Europe as a shifting “home” of changing communities, by Katherine Watson

Against a global backdrop of unease and uncertainty, Europe is confronted by the growing challenges of fragmentation, polarisation and radicalisation. Anger and disaffection are driving a wedge into the fissures within our communities. In response to this – and fuelled by the urgency all around them – people are harnessing new-found energy and making changes in how they see, experience and act in the world. ECF seeks to support these positive messages, this revolution in everyday life, to catalyse great change-making ideas and to connect idea makers across Europe. We are investing in bold alternatives and local cultural initiatives, helping them to become enduring solutions to the challenges we face. Together with the six hubs in our Connected Action for the Commons programme, we have developed and present the 2017 Idea Camp.

The first Idea Camp was held in 2014 in Marseille (France) and focused on uses of, and interventions in, public space (rural, urban and digital). In 2015 in Botkyrka (Sweden), we concentrated on building the cities of the commons and for the commons. The result of these two inspiring gatherings is an engaged network of 100 Idea Makers from across Europe and neighbouring countries – a pool of thinkers and practitioners at the very intersection of culture, communities and democracy.

This year, the Idea Camp is co-produced with our Spanish hub partner Platoniq and the City of Madrid, where the camp will be held from 1 to 3 March 2017. With its focus on “Moving Communities”, the 2017 Idea Camp follows an open call for daring ideas to build societies with greater equality, sustainability and solidarity, and a stronger sense of social justice. It is about communities on the move, communities in flux and also the power of people to “move” their communities through their progressive and creative ideas.

We received more than 600 proposals from 54 countries – from Sweden to Egypt and Portugal to Armenia. Of these, 50 Idea Makers have been invited to join the three-day programme, where they will have the chance to further investigate and develop their ideas, explore new democratic alternatives, exchange knowledge and connect with peers from diverse backgrounds and with different visions, from across the continent.

The ideas represented at the 2017 Idea Camp embrace a myriad of concepts (time banks, citizen labs, artistic research) and spring from a huge variety of working areas, including education, arts and culture, architecture, media and the environment. They are creative and critical ideas that dare to imagine and foster democracy, inclusion and resilience.

The 2017 Idea Camp will take place in Daoiz y Velarde and in Medialab Prado, one of the laureates of ECF’s 2016 Princess Margriet Award, which, since 2016, has hosted residencies offered to our R&D grantees.

The City of Madrid is a perfect environment for these ideas to blossom, as one of several cities and smaller towns in Spain now governed by new citizen-led alternative political movements, and where so many inspiring examples of cultural responses to challenges and deeper crises are evident. Cities and towns are the very spaces where such changes are possible and where people do feel they can make a difference. The support of the City of Madrid will be a major factor in enabling the inter-local connections between Idea Makers and the towns and cities that are their homes, thereby drawing an inspiring and more harmonious future for Europe.

Katherine Watson, Director of the European Cultural Foundation

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