1. The Institute for Cultural Entrepreneurship

Our aim at the Institute for Cultural Entrepreneurship is to help stimulate interaction between economics and philosophy and open up new perspectives for everyone involved. It means basing profit projections on longer-term aims than quarterly reports, and an approach that goes beyond money to take on board, for example, carbon footprints, or financial models that provide creative artists with a decent livelihood. It also means fostering brilliant ideas at the interface of different sectors and disciplines (the Medici effect).

At a time when everyone is talking about ethics and every corporate website has one link to its philosophy and another for innovation, we invite the public at large to join our conferences and other activities in pursuit of Cultural Entrepreneurship, to discover and discuss ethics and humanism, and to explore the many things which entrepreneurship can achieve. Meet some of the many people with ethical, innovative business ideas in all walks of life, people who are already working towards the good life in one way or another, some of them under quite adventurous conditions, and most of them turning over a profit, too.

At these international, interdisciplinary conferences, with simultaneous interpreting into various languages, experts, students and other interested parties have the opportunity to exchange their ideas and end the day with fresh energy.

If students, trainees, and founders of start-ups, whatever their field of expertise or sector of industry, are interested in ethics, entrepreneurship, art and culture, and much more, their admission fees will be paid by companies who feel they have a social responsibility to help spread such ideas and have therefore agreed to support our event in this way.

The next conference “Cultural Entrepreneurship – Ethics and Travel” will be Held in Gothenburg on 10 September 2013.

Another of our projects aims to give literary expression to economic, environmental and political issues. It will benefit the fields in question, literature in general and, of course, readers.

We would be delighted if managers would invite artists to spend some time in their companies, tracking signs of the new things emerging around them.

And sooner or later the Porsche driver who buys organic will gravitate towards both a holistic lifestyle and a new car, becoming a more discerning consumer, promising economic and ecological rewards for the generations of today and tomorrow.

We know from game theory that, when we find ourselves caught in the prisoner’s dilemma, cooperation pays off for all sides. In the same spirit, by working towards Cultural Entrepreneurship we can contribute to a global Renaissance which makes an ethical impact and is nonetheless commercially sound.

This concept, then, has a role to play, with real depth and even a little glamour, by showing us a way out of the economic crisis and addressing the widely lamented loss of social values.

For all concerned, 20 years after the fall of the Wall (but not only in Berlin) this ultimately means a chance to shape the economy and the arts in a creative manner, in the knowledge that they are also doing something for future generations. What is a fulfilling life, of not that?

2. Freedom and justice

In a liberal democracy, neither God nor Caesar makes and enforces the law: We do, the citizens.

This is because our democracy is based on ethical principles such as freedom and justice for all, although sometimes we seem to forget that.

Understanding and personal development in politics, philosophy, literature, art, music etc. are only possible under democratic conditions. They thrive on peace, freedom and justice, as in the Ancient polis and in the Renaissance – in any society where people are equal or have the same opportunities.

2.1. Women and men

We need every man and every woman of every generation. As Aristotle would say, many people reach an age when they can and should give something back to society, fulfilling their civic duty by shaping their social and natural environment.

For a long time we have been living on borrowed resources, not just financially, but ethically and intellectually, too – Greece, after all, was the cradle of the Western world – and now it is time to tap our hidden reserves, each and every one of us in our own field and social function. Our intellectual and emotional resources are unlimited!

2.2. Philosophy and economics

At the interface of philosophy and economics, “cultural entrepreneurship” provides the perfect framework. We want nothing less than to take those hackneyed clichés, the “greedy manager” and “the destitute poet”, blend them, and then integrate the often lacking female dimension. The result will be far more rewarding for all parties.

Imagine the permutations: “the greedy poetess”, “the poetic manager”, “humanist management” …

The challenge now is to equip ourselves with information and rediscover our cognitive resources, and – with care and a little humour – to exercise pre-emptive responsibility by building a good life for ourselves and future generations.

3. Ethics in the market economy [1]

People have been talking about corporate culture for three decades now, although the moral sensitivity of companies and managers still leaves much to be desired. At the same time, however, we increasingly witness companies and leaders who understand that risks are not always economic or environmental, but that they can just as well be ethical, and that the latter can have a disastrous impact on a company’s success, even threaten its very survival.

It is a fact of life that morality is seen as potentially restricting a company’s profits. But that is an inaccurate assessment when we consider that companies without sound value management can even be excluded from major projects. We want ethics to be treated as an opportunity to gain a distinct profile. Ethics are a resource that should be fully mobilised for the sake of corporate success.

In order for markets and competition to deliver for real people, there has to be a robust and globally effective framework, because in a market economy prosperity does not depend on the goodwill or moral motives of the actors. At the end of the day, the principal motive is always the financial incentive, or self-interest.

But it is also a fact that a market economy without a framework, i.e. unbridled competition in the absence of law and morality, leads to an unbearable state of affairs, the one Hobbes had in mind when he wrote: “the life of man solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short” [2].

Unlike politicians and NGOs, companies can actively engage in creating a socially acceptable order within the global economy, thereby taking responsibility for the long term.

This is because, by investing in real and human capital as well as corporate culture, they are laying the foundations for sustainable yields in line with market requirements, while at the same time ensuring good profits for their shareholders; and where companies do have such policies, this is already reflected today in strong stock market prices.

However, if companies want to take part in building this incipient global order, they must be consistently transparent about what they do.

The good thing about all this is that good deeds pay off, because in the long term morality and the pursuit of profit converge.

4. Cultural Entrepreneurs

If we take a look at the economy, the financial chaos and the greed for profits of recent years, we are amazed by the reticence of creative industries and cultural entrepreneurs.

With a few shining exceptions among artists, musicians and art directors, the (sub)cultural field is still awash with many dedicated and usually poorly paid entrepreneurs performing invaluable work for the theatre, art, music, literature, history and so forth. They generously give their skills and talents, and whether they are creating something new or preserving traditions, for society as a whole the rewards are lasting. They do not seem to heed the time their efforts absorb, and they work according to their own rhythms. Many are derided for it, and some envied. Not all are successful in the financial sense. Their driving force is their passion.

They enrich their fellows with amazing insights, moving emotions and aesthetic experiences, and thanks to them reality seems better and more beautiful.

But it would be a miracle if culture was not first in line when the usual cuts begin to bite.

With cultural entrepreneurship, we not only hope to counter this attitude, but we also hope to develop financing models (e.g. an unconditional basic income) that will allow all creators of culture and cultural entrepreneurs to earn a decent livelihood.

5. The Medici effect [3]

Anyone operating at the intersection of disciplines and cultures can easily combine existing concepts and generate a large number of extraordinary new ideas.

The name of this phenomenon, the “Medici effect”, refers to an explosion of creativity that took place in 15th-century Italy.

The Medici were a Florentine banking dynasty who attracted creators from many different disciplines to Florence and funded their works.

Thanks to the Medici family and a few other like-minded patrons, Florence became a place where scientists, poets, philosophers, financiers, painters, sculptors and architects could come together and collaborate.

They had an opportunity to learn from each other and thus the barriers between their respective skills and expertise were broken down: Together, they created a whole new world of new ideas that was to become known as the Renaissance.

The result of this cooperation between different specialists was a creative explosion and one of the most innovative periods in human history.

Indeed, we can still feel the impact of the Medici today.

We too can create such a Medici effect, by bringing together different disciplines and cultures and identifying the interfaces which connect them.

It is not so much the Renaissance that matters here, but rather the elements that made that era possible, and how they can be used to generate extraordinary ideas – in other words, what happens when, at the intersection of different disciplines and cultures, we discover brilliant ideas that are brought to light and given life.

The most fertile soil for innovation is the intersection of many different disciplines which do not really have anything in common – and yet, when they are seen from the other’s cultural perspective, unexpected new subjects and synergies open up.

The ideas we find at this intersection are logical, but their logic cannot be grasped until we suspend our usual cognitive approach and enter into risky terrain, because creativity comes from the unknown, rather than the opposite.

Most of the achievements of recent decades have their origin in combining disciplines and expertise, from biophysics and biogenetics to computer linguistics and palliative medicine, to name but a few.

6. The Outlook for Cultural Entrepreneurship

Although the ethics of science and corporate social responsibility have been the subject of many a symposium and conference, these ideas can only be truly and sustainably brought to life if they reach pupils, students and all interested citizens.

Just as the Renaissance still affects us today, these important impulses will spread far and wide and a long way into the future, throwing up new questions of their own.

In order to discuss these, and perhaps shed light on some of them, each year the Institute for Cultural Entrepreneurship invites renowned academics and experts to the Freie Universität in Berlin to speak about ethics and the opportunities for doing good [4] in all disciplines, business sectors, cultural circles and artistic fields, and to explain the relevant theories. After these lectures, the audience participate through Q&A sessions.

At these events, budding founders of start-ups can find out more about the innovative potential of entrepreneurship and meet some exemplary entrepreneurs.

Finally, a selection of individuals from the business community will elaborate on their own experience of translating these theories and their own ideas into everyday commercial reality.

All in all, the (young) women and men in the audience will have a chance to explore both the theories as well as their practical application; and they will take away information about entrepreneurship to use in their own lives and careers – a seed than can germinate, blossom and eventually be passed on in turn.

Moreover, the interdisciplinary, transcultural approach offers everyone a glimpse of the good life on our planet and the personal potential he or she can tap.

Our aim is to encourage this integration and intersection of people, values and competences, and beyond this to set in motion a global Renaissance in a peaceful, free and fair world – in other words, nothing short of ecological, economic and emotional prosperity.

Dr. Clara Mavellia

Berlin, 26 October 2010

[1] Cf. Homann, Karl, Ethik in der Marktwirtschaft, Munich: Roman Herzog Institute 2007

[2] Hobbes, Thomas (1651), Leviathan, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1909

[3] Cf. Johansson, Frans, The Medici Effect. What Elephants & Epidemics can teach us about Innovation, Boston: Harvard Business School Press 2006

[4] Cf. Vossenkuhl, Wilhelm, Die Möglichkeit des Guten. Ethik im 21. Jahrhundert, Munich: C.H. Beck 2006


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