Sociale innovatie

languages: ennl

Historically, world fairs have been strongly linked to technological innovation. The Paris World's Fair in 1900 was no exception: the main site around the Eiffel Tower was full of the latest technical innovations in homage to "the triumph of industry and world empire". Yet this world fair drew notoriety from a completely different theme: social innovation.

Tucked away in a side street was the "musee Sociale", a museum where some rooms explored the theme of "Capitalism". The exhibitors called this museum ‘La Question Social’ or, the social question. The rooms with protest materials attracted the most visitors. Visitors and exhibitors had heated discussions, especially around the concept of solidarity, in which two visions emerged, namely (1) unity and (2) inclusion. These two concepts are still relevant today.

Solidarity aimed at unity

According to a group of activists, great power had to be fought with great power. Cohesive action and co-operation were considered the means of acquiring political power.

An effective struggle against capitalism would require a top-down organization, a unit imposed from above, fighting with iron discipline from above and submission from below. Strength was the organizational priority in the structured hierarchy: differences in positions within the union were perceived as a threat rather than a means of communalism.

Solidarity aimed at inclusion

Another group concerned itself with bottom-up change, aimed at addressing the living conditions of peoples. This movement was inspired by "associationism", something we now know as grassroots organizations. With this term, introduced by Kropotkin, cooperation is not pursued as a means to an end. Central to this is not the achievement of a specific result, but rather the collaboration where the result is "discovered" together.

Just like 100 years ago, the social issue is once again at the center of this World Exhibition. Again, the question is how to give shape and content to the social, cooperation and coexistence within groups of people. That is the theme of the "social turnaround" during the World Exhibition Het Keerpunt, the return of the social as a core value of cooperation between people.