FNF Lebanon and Syria's Beirut Innovation in Politics Forum

Giving rise to innovative solutions for political and social challenges
Feature23.12.2019Executive Bulletin
BIP

The Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) Lebanon and Syria organized the first edition of an innovative forum, aimed at encouraging bright minds and forward thinkers to develop innovative solutions for today’s political and social challenges.

Titled Beirut Innovation in Politics (BIP), the experimental forum facilitated a dialogue at which both experts and the public shared and built knowledge, whilst working to come up with approaches, projects and best practices for policy-making, democracy, communication and governance. 

The one-day event, at Beit Beirut, took the form of an interdisciplinary, but unconventional initiative, gathering together academics, politicians, political consultants, activists, media experts and policy specialists from a variety of backgrounds, with the capacity to form a strong, diverse network. Attendees considered the huge potential that digitalization, innovation and creative methodologies offered, while looking at how they could be harnessed most effectively to implement a process of change and development in areas such as education, economy, civil society and politics, with a focus on the Lebanese situation, which constituted the inspiration for this year’s theme.   

Yara Asmar, Senior Project Manager at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Lebanon and Syria office, and Gordon Mackay, Secretary General of Liberal International, opened the event with keynote speeches while other representatives from a variety of organizations gave talks and participated in panel discussions throughout the day.

Yara Asmar: “We have to acknowledge that innovation is in our DNA. It comes from within and it can never be imposed. The great example for this is the ongoing Lebanese Revolution. Regardless of the political intentions or implications, the organic growth of a decentralized and uncoordinated movement has shown in October 17, 2019 that the rules have changed!

In a single generation, revolutions in technology have transformed the way we live, work and also the way we see politics…the way we practice it…and our expectations for its outcomes. YES! The rules have changed because the circle of players was made bigger. Nowadays, gaming and game theory became an essential field to simulate the core of the democratic processes…Elections.”

Gordon Mackay:“These days, Politics is Unusual and changing and we don’t have the answers on how to address that. The current system and our approach to politics are not working, we need to change it which leads to Politics as Unusual, where we need citizens that are actively engaged. We need a new form of political disruption that is going to create a new kind of change. We need to be innovative and inventive, congratulations Beirut for leading us on that, and this means we need to experiment. In this system that is falling apart, lots of opportunities for innovation are created. We need to learn how to fail quickly, to find out what works and to share it pragmatically, broadly, quietly and as quickly as we can, which may mean that we need to be less ideological because the best ideas are not necessarily thrown at us, but born from competition with other ideas.”

Topics and activities

Topics explored during the forum included “Innovation and Policy Development”, which examined the concept of experimental innovation policy, while looking at the monitoring of policy design and the process of policy implementation.

The highlight of this panel consisted in developing the “dream government statement” by answering critical questions such as: What type of citizens do we want to nurture? How to safeguard elections against tampering? How to end unemployment? How to advance oil and gas policies?

Another subject on the agenda was “Innovation and Memory Politics”, which considered the disciplinary politics surrounding the study of memory that have emerged through innovative approaches such as virtual reality, gaming and artificial intelligence. 

“Innovation and Political Communication”, meanwhile, analysed the various approaches to media innovation, the outgrowth of inbound communication tools and the emergence of ground-breaking strategies. 

Several parallel activities ran alongside the forum that included a one-on-one consultancy for liberal political parties, CSOs, as well as grass-roots initiatives with Annelou van Egmond , Vice President of ALDE Party Bureau, on a project or strategy they are willing to launch or implement; as well as talks on Political Entrepreneurshipwith Josef Lentsch, History…And Archive for the Future with AlHakam Shaar (The Aleppo Project), and Education and Gaming with Meik Ramey (Gamelab.berlin) and Garabed Khachadour (Mayrig), hosted for university students from USJ and Haigazian. 

Exhibition

The BIP Forum also featured a large interactive exhibition, where organizations and companies showcased ways in which they hope to contribute toward improving politics and public services, and tackle the challenges of pressing topical issues through innovative approaches. Initiatives exhibiting at BIP did so under the forum’s umbrella themes and to name a few: 

  • The Aleppo Project – an open collaboration among people from all walks of life who are thinking about the future of a city torn apart by war.
  • GameLab.berlin -Taking an expanded definition of games as a starting point, gamelab.berlin researches fields such as game thinking, transmedia storytelling, serious games, gamification, persuasive design, engagement science and experience design.
  • Mayrig -an innovative approach to education, using a mobile serious game to raise awareness to timeless topics of history and migration.

Article by Executive Bulletin. Original version here.