Where Scientists and Netizens Meet
Andreas Esche is director of the program “Shaping the Global Future” at Bertelsmann Stiftung and in this function responsible for futurechallenges.org. For him futurechallenges.org is a milestone in the way Bertelsmann Stiftung is bridging the gap between science and networks and in the way it’s embracing social media. Ulrike interviewed him right after launch.
Ulrike Reinhard: You’ve started FC_org a little over a year ago. Last week was relaunch. What are your major learnings after the first year?
Andreas Esche: Our first year was a learning experience we all needed. First of all, I am still convinced that we are focusing on the right subject: how interdependent megatrends shape our future and what we can do about it. Second: you’ve got to understand the social web well if you want to attract people’s attention. And third, you have to learn to walk the fine line between the art of letting go and to direct. It’s really a challenge to find the right balance between the creativity flow on the one side and focus on our USP on the other.
Ulrike Reinhard: Could FC_org become a role model for BST?
Andreas Esche: There won’t be anything like THE role model for such a multi-faceted institution like the Bertelsmann Stiftung. Nevertheless, it is one of our strategic concerns to increase participation in our processes. And no doubt social media is key to achieve this. Therefore the future challenges platform will help us to find our way and hopefully provide valuable insights for our foundation.
Ulrike Reinhard: Why correlations between megatrends? Why is it such an important issue?
Andreas Esche: It’s obvious that our planet is threatened in many ways – food scarcities, financial turmoils, mass migration, global aging – you name it. While it’s rather easy to sense these problems it’s much harder to solve them. They never stand alone, isolated from each other. They’re always part of a much more complex and interdependent pattern.
To understand these interdependencies and to learn how to deal with them is what we are aiming at. There is an urgency to act! Therefore we provide up-to-date reports and informations, try to stimulate crowdsourcing and participation. We believe that’s a fair part of what an institution like the Bertelsmann Stiftung can contribute to this discussion.
Ulrike Reinhard: So does this mean you are trying to bridge the gap between science and netizens?
Andreas Esche: Yes. We will invite scientists to outline these issues once a month. Our international blogger team can reflect on this from their regional and cultural perspective and the community out there is invited to join the discussion and co-create solutions.
We need science more than ever.
But we need it in a way that it’s understandable for a broad audience. If people don’t understand what science provides – why would they act on a local basis and change behavior and attitudes? But change is needed. While the number of threats and their destructive potential is rising the ability to understand them and to draw the right conclusions is falling behind. futurechallenges.org is an investment made to improve this understanding and foster dialogue. We set it up but it’s the users who will decide on success or failure of this endeavour.