How many of us really want to come to a conference room on a Saturday to watch a 50-slide presentation about access and inclusion for disenfranchised and vulnerable street kids? Best Saturday ever! Maybe not.

But take that same issue (street kids, and their education) – and add some music – maybe Kevin Johansen or Chevy Metal. Have a famous football player kick off a discussion. Do it in the middle of a beautiful park, in sunny Santiago. Now you have some interest.

If you do this right, you might even get a rockstar like Arnoud Raskin to share with you, between bands, and through the dappled October sunlight, a revolutionary idea: get the street kids to teach corporate businessmen about negotiation, team dynamics, and startup skills – and in doing so empower them and give them a sense of meaning. Amazing.

I watched this happen in Chile, last October – and I felt the energy of 12,000 Chileans with an average age of 21 (my unscientific eyeball-average of the crowd) – raising their arms, voices, and awareness around issues that affect them, and their communities.

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The International Festival for Social Innovation. Photo credit: FIIS2013 photography

FIIS – the International Festival for Social Innovation – was something new for me. Four days of amazing musicians, sophisticated thinkers on social change and justice, and more than 50,000 young Chileans – it was a free, powerful, and open example of how quickly we can form communities to drive change.

Julian Ugarte and his team play an interesting trick – get young people to come for famous bands like Café Tacuba and other notable public figures (from Jimmy Wales to Amaro Gómez Pablos) and then curate and create a set of opportunities and interactions that start people talking about the most pressing issues of the day. UNICEF can benefit from this way of thinking about problem-solving. Too often we wrap our problems in confusing acronyms, in convoluted explanations of causality, and in an architecture of problem solving that says: “Experts can fix this issue. Please go find some.”

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The International Festival for Social Innovation. Photo credit: FIIS2013 photography

We know the truth of problem solving in this century is going to be one of heterogeneity of team trumping pedigree of knowledge – where expertise is certainly needed, but where it, alone, isn’t enough to tackle compounded, intractable problems. FIIS points us to what that collaboration can look like.

When I asked Julian what his dream was for this year’s FIIS, he said: “It’s simple. I want 100,000 people in Chile, and 50,000 in Argentina, to come, learn, share, and create change.” They’ll be charging, this year, for admission to the event – each member of the audience will have to pay with one idea on how to fix a pressing social problem– submitted to the public domain, given to FIIS, to be shared with the world.

I look forward to being a broker for this currency of ideas, and to building a bank with FIIS that can create interest from those 150,000 investors that will pay dividends in Chile, in Argentina, and throughout the world.

Chris
@unickf

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