Barcelona

An exhibition inaugurated this week in Barcelona discusses the influence of human behavior on Earth and casts a different light on our world

It’s 2100 and we have a very, very different world. There is no food for all and water is an overpriced good. Lands are dry – well, not all lands. Cattle and fertile farms prosper in Siberia, Greenland or Alaska, but big parts of Latin America, Africa and Europe are now desertified. Does it sound like a nightmare or a prefiguration of the future? Or is this the beginning of the end of the world as we know it?

On Wednesday 25th of October, the «Despŕes de la fí del món» (After the End of the World) exhibition was inaugurated at the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB), Spain with a selected audience that was invited to participate in an “Artists’ Talk”, an event whereby a number of artists shared their work and views of the world.

Iron mines in Australia. Source: Daily Overview from Benjamin Grant

Benjamin Grant, the founder of Daily Overview, a project which explores the power of high-resolution satellite photography and which made him a popular social media personality, was one of the talking artists. His idea is to offer a different perspective on our planet, either by sharing beautiful landscapes such as the Amazon rainforest and the Florida Everglades or the ugly impact of mining and of the refugee crisis worldwide. Some of his work bears a strong resemblance to that of Piet Mondrian and Ellsworth Kelly. «There is a lot of thinking behind my work. I want to raise awareness of our planet by showing how it’s changing through perspectives we can’t have in our everyday lives», he said.

The artists and expeditionists Kate Davies and Liam Young presented Unknown Fields, a nomad study that shows the shadows of the contemporary city. In their expeditions around the world, they uncover the impacts of industry and consumption on nature and human lives. The “forgotten ones” – that is the hidden workers of the fashion industry or the cargo ships that travel the world endlessly to deliver goods – are integrated with our daily lives in unexpected and surprising ways.

Unknown Fields Division Showreel 2013 from liam young on Vimeo.

The amazing transformation of Singapore is the topic chosen by Charles Lim. Using maps and telling local stories, he exposes how rapidly the landscape of his country has changed – through land reclamation from the sea, elimination of hills, and renaming islands, Singapore has lived through an intense land revolution, still ongoing.

The collective Rimini Protokoll, from Germany, shared a surprising experience with Documental Theatre. One of the ‘plays’ invited an audience of 500 people to be part of an imaginary Conference of the Parties (COP) whereby they are asked to make decisions for each country and try to reach the 2020 target on greenhouse gases emissions. It is an exercise of awareness and commitment that changes the perspective of normal citizens on climate change.

«Després de la fí del món» is an exhibition that explores Earth in 2017, a planet irreversibly transmuted into Paul J. Crutzen’s Anthropocene after many centuries of the influence of human behavior. Yet it is also an exhibition that forecasts the second half of 21st century and determines our generation’s responsibility to future generations.

What do alternative sources of energy, cooking workshops and a virtual reality device to make people feel like refugees have in common? Cultural innovation and the will to change positively the world we live in. Last month, the Center for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona hosted a round of conferences and a prize for social innovation, gathering specialists in such topics as sustainable cultural management and climate change in a two-day row of interesting debates about the challenges of our times.

Cultural Innovation International Prize
Cultural Innovation International Prize

The pannels started with Laura Pando, an experienced cultural manager who strives to help the cultural sector to adopt more sustainable practices. In the last 10 years, Laura helped museums, music festivals and governments to opt for clean energy solutions, calculate their carbon footprint and develop leadership in the industry. «In a recent poll, we discovered that 50% of people don’t remember ever having a conversation about climate change. Art and culture have a great responsibility on promoting this debate. If we don’t talk about it, it won’t exist in people’s minds», she said.

The following conference was presented by Laura Faye Tenembaum, science senior editor for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. In a passionate talk, she engaged the audience on the idea that climate change is a «fascinating challenge». «You can’t see countries’ political divisions or boundaries from the space. We’re all facing the climate change and have to work together», she said. Laura warned that the effects of carbon pollution might be invisible on earth but are becoming more visible from space. Climate change, she says, is not a topic of the future. It’s already been happening for decades now and affecting our daily lives. «We need to transform how we live. Society is resistent to change, and has a negative feeling about it. I dare you to face the challenges as exciting”, she concluded.

Laura Faye Tenembaum
Laura Faye Tenembaum

Laura Tenembaum was also a member of the jury for the Cultural Innovation International Prize. In its second edition, the competition gathered 228 projects from 59 countries, mainly developed by young researchers, artists and entrepreneurs. The 10 finalists presented their projects in Barcelona and the winner was The Newton Machine, a battery prototype that stores renewable energy using gravity. The prize also gave an audience award to Neighbourhood Upcycling, a locally based project for plastic recycling that can be replicated to promote circular economy worldwide.

The jury gave a special mention for the project Ode for the Future, which used art, installation, and performances to show the effects of climate change in six geographic spots from Catalonia, Spain. All the projects, though, had the opportunity to be presented to a broader audience and to create an impact – the finalists received feedback from the jury, as well as ideas to put into practice.

The projects were exposed at the Centre of Contemporary Culture in Barcelona
The projects were exposed at the Centre of Contemporary Culture in Barcelona

Click here to read more about the 10 finalists and the Cultural Innovation International Prize. (in Spanish)

Horyou is the Social Network for Social Good, which connects, supports and promotes social initiatives, entrepreneurs, and citizens who help the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to build a more harmonious and inclusive world. We invite you to Be the Change, Be Horyou!

Barcelona is well-known for its tourist attractions – beautiful architecture, vibrant nightlife and great food -, which makes it one of the most visited places in the world. Yet, there is something more than attracting the occasional visitors that the Catalan capital wants to earn: the status of first Social Business big City. As a supporter of social businesses around the world, Horyou interviewed Anna Domenech, spokesperson for Social Business City Barcelona.

Barcelona Social Business City
Barcelona Social Business City

What does Social Business City Barcelona stand for?

Social Business City Barcelona (SBC Barcelona) is an International program of intervention, created by Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace prize in 2006, known as the promoter of microcredit and social business concepts. The creation of this international initiative has the purpose of spreading the concept of social business around the world, at a time when an international social business movement is arising worldwide that involves people, organizations and societies. This movement aims to promote and support social entrepreneurship and social business as a tool to deal with and solve the social needs and challenges of the city. From this global ecosystem, a new concept on how to solve social problems in a territory emerges, in a holistic and collaborative way: Social Business City (SBC). In order to reach that objective, SBC Barcelona has created a huge alliance between different actors in the city to work together for a social and economic change. Currently, SBC Barcelona is supporting the creation of new social enterprises, accompanying NGOs to create social businesses, undertaking social business communication campaigns, training sessions and workshops for students, and boosting university research and teaching. An important thing to consider is what we mean by social business: organizations whose main objective is to achieve a positive social impact, using the sale of a product or a service as a tool. The profits are reinvested in their own activity (no-dividend), to make more effective and enduring its main goal: to create impact and generate social change.

You have a very bold mission – to transform Barcelona into the first big social business city in the world. What is your strategy and timeline to reach this goal?

Before Barcelona, Wiesbaden (Germany), Pistoia (Italy) and Fukuoka (Japan) got involved in the SBC initiative. The latest incorporation has been Ipoh, in Malaysia. These initiatives are being developed in very different realities, especially regarding the size of the cities which are taking part. In Pistoia, for example, the program is carried out by the University of Florence. In Barcelona, we have four public universities and a large number of private universities and business schools. We have obtained the commitment of all the public universities and four private universities. So, the initiative in Barcelona requires the articulation of an extensive city; it also calls to deal with the multiplicity and complexity of all the actors involved. On the other hand, it should be noted that Barcelona presents a great, strong and rooted civil society where many alternative forms of production and consumption have developed throughout the years; forms such as cooperatives are traditionally very powerful in Catalonia. In this sense, there’s a big task of including, cooperating and interacting with all the actors. Social entities and social businesses, universities, private entities, the third sector and the Barcelona city council are involved in the project since its inception.

Lab 'co-creating social business'
Lab “co-creating social business”

What are your main challenges today?

Our main objective now is to spread the concept of social business, to make visible other ways of doing business where economic activity becomes a potential and sustainable tool to face the social needs and challenges. It is necessary to give support and awareness to civil society that there are many initiatives and entrepreneurs that are creating business from a critical, transformative and committed social perspective. With SBC, we are supporting and promoting the creation of these companies that are based on social, environmental and cultural view, which allow the introduction of transformative perspectives and relationship to change the rules, and the type of thinking required for a radical transformation of the economic system. In order to achieve that, on the one hand, we’re doing a lot of training activities in universities and schools; we grant several awards for the best social business projects to university and professional training students, and we’re launching communication campaigns and activities that involve civil society. On the other hand, we’re carrying out the Lab Co-Creating Social Business, which offers support to social entrepreneurs: an intensive workplace, workshops, support and advice in the process of creation a new social business.

Are you engaged with the Sustainable Development Goals?

We’re engaged with SDG because we think it’s totally necessary to adopt this set of goals as a part of a new sustainable development global agenda. We think in a global way and consider that all these goals should be intrinsic to all activities of all organizations, in the common world we’re living in. However, we’re working from a territorial vision, through the identification of different social challenges which must be faced in Barcelona. The first main challenge identified was to reduce youth unemployment in the city, an unsustainable situation which requires to be approached immediately, by the cooperation and implication of all the city’s agents. To revert this problem will take time and effort. That is why we need sustainable and coordinated solutions, focused towards the reduction of youth unemployment, but guaranteeing sustainability and maximization of its social impact in the future, and counting on the youth community as agents who can transform a reality that affects them directly. Some of other challenges we are working on are high pollution rates, migrations, negative tourism effects in the city, right to housing, or education.

In your opinion, are civil society and private sector more aware and committed to social businesses?

In the recent years, we have witnessed a series of events, both locally and globally, which have shaken the dominant socio-economic structures, demonstrating the need to re-think and transform the system. We grew up in a context where the hegemonic economic actors have shown to prioritize growth measured in personal profits at the expense of the interests based on people and common welfare, where business relations have strengthened poverty, exclusion, social inequality, and environmental devastation. But for a long time, different and alternatives ways of doing business have been raised, showing that other forms of production, exchange and consumption is not only possible, but a reality. One way of doing business is where economic activity becomes a potential tool to face challenges and social needs. In a distressing global reality, we believe that people are becoming more aware of the importance of betting for sustainable and responsible ways of life; and we believe that it’s absolutely necessary for a committed and aware civil society to generate new public policies favourable to this socio-economic change.

Teaching
Teaching a course of social economy at the university

Horyou is a social network for the social good. How important is to have social networks engaging and promoting social businesses?

We think it’s crucial to place the new forms of communication, of sharing information and knowledge at the service of social and sustainable proposals. It’s evident that social networks present new opportunities, intensifying the connections and the possibilities of cooperation. So we think it’s necessary to redirect this innovative tools towards new ways of collaboration in order to co-create and build collective knowledge and experience around social enterprises and social economy.

Horyou is the Social Network for Social Good, which connects, supports and promotes social initiatives, entrepreneurs, and citizens who help the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to build a more harmonious and inclusive world. We invite you to Be the Change, Be Horyou!

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