SymVentures : what are they ?
Our world offers unprecedented opportunities and challenges, collectively and individually. Our societies operate and our societal systems are built on outdated premises. How can and hence should we build a society which is better able of ensuring for everybody the material and social means of existence needed to seize these opportunities and cope with these challenges? How can we make our society evolve to develop a true solidarity beyond borders and generations? And hence: How to eliminate poverty? How to provide, through a more inclusive society chances, decent to kids even when their parents did not have them? How to develop a serious hosting and integration capacity to cope with large quantities of migrants, without destroying social security and instead contributing to the global society of tomorrow? How to guarantee protection and inclusion to the elderly in societies, which are demographically shrinking? How to address jointly the intertwined threats of climate change and overpopulation with an approach that is acceptable and attractive for all populations and not only some? How to make society more cohesive? How to unhook social protection from economic growth? How to enable social protection without borders? How to empower people to contribute to society even when these contributions do not have monetary value? Questions for an increasingly small world, where we are increasingly each other’s’ neighbours. Questions for a society where traditional institutions such as family, work, school, neighbours or government have deeply changed and keep changing, leading to a society which is felt to be increasingly precarious and uncertain. Deeply interconnected questions which need common answers to answer their complexity.
The SymThinkTank symVenture seeks to provide a place for developing and debating new ideas to contribute to a better global society by developing new understandings of global society and pragmatic proposals on how to progress towards a better global society. Its output will be the publication of so-called SymEssays and the organisation of related thematic working groups, which will serve as think-tanks providing inspiration and guidance to other symVentures, to institutions and to policy and decision makers.
SymEssays aim to answer complex societal questions through new collaboration centred paradigms, based on the fundamentally human and mutually interdependent principles of trust and reciprocity, both applied to the relations between individuals and between individuals and society (including government). SymEssays propose concepts for societal innovation – where “society” ranges from global society to villages and neighbourhoods. SymEssays aim at giving practical substance to the inter-dependent values of SymDignity, i.e. the right of all humans to unconditional dignity, and SymSolidarity, the solidarity across borders and generations. SymEssays aim at triggering research, social and economic entrepreneurship and political initiative, all centred on innovation, collaboration, education and solidarity. In this sense, they propose political visions in the largest sense of politics, i.e. the engagement of citizen in Society.
Each of the SymThinkTank thematic working groups will be symVenture in its own right – the role of the SymThinkTank is to support the thematic working groups with a common online collaboration platform, a methodology as well as publication support as well as to stimulate the emergence of new SymEssay topics and working groups. The activities of the SymThinkTank thematic working groups will centre on intellectual innovation, collaboration, education and solidarity. Its key principle will be mutually respectful dialogue between intrinsically motivated people from different backgrounds. They will feature brainstorming in small groups (including groups of one), writing and debating in groups of different constellations and sizes. Progressively, in certain cases the SymThinkTank will reach out to the general public, through an approach centred on consultative collaborative democracy and using collective intelligence (this will depend on the functionalities developed by another symVenture, SymPlace. Inversely, the thematic working groups will provide intellectual support to symVentures trying to tackle specific challenges.
In the long term, the SymThinkTank will be the vehicle to progressively fine-tune and improve the SymSystem, a structured set of ideas and proposals for global societal change, based on the values of unconditional dignity and universal solidarity, by combining innovation, collaboration, education and solidarity (ICES). The basic inspiration of the SymSystem is a paradigm inspired by dynamic systems and complexity science. It starts from 10 years of private multi-disciplinary societal research activities of Christian Baumhauer.
A first SymEssay has been published and the SymThinkTank has opened recently its own website.
Security is a highly politicised, complex and multi-dimensional concept and should always be understood in a wider societal context. Hence, the SOURCE VCE uses the idea of societal security as the starting point for initiating, organising, and fostering exchange and debate among a wide variety of stakeholders. Bringing together experts from different academic disciplines and professional domains SOURCE VCE will offer the opportunity for mutual learning processes and will help to launch activities, from research to training and education. As a centre of excellence SOURCE VCE will contribute to policy debates about security relevant issues, and will act as a critical voice shaping societal strategies, programmes and policies.
The SOURCE VCE will be established as a hub of critical discourse, constructive exchange of ideas and development of new approaches to security-related topics. Providing a space for such initiatives based on mutual respect, sound professional expertise and political awareness, the SOURCE VCE could help to bridge the gap between different epistemic communities, such as law enforcement, intelligence services, industry, academia, and civil society.
A new generation of online platforms is needed to offer support for dealing with the complexity and information overload of participating at different levels in multiple collaborative undertakings and participating to collective intelligence. SymPlace is a symVenture that aims at incubating a software-as-a-service company which will offer web-based services (and, later on, mobile apps), supporting the collaborative effectiveness and collective intelligence of groups and communities of any size, ranging from small informal groups to large communities, including support for collaborative democracy.
The incubation starts from a tool that has been developed and been used in the more constrained context of collaborative European research innovation undertakings. First generation SymPlace tools, such as the Community Management Tool, are used in the SymCubator. The purpose of the symVenture will to incubate a commercial start-up to broaden the impact and usability of these technologies.
SymUniversity aims at promoting « Open Education » accessible to everybody, encompassing educational material, training and coaching as well as certification of competencies, either for free or at “fair” market conditions. Its central paradigm will be to «Teach the teachers » to empower everybody to educate better: parents educating their kids; teachers educating their pupils / students; colleagues to educate / coach each other; citizens to educate each other; and, last but not least, teaching oneself, i.e. learning to learn. The SymUniversity will be organised as a network of learning communities, also called SymFaculties, which serve as places supporting and organising the learning from / teaching each other, finding learning resources, innovating to develop new learning approaches and tools. Advanced ITC technologies will support the SymUniversity paradigm – collaboration platform, collective intelligence (applications developed in the context of SymPlace) and serious gaming / Augmented Virtual Reality.
The approach will be initially bottom-up to experiment with different ideas and progressively create a dedicated know-how. First initial trials with networked learning communities are in progress in a corporate context.
In our times, the involvement and engagement of citizens in societal issues concerning them has become increasingly critical; at the same time, it is rather decreasing; relatedly feelings of powerlessness grow, accompanied by sometimes a certain sense of fatality. Many contributing factors can be named: the complexity of issues, a certain lack of transparency of thinking and decision making, a permanent dramatization of issues, an overload of sensational information and exponentially growing competition for attention and time from multiple sources. SymProduction aims at creating a new generation of multimedia contents, inspired from Internet series, to create interest, involvement and engagement around societally important subjects. Instead of using a dry documentary approach it aims at using humour, suspense and surprise, to tell stories of attempts to address complex societal challenges through ICES. It will seek to actively involve the general public through games fostering active consultative democracy and fostering judgemental capabilities.
During an initial phase, small-scale experiments will be carried out to fine-tune and trial the concept and develop practical know-how.
The MICADO stands for “Mutual trust between Institutions and Citizens Applying Digital ledgers for an Open world”. The MICADO symVenture sees the need and opportunity offered by a much larger and deeper sharing of data between institutions and citizens, and / or institutions in areas such as security, health and education. At the same time, MICADO sees the increased risks to privacy and fundamental rights such deep data sharing entails.
The new technologies of distributed ledgers (an evolution of the better known blockchain technology) offers the opportunity to develop a new collaborative paradigm offering the possibility of progressive mutual trust building where the uses volunteers to share his data, controlling which stakeholder accesses which information for which purpose. This approach opens unprecedented opportunities for improving security, health, education and more generally quality of life for everybody. It enables new forms of international data centred cooperation, which is auditable and more generally can be subject to checks and balances in a dynamically adjustable way.
The MICADO symVenture, in coordination and synergy with other symVentures such as the SymThinkTank (as well as other symVentures currently in the early incubation stage), aims at investigating this new paradigm in different sectors, supporting and / or stimulating dedicated research and innovation activities, including the participation in dedicated research activities.
The SymFederation is a symVenture, inspired by the SymSystem (see SymThinkTank), aiming at incubating the SymEconomy, an alternative economy inspired by the SymSystem developed by the SymThinkTank, based on the combination of a SymVolunteering and a network of SymHostels.
“SymVolunteers” will engage on a contractual time-limited (indefinitely renewable) basis in a voluntary civic service, which includes work and training; this voluntary civic service will be open to everybody – without preconditions of age, sex, origins, income or wealth. As a counter-gift, SymVolunteers will enjoy the material conditions of unconditional dignity (as needed to live in modern society) offered by symHostels.
SymHostels will be “social hotels” which will be both a lodgement – for symVolunteers and visitors – and centres of operations for SymVolunteering services. They will be places of education and of generational, social and cultural mixing, thus offering their inhabitants active means for integration into the global society. As the symHostels will develop, they will be grouped (by regions and / or specialisation) into SymAssociations providing the basis for – local and global – economic and cultural development. They ultimately aim to be economically self-sustained.
During the initial phase of incubation, the symVenture SymFederation will set up first experimental symHostels and “recruit” the first symVolunteers to learn and build a solid system based on learning and organic growth. It will then use the symHostels as training and development centres to launch new symHostels and grow the network of symHostels and Associations.