” in the Netherlands and Flanders. Curious thinkers and practical doers shared innovative visions, ideas, and successful experiments. In this way, the festival served as an incubator for social innovation.
The one-day programme began with a keynote speech by Adam Kahane, who spoke about growing complexity and the changed ways of working that this complexity requires of us. Ab Klink, former Dutch minister of public health, addressed changing roles in civil society. Martijn Aslander, an “explorer in the network and information age,” talked about the shift in the new economy from “getting more” to ”giving more” and how technology empowers people and makes high taxes superfluous. And Jan Kees Vis of Unilever shared his experience with the Sustainable Food Lab, a global consortium of companies, nonprofits, and public organisations working together to accelerate the shift toward a more sustainable food system.
The festival also featured 30 workshops on topics including storytelling, the U-Process, compassionate economy, and a multi-generation dialogue. Participants could join the Climate Game (simulation of a UN climate summit) and the Oasis Game (a participatory methodology for community development). The day was structured so that attendees were able to participate in four to five workshops. People used lunch and dinner to connect with each other and share ideas. Participants left the venue inspired and full of ideas to continue their quest for a more sustainable society.