I finally saw a reindeer.

a journey in Östersund on & around the Unesco creative cities network annual meeting.

First day I arrived in Östersund, Sweden, I had this occasion to taste rein deer & moose smoked meet and bear sausages. To eat this uncommon food made me get a personal achievement for this journey to see the animal behind the meat.

I had this great opportunity to accompany Saint-Etienne cité du design international relationship team to UNESCO creative cities network annual meeting. As an invited ambassador (or kind of) of my hometown, i was there on my own interest and those of my company. To evaluate the potential of the network for our development & to make new contacts were the — let’s say, more corporate — purposes of the journey. Culture & cooperation (my company) is working in the fields of social design. Producing projects that help people to do things collectively, involving cultural & creative practices is basically what we do.

Are/Östersund - nosing the beast

Presentation & purpose : tick ! Let’s return to that fine food store in Östersund. My friend Camille, who was with me at this moment asked to the woman serving us if these animals were protected ones. Actually, for moose & bears, there is a restricted number of hunt killing Juntland people can do. There is yet a special training you’ve got to achieve to get a license.

“— how much bears did they kill last year ?
— About 362.
— Is that really safe to walk in forest or in the countryside ?
— If you make a lot of noise walking, that should be okay, except if they are starving.

People are used to hunt & fish there. Some of them don’t even buy meat, since they are eating the product of their hunt. For Reindeer, this is quite different. Reindeer are raised. Sami people are the only who can be reindeer herder in sweden. There is 3 different Sami language along Norway, Sweden, Finland & Russia. Östersund, Äre in Sami is part of the south region. This particularity makes Juntland region really special in Sweden. A little bit like in Pays-Basque, local people feel very concerned by their identity, quality & specificity of their local production. — Production which is mostly sold to export. This come at a price : if the local production is massively exported, it can’t provide food to the area, which is not the best sustainable scenario. People of rural development there seems to feel really concerned by the situation & are looking for solutions.

Coming through stomach to reach the heart

Event organisation & Swedish sense of “kind timing”.

Every person who did such event management from far to close knows that timing is the key factor for success. I must say that i’ve been really impressed by local community of Östersund. They have something like a kind sense of timing. I say kind, but social friendly would be more accurate.

That might doesn’t feel serious to talk about dinner or evening party for such an international conference. But, time for informal exchange is essential to build a living network. Besides, talks were instructives & serious as they had to be, and i should talk about what i recall later in the story.

On Thursday evening, last dinner, we started at Gamla theater hotel eating a part of dinner. Depending on the glass you chose, the hole group — something like 300 people i guess — was divided in 4 smaller parts. We were sent in different places in the town. Each places were food station, part of some kind of gastronomic & festive journey across Östersund. We were walking from one station to an other. It was an occasion for reconfiguring group, talking with others,…

Networking here is a point of such thing & that was awesomely effective ! Most interesting insights & contacts i get came from the different conviviality time (and specially the one i told before) Östersund people organized during the meeting.

Under tracks

What i learnt about UNESCO creative cities.

Every creative cities lodge more creative fields than their own. This designation (design, gastronomy, craft,…) should tend to be more considered as an entry point than a fixed category.

Cross network events have to be encouraged. To explore boundaries between disciplines provides richness & creativity. Which is actually the point.

Some of them are in this open position as far as i can see. For example, Bologna is using network to push its different cultural events. They are, for example leading a design challenge open to all network though they are part of music subnetwork. Then i was in Östersund, i saw the exhibition of Shenzhen design award 2016. This challenge is equally open to all network. These are great experiences, but we can invent and run more committing projects.

Structures which are holding & hosting network in the cities are really different from one to an other. In my hometown, this is a design center, in Detroit mostly an incubator, when in Montreal, this is a department of city council.

Connection with local authorities is not always that obvious. Opportunities mostly rely on personal initiatives. I have the chance to be in a good situation. Saint- Etienne is an active part of the network, supported by town administration so far. But that kind of leading point can be weakened for many reasons and then be less active.

What is creative in a city is the people, not its bureaucracy. But, as Charles Landry said at the meeting, creative bureaucracy is needed. And it’s needed in this case to build paths and access at network’s richness to creative cities peoples.

Involving local players in reflexion group as proposed Josyane Franc (chief officer at international relationship of cité du design in Saint-Etienne) could be an effective idea. It would both empower network local support & giving a place for mutualized strategy on international relationship for these local actors.

Doing it systematically enforce network at the end making us — local players — in position to help building this very promising tool we should cherich and be taking care of it.

I finally saw it !

I had one day left after the conference. I came through the city on the hotel bicycle. A little bit too small, made my leg painfull, as i was climbing that hill. I‘ve seen the nice houses with no fences between. I’ve been in the forest, crossing the ski road, hearing this regular shock of sticks on asphalt. I went up on the tower on the summit of the hill and then after riding on Fröse Island, decided to go back…

— Hey, that’s a pity, I won’t have seen a reindeer.

And you know what, i have seen one at the very end of my journey, waiting for me on front of conference hall. He was saying good bye, wiggling his velvet covered horns. Let’s see an over time Äre, we ‘ll probably meet again. (don’t know where, don’t know when, some sunny day)

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