SENIOR ADVISOR AT THE DANISH CULTURAL INSTITUTE: CULTURE IS A DRIVER FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

 

“If you want to relate to sustainability and social inclusion, you will have to do it as a common concern. We need a more moderate voice with a common sense. I call for a collaborative action approach which I think is critical to combat climate change and meet the Sustainable Development Goals,” says Olaf Gerlach Hansen.

Olaf Gerlach Hansen is senior advisor at the Danish Cultural Institute working within the field of art, culture and society. We have interviewed Olaf to hear more about his take on culture for sustainable development and in relation to this his work on the Culturability project in the Baltic Sea Region.

The Culturability project encourage project makers and entrepreneurs focusing on culture and sustainability and is considered an innovative first-mover in research and policy-making to connect culture and sustainable development. Currently its second phase is taking place, focusing on developing concrete Baltic Sea Region projects including prototypes and methodologies of immediate use for scaling. Growing Pathways’ founders have been part of the network since its beginning, and designed the first phase in 2013.

Also read: A STRONGER ROLE FOR CULTURE IN A SUSTAINABLE BALTIC SEA REGION

 

CULTURABILITY – CULTURE STRENGTHENS SUSTAINABILITY

Integrating culture is a key element for sustainable development. The main focus of the Culturability project is to build networks between stakeholders that use culture to integrate the environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainability. The network includes policy-makers, academia and entrepreneurs from culture and creative sectors, such as tourism, gaming, film, and urban development.

Olaf emphasizes a connection between culture and sustainable development: “The cultural dimension is undervalued. We need to recognize the role of culture in sustainable development. With the project we seek to build knowledge on culture as a driver and an enabler for sustainable development”.

Read more: WORKSHOPS AND MEETINGS 

The Culturability project has enabled a cross-border cooperative platform for knowledge sharing and development of sustainable solutions in a culturally and socially diverse region. Olaf explains that their “ambition is to motivate for knowledge sharing in the network by exchanging experiences and thoughts on culture and sustainable development in the Baltic Sea Region”. Furthermore, the project has a focus on long-term cooperation which provides deep knowledge about the culture of the Baltic Sea Region.

 

CITIES AT THE HEART OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

“Cities are transformative platforms. They are micro- and macro-buzzers where you can seriously influence. Cities form a natural place to act in relation to sustainability. They are an ideal platform to transform and solve issues,” states Olaf.

Cities can become more sustainable with the use of innovative urban planning. Färgfabriken is a Swedish agency and art venue based in an old factory building in Liljeholmen, Sweden. Leading members of the agency have been taking part in the Culturability workshops. Färgfabriken serves as a platform for contemporary cultural expressions with an emphasis on architecture and urban planning. In the meeting with society and individuals, Färgfabriken seeks to create conditions for creative thinking and jointly identify today’s challenges and possibilities for new forms of urbanity.  

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INSTALLATION: Natural Cultural by Daniel Knorr in Färgfabriken’s main hall

“Considering multiple realities in a local community and work towards a shared vision with room for diversity is crucial. This also has something to do with sustainability and how you manage, relate and use the culture that exists in the public domain. Supporting local culture contributes to strengthening the social capital of a community and provides valuable insights,” states Olaf.  

Also read: HOW DO WE MOVE OUR GREEN CITIES BEYOND “SUSTAINABILITY AS USUAL”?

More than half of the global population lives in cities, making them a key to tackle climate change. The United Nations call for more sustainable cities through their 11th Development Goal, stating that sustainable development cannot be achieved without transforming the way we manage our urban spaces. In line with this, Culturability encourages cooperation and common awareness for a sustainable future through citizen involvement.

“It was agreed to make new development goals addressing sustainability for the entire world and not just the poor countries. This course is urgent! However, it is important to remember that it is inevitably affected by global conflicts such as immigration and poverty,” says Olaf.

 

HUMAN RELATIONSHIP WITH NATURE

Cultural factors influence our interaction with the natural environment. We form part of nature and depend on a healthy ecosystem for our survival.

An integrated sustainable concept should consider both social inclusion and human relationship with nature. Last mentioned is easily forgotten. If you want it to become everybody’s concern you have to make it appealing. We do not want to go ‘back to nature’ but leap ‘forward into nature’. You want to protect the cultural heritage and local traditions, but you also want it in a new form,” says Olaf. 

The Baltic House Lab is an international culture project presenting works of artists from the Baltic Sea Region. In 2015 it presented various issues related to water emphasizing that sustainability also is about our relationship to nature. Focusing on the sea’s presence and water routes in cities, the subject was interpreted in many different ways with the purpose of drawing the attention of the citizens to consider the vulnerable aspects of water

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TEMPORARY ISLAND: Anton Krohn and Daniel Petersson carried out an artistic experiment with emphasis on our relationship to the Baltic Sea titled Temporary Island. The work was exhibited at The Baltic Sea Lab and is a collection of marks and patterns of their encounter with the Baltic Sea.

Also read: GROWING PATHWAYS LECTURE ON ‘THE HUMAN RELATION TO NATURE

Being responsive to the context is important in yielding sustainable outcomes. The network is crucial but Olaf also emphasizes the importance of engaging with people outside the sustainability network. “It is easier to stay in your own ‘little room’ having your own politically correct self-image but by stepping out of this ‘room’ you have the possibility to create some sort of common sense movement,” says Olaf.

The Culturability project works with both environment and social inclusion and provides mutual inspiration in cooperation with local partners.

 

CREATING LIFE-ENHANCING NETWORKS THROUGH CULTURE

Since 2010, the founders of Growing Pathways have been involved in the project by mapping and intervening in the cultural and creative fields in the Baltic Sea Region. The aim being to understand and influence how these sectors can contribute to a greener future in the region.

“Cultural and creative industries can serve as strategic tools for sustainable development. Growing Pathways manages to attract people who both have a serious interest in sustainability and have some form of educational and academic reflective approach to sustainable development,” says Olaf.

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UNIFORMS FOR THE DEDICATED sticks to its ethos and creates functional clothing to last.

Cultural actors are not only strategic tools, they are also independent initiators. Michael Lind, who forms part of the Culturability network, is such an actor. He founded the Swedish menswear brand, Uniforms for the Dedicated, aiming at creating modern classics in organic or recycled fibers that will sustain over time. The brand also offers a rental service satisfying customer’s need for variety and sustainable consumption. In continuation, Lind initiated the non-profit organisation, Dedicated Institute, pioneering climate positive projects for business solutions.

Both Färgfabriken, the Baltic House Lab and Dedicated Institute are examples of how stronger network collaborations can help change makers in creating a significant impact on sustainable development. Perhaps one of the keys to enabling this is to dare to place sustainability at the heart of culture, rather than at its fringes.

 

 

Karen Krag

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