How many of us really want to come to a conference room on a Saturday to watch a 50-slide presentation about access and inclusion for disenfranchised and vulnerable street kids? Best Saturday ever! Maybe not.
But take that same issue (street kids, and their education) – and add some music – maybe Kevin Johansen or Chevy Metal. Have a famous football player kick off a discussion. Do it in the middle of a beautiful park, in sunny Santiago. Now you have some interest.
If you do this right, you might even get a rockstar like Arnoud Raskin to share with you, between bands, and through the dappled October sunlight, a revolutionary idea: get the street kids to teach corporate businessmen about negotiation, team dynamics, and startup skills – and in doing so empower them and give them a sense of meaning. Amazing.
I watched this happen in Chile, last October – and I felt the energy of 12,000 Chileans with an average age of 21 (my unscientific eyeball-average of the crowd) – raising their arms, voices, and awareness around issues that affect them, and their communities.
FIIS – the International Festival for Social Innovation – was something new for me. Four days of amazing musicians, sophisticated thinkers on social change and justice, and more than 50,000 young Chileans – it was a free, powerful, and open example of how quickly we can form communities to drive change.
Julian Ugarte and his team play an interesting trick – get young people to come for famous bands like Café Tacuba and other notable public figures (from Jimmy Wales to Amaro Gómez Pablos) and then curate and create a set of opportunities and interactions that start people talking about the most pressing issues of the day. UNICEF can benefit from this way of thinking about problem-solving. Too often we wrap our problems in confusing acronyms, in convoluted explanations of causality, and in an architecture of problem solving that says: “Experts can fix this issue. Please go find some.”
We know the truth of problem solving in this century is going to be one of heterogeneity of team trumping pedigree of knowledge – where expertise is certainly needed, but where it, alone, isn’t enough to tackle compounded, intractable problems. FIIS points us to what that collaboration can look like.
When I asked Julian what his dream was for this year’s FIIS, he said: “It’s simple. I want 100,000 people in Chile, and 50,000 in Argentina, to come, learn, share, and create change.” They’ll be charging, this year, for admission to the event – each member of the audience will have to pay with one idea on how to fix a pressing social problem– submitted to the public domain, given to FIIS, to be shared with the world.
I look forward to being a broker for this currency of ideas, and to building a bank with FIIS that can create interest from those 150,000 investors that will pay dividends in Chile, in Argentina, and throughout the world.