TEDxKrakow – Andy Williams – New roles for cultural institutions

TEDxKrakow – Andy Williams – New roles for cultural institutions

September 5, 2019 2 By Kody Olson


Translator: Jerzy Pa
Reviewer: Krystian Aparta (Polish) Good morning, Cracow. (English) It’s fantastic to be here. What I’d like to talk about is,
actually, communication, it’s also about what’s happening
in the 21st century, following on from the last speaker,
about activism. And some of the things that are
driving that in the 21st century, and ultimately, some of the issues
that it brings up. And issues for us as individuals, but also issues for us
as institutions or organizations or governments or societies. I think 2011 as well as being
a really bad year for the bad guy has actually been pretty good for Poland
in terms of global leadership. I think the Polish government
was very smart to quickly offer support to the developing societies
in North Africa. And I think it was Radek Sikorski
that said something like: “We’re not going to send F-16s. We’re going to send Lech Walesa.” Now, I don’t know if he actually said that or whether it was just a smart sound bite, but look at the logic of it. Rightly so, Solidarity activated
around 10 million people, at its heyday. Now, that’s 10 million 1980’s people, which is not 10 million
“likes” on Facebook. And that’s really impressive. Interestingly, at Lech Wałęsa’s
probably unofficial facebook page, he’s got 127 likes. (Laughter) Different ways of looking at it. So Poland has shown
real leadership, I think, in the whole sphere of 21st century
activism and what it means, and people are looking to Poland
for that experience. But of course, times have moved on. We have the same passion for change, but, of course, we’ve got different means, and we organize ourselves
in different ways. Marshall McLuhan
famously said something like: “We shape our tools, but then, in turn,
our tools will shape us.” And as we have looked to organize, build relationships,
make a real difference, we’ve seen, of course, the spawning
of a myriad of different tools. But those tools are now
shaping us in turn. Now, we talk a lot about the generation that has driven this phenomenon. But I think an image like this
is actually really out of date. There are all sorts of characteristics around the so-called Generation Y,
the Millennials, but if you look at them, you can see that they’re a behavior, they are a way of acting in society
that has spread beyond this age group. So this is no longer age-specific. If you look at things like, for example,
a generation with high expectations, confidence, wanting responsibility
and wanting it quickly, a generation that is
challenging and demanding, a generation not content slowly working
through traditional paths, wanting to make the world a better place, comfortable with diversity, all of these characteristics
are not the preserve of this so-called Generation Y,
the so-called Millennials. But I think there’s one thing
missing from all of that, and I think that’s the passion
for creative expression, and the passion for sharing culture. I think TEDx in Cracow
and TED all over the world has very very smartly
brought entertainment, has brought culture
into the heart of the debate, because, actually, the 21st century
and the world of activism makes really good use of culture and the ability to share
creative expression. I’d like to just jump
through a couple of slides and talk a little bit about North Africa. We all know what happened,
what was sparked in Tunisia with the Jasmin Revolution. But some of you may know
the story of a Tunisian rapper, called Hamada Ben Amor,
with the pen name of El Général. And I’d like to show you a short clip of a video that he released,
of a song called “Rais Lebled,” which is “Head of State.” Very critical of the authorities, released at just the time
that the protests were beginning. Incredibly risky act by him. (Music) On the 6th of January 2011 rapper
“El General” (…) was arrested (…) Until today, no news about him (…) Video: [Mr. President, today
I am speaking in the name of myself] [and in the names of all the people
who are suffering in 2011.] [There are still people dying of hunger
who want to work to survive, ] [but their voice was not heard,
get off into the street and see.] [People have become like animals.
See the police with batons.] [Takatak they don’t care since
there is no one telling them to stop.] [Even the law of the constitution,
put it in water and drink it.] [Every day I hear of invented processes] AW: I’m sure there are some
Arabic rapping experts in the audience that could translate for us, but… In some of the language he was using:
“I see too much injustice, and so I decided to send this message even though the people told me
that my end is death.” OK, thankfully his end wasn’t death. He was released a couple of days
after he was arrested, but I think,
what is really interesting is that, and I think the BBC picked up on this
during the protests in Tunisia, the words that he was using
in this rap song were on the lips on the protesters as they marched
through the streets of Tunisia. So he tapped in using his
very powerful creative expression. And then, of course, the nature of
the way in which he sought to influence is plain to see. The global aspiration for his
message is plain to see. And the way in which
he went about communicating it, and the way in which he went about
inciting that change, using these 20th century tools, is striking. So… Most importantly for me it’s the passion
for creative expression, the passion to share culture. And with the 20th century tools
available to us the ability has made the sharing of
our cultures so much more powerful. So, everyone’s an activist. You will have seen these images recently
from the “Occupy Wall Street.” What I really, really love
about the Occupy Wall Street movement is the sort of incredible signage
that sort of sprang up around this. I was caught on a few websites
a couple of days ago. A middle-aged woman
with a very strong message for the banks and for the governments, and it just said simply: “Remember”… Fuck with us and we will multiply.” (Laughter) (Applause) And I think that perfectly
captures the dilemma that governments and institutions
and organizations have because they’ve lost the monopoly
to manage information. They’ve lost the monopoly
to organize action. And we see, of course,
people taking the lead, talking about the leadership
that Seth Godin talked about, taking the lead themselves. Interestingly, in the same demonstration
there was a six year old girl, and she had made her own sign as well. It wasn’t quite as strong in terms of
language as the previous one. It just said simply: “Be nice.” (Laughter) And I thought that was lovely. We all have the tools
of personal democracy. We all have the energy
and passion to make things happen. We all have the energy
to pull people together in a Seth Godin tribe. I’d like to tell you about two ways
in which cultural institutions have responded to this challenge. Because if a government or an institution or an organization or society
can’t respond to the energy and to the leadership of the people, then what is it for? Why is it there and why does it exist? I was talking to a great guy
called Grzegorz just before the TEDx began. And I hope you don’t mind
me quoting you, Grzegorz. When I was talking
about this presentation, he said… I said, “Well what do you look to
from Polish institutions, from Polish government?” He said: “Oh, it’s very simple.
Just one thing.” “Leave me alone.” And he’s absolutely right,
but, of course, there’s a danger, that in leaving people
alone to do their thing we get a fragmentation of society and gaps that grow can lead to, I suppose, more conflict and more danger. So, two stories. This is Zuhal. This photograph was taken in 2006. An Iraqi pianist. Her passion was obviously
to develop her piano skills. In 2008 she couldn’t find
an instructor in her Iraqi town. She didn’t give up, she contacted people
on the internet, through Skype, and she built up a network of instructors in America and the UK. And she developed her skills,
built her networks in that way. But her passion was
to build a youth orchestra, a national youth orchestra of Iraq
across religious divide, so, Sunni, Shia, Kurd. But she looked outside of these normal
Skype relationships for this. And that’s when she came
to the British Council and said: “What can you do to help me with this?” Now, the British Council
has these conversations all over the world, in 110 countries, with people just like Zuhal. And of course, what we realized was that we needed to create
connections between them. Not connections so that they could… […so that] we could control
the dialogue or push the agenda or make things happen on our terms, but purely to help them realize
what they were trying to achieve and to realize their dreams. So she was brought into
our Global Changemakers Program. And as a result of the connections
she made, and the training she received, she build her national orchestra of Iraq. And on the 29th of July 2009 she led a performance
with 35 young Iraqi musicians, to an audience of thousands. The second [story]
that I’d like to share is… It looks like a TEDx,
it looks like a TEDxCairo. (Laughter) But it’s the Goethe institute in Cairo. It’s a place called… Very close to the protests. And what the Goethe institute did,
which I think is incredibly clever, They gave over, they created a space
called the Tahrir lounge. And they made it available
to young activists to have exhibitions, to have discussions,
to have dramatic performances. But a physical space where they were safe to do whatever was necessary
during those turbulent times of protest. So I think there are two examples there: one from the virtual world,
and one from the physical world. The key thing for me is… how institutions, how governments,
how organizations respond to the new normal. The new normal
is that everyone’s an activist. So how do we respond to that? The risk, of course, is fragmentation
if there’s no response at all. My challenge, and I don’t know
how many people are here who lead organizations, or are in a position
to make that institutional change, but my challenge is to take into account the new normal connection of this, which is that everything is possible, nothing is impossible, so what can institutions do
to support people, to actually take the lead
and make things happen? Thanks for listening
and enjoy the rest of the TEDx. (Applause)