Vandejong Manifesto ~
A new chance
We are temporarily confused, and maybe you are too. Every day the news teaches us that the old rules no longer apply. Suddenly we’re in a crisis – trusted banks are collapsing, holiday destinations are going bankrupt. Politics is no longer ruled by actual issues but by those who are best at manipulating the media, who thrill to the ups and downs in The Hague and like to encourage them. Meanwhile, the public has been overcome by a powerlessness that won’t be changed by a trip to the polling booth. And the Dutch public-service-message foundation Sire’s latest campaign is: “Nice people. How do you deal with them?”
To do that, you will have to allow others into your domain and remain open to knowledge, learning and reflection from those around you. You must find common ground between you and the community you wish to matter to and be connected to. If you succeed in doing this in a substantive, meaningful way, others will express faith in your ideal, product or service and even allow it to influence their actions. What’s more, friendship provides room for experiment, a chance to try new things and grow by falling and getting back up. By contrast, insincerity and opportunism are merciless-ly punished. And that’s a good thing, because it keeps you sharp. It keeps you standing.
Our trust has suffered serious damage. We’re at breaking point, and we’re not sure anymore what’s good and what’s bad. Which direction should we go in, and what approach should we take? But fortunately, there’s an opportunity here! Our doubts about the established order mean we want to – and must – take a fresh look at existing patterns and structures. So let’s spend some time in this no man’s land, this uncharted territory that no one has yet claimed, and ask ourselves: What do I want to add to this open field? What am I going to mean for the future of this world? What drives me, and what is its significance for others? We have to go back to the beginning, to think about the immutable reason we’re here and make it manifest.
Common ground To stay standing in a changing society, you need long-term vision. You need an undeniable will to achieve something and a full awareness of who you are and who you want to be. The most successful people and the strongest organisations know their own identities through and through. They know what they stand for and can get it across to those around them with full conviction and energy. But what truly makes them strong is that they mean something to those around them. They are part of a community, built out of a two-way relationship of trust with those to whom they seek to matter. Meaning and the right to exist go hand in hand with creating value – not only financial value for yourself but also immaterial value for those close to you, your colleagues, your organisation, your clients and, most of all, society. What will you say if someone asks: Are you proud of what you’ve done? How have you inspired the world?
Culture inspires innovation Making connections and creating meaning are the essence of culture. These ideas are embedded in the foundations of every cultural institution. The task of involving people in socially relevant issues by placing those issues in a meaningful context is part of this. Cultural institutions are the place for creative ideas outside the existing frames, critical reflections on the issues of the day, and uncommon views of the future. Culture inspires innovation. In these turbulent times, more than ever, cultural institutions can make a big difference. But having become dependent on subsidies, they are forced to play it safe, targeting the usual suspects and opting for familiar programming and a recognisable image out of a fear that their loyal audiences will stop showing up otherwise. They follow rather than setting an example, but now is a time for leading the way. So – keep your chin up and your eyes on the world, and bear witness to the new cultural entrepreneurship.
What’s next? Foam, for example, has been expanding the concept of the museum for a decade. Foam regularly leaves its building in order to meet its public. It puts exhibitions in public space and treats posters and invitations as extensions of the gallery. Foam uses communication as a form of exhibition. But more importantly, Foam thinks in connections. Foam invests in far-reaching, mutually meaningful relationships with the people who matter to it. Thus, an international group of photography fans and amateurs connects through Club Foam, Foam Fan
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and Foam magazine. Foam for You gives pupils a critical awareness of contemporary visual culture, and the Foam Lab allows young professionals to explore cultural careers. Foam has also built a network of collectors, businesses and private investors through a cultural investment fund, the Foam Fund. With this approach, Foam is succeeding in attracting a broad public and making photography accessible without compromising quality. During its brief existence, Foam has grown into one of Amsterdam’s most visited museums. And Foam realises that its success is not guaranteed. The world of photography is changing fast. More photography museums are opening, and technological developments have made digital cameras commonplace; anyone can easily publish his or her snapshots and tricks on the Internet. Photography and photographers have lost their old meanings – but what do they mean now? And what is Foam’s position in this dynamic field? Over the next decade, therefore, Foam seeks to develop into an international network, making increasing use of the potential of others. To the members of Club Foam International, the vanguard of the visual profession, Foam will pose the question: What’s next? That is, what are the strengths of the world of photography? What should Foam know and share with photography lovers? Foam will be the finger on the pulse of the photography world. With photography a universal language and Foam magazine a boundless success, this internationalisation is the Foam brand’s logical next step – but it is unprecedented in the cultural sector. The museum itself, the home base on Amsterdam’s Keizersgracht, will be the crucial heart of this global network. It may become a mythical spot in time – the place where it all started. The place where a brand was born that dared to take on the world, a brand that set an example for new cultural entrepreneurship in perplexing times.
A return to substance Innovation in entrepreneurship: the Netherlands needs to be persuaded that it is important. If our small country is to matter on the world stage, we must continue to invest in the so-called knowledge economy. That not only means stimulating the growth of knowledge but taking the lead in applying
that knowledge in the form of innovations in business. In other words, we must bring scholarship back to society. The universities are core players here. Along with conducting groundbreaking research and spotlighting its usefulness and necessity, they are charged with developing and encouraging talent. Universities must make pupils and students aware of the importance of scholarship and challenge and inspire them to make meaningful contributions to innovation in society – to work for the future. There is not always room for such existentialism. Universities’ communication often emphasises the message that, more than anything else, the student years are the best time of one’s life. This is an extremely casual message and represents a missed opportunity. Behind the complexity of every piece of scientific research lies an exceptionally inspiring story. Universities should return to substance and tell the world about it.
Do what you’re good at University of Twente returned to substance in its recruitment campaign for secondary school pupils. University of Twente’s power lies in the multidisciplinary interaction between technology and society. Linking practical, social issues with high-level, often future-oriented knowledge is a hallmark of the university. ‘We create futures!’ therefore became the driving force behind the university’s bachelor’s degree campaign. ‘We’ is the first key word – here, things are done together. Professors, lecturers, students, communication staff and science journalists on different faculties described their substantive work in terms relevant to pupils. The campaign emphasises the everyday relevance of scholarship and asks pupils: What can you contribute to the society of the future? University of Twente shows how scholarship touches all corners of society and how young people can make their dreams for the future come true in ways that are both relevant and fun. It shows how people can turn thinking into doing, just as this enterprising university constantly turns multidis ciplinary research into concrete social action. The faculties seized the opportunity presented by the campaign to bundle together all their various
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educational activities for pupils and make them visible under one name: Twente Academy. This pre-university programme actively involves pupils in knowledge, scholarship and studying. Twente Academy offers workshops led by young students and experienced professors and boosts pupils’ confidence in difficult subjects through individual homework help and on-campus final exam camps. With Twente Academy, the university is building an important bridge between secondary school pupils and academia. In turn, the university is acquiring more insight into the pupils’ world. Twente Academy is a unique interpretation of the university’s social role. Loaded with potential and ambition, it is raising knowledge levels in the Netherlands.
Persuasive optimism Change and innovation are best set in motion with a sufficient dose of optimism. And a positive outlook is indispensable for the development of cities and regions, too, even if the task might seem difficult. Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, for example, will be the city’s future premier international hub. In spite of negative publicity, if this ambition is to be realised, Zuidas must keep believing in itself as a lively mixed-use district with a cosmopolitan air that will contribute to the international positioning of the city. Tentativeness, insecurity and doubt don’t fit with cosmopolitanism. You’ve got to think big! Grand gestures are called for. In Zuidas, the world is at your doorstep, and everyone should know it. Here, you’re not just buying a house but metropolitan life. This vision demands confident, optimistic communication of outstanding quality. It’s about openness to the world, to getting acquainted, meeting others. Hello You – Hello World – Hello Zuidas! Hello Zuidas is a brand that links city government, businesses and residents. It is a platform that brings all the actors together, involves active partners and makes them ambassadors for the area. Hello Zuidas brings in the best the world has to offer, encourages new initiatives, and organises activities of its own. It functions as a transmitter of attractive ideas and initiatives that are important to the development of Zuidas, and an exceptional city.
Creating Trustville Traditional institutional power structures are faltering; multiple scandals and signs of powerlessness have caused citizens to revoke their trust in politicians and administrators. Everyone’s role and significance in tomorrow’s society must be redefined and fought for. And, of course, we have to start with ourselves. It’s not enough to be critical. Vandejong has to manifest its own significance and help to shape this no man’s land. We have therefore taken the initiative of inviting like minds to help us consider the question: How can we restore confidence in society’s power and make it the starting point of our thoughts and actions again? We wish to develop new perspectives with others to highlight the sticking points in discussions about society’s future and get past them with the help of creative strategies. We are shaping this process through thoughts of an imaginary society in 2020 – Welcome to Trustville. The city and urban life serve as a metaphor for a junction of meaningful potential connections. Where are the opportunities for innovation, new relationships and greater meaning? And how will they look? We are investigating these questions using four archetypes: what can politics, education, culture and economics mean for building meaningful connections in the future city of Trustville? Everyone can help build Trustville: politicians and activists, pupils and professors, labourers and civil servants, creatives and strategists, doers and thinkers, optimists and waverers. We welcome ideas, reflections on ideas, and new initiatives in all conceivable forms and variations. Join us at creatingtrustville.org.
Read more about us at vandejong.nl or ring +31-20462-2062. For the latest news, see blog.vandejong.nl. © Vandejong, 2010
A new chance