Archive for SSP related News and Videos

“An open door to the future”


That was how Iñaki Azkuna described the city he was managing during the last fifteen years. The former Mayor of Bilbao was one of the few political leaders persuaded that success could be measured in terms of citizens wellbeing and not just in terms of GDP. Doctor, Mayor, global actor, a man from the Renaissance, Iñaki refurbished a declining industrial city into an inclusive city, creating a broader scope that has enhanced the citizens and the city.  He died after a long illness on Friday, March 20th.

The City Mayors Foundation recognized this effort in 2012, announcing him as winner for the World Mayor2012. Bilbao´s debt was reduced during his mandate until being paid off in 2011, being an example of managing and building consensus with other political groups, including all stakeholders of the society.

BilbaoBilbao, since Iñaki took the highest position at the City Hall, has been an example of shared prosperity, becoming a place of synergies, art, and inclusive opportunities for people from all over the world

This city is very representative of a shared and inclusive city, and a mirror to look into, following in his bold steps to create a better Shared Society.

The success of ‘12 years a slave’ triggers shared societies community efforts

The NY Times' 1853 Article On 12 Years A Slave's Solomon Northup

Second of March at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California: 12 Years a Slave wins three Oscars. For the first time in 86 years a movie directed by a black person wins the award and Afro American Lupita Nyong’o takes home the film’s industry higher honor as best supporting actress. The script is also awarded as the best adapted screenplay of the year.  Media underlines the importance of these awards as a landmark in the race discussion and the newly elected Academy’s President African-American Cheryl Boone Isaacs, says that with 12 Years’ success, “a major door have been kicked down… I believe very strongly that the entertainment and motion picture business is going to be more open and aware of different voices.

But far away from the string of reactions and global buzz that the picture generates along with the Hollywood Hills flashes and glamour, the story that tells and is a reminder of the recent past of the United States is still causing a lot of uncomfortable situations for many.

One place hidden from the limelight is Rapides Parish, the community in rural Louisiana where the real story of “12 years a slave” occurs. The picture is based on a book of the same name and it tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man who is kidnapped and enslaved. That was 161 years ago, but even today that legacy stills lives on today.

The book was rediscovered in 1968 by historian Sue Eakin, who lived in the same area were Solomon Northup was enslaved. As a white woman championing the story of a black slave in the days of deep segregation, and therefore as a women championing a shared societies vision, Eakin faced many challenges. 50 years after that, her great-nephew, Lamar White still has to deal with controversy as, even today, there are many who refuse to acknowledge this area’s history. As White says, “It is difficult to build a community when there’s that giant psychic wound that slavery inflicted. It was easier for people to get along if they ignored it”.

As the BBC reports in its article “Louisiana grapples with 12 years a Slave” at a two-day discussion on the book held recently at Louisiana State University, “Northup’s story was debated by a group of black and white Americans. Ginger Jones who leads the university’s multicultural committee, says her initial proposal to host a symposium on race relations met with resistance

People whose ancestors were slaves in the area refused to attend because it was a painful topic to address. Karen Riley a panelist at the symposium says “there’s shame, fear and mistrust”. She points to the way many in the South celebrate the start of the Civil War and the lack of memorials for those who suffered slavery. Bob Vincent, a white pastor whose ancestors were slave owners believes the conversation will only open up if America fully acknowledges the past.  “Here in America our hands are very bloody with the legacy of slavery”.

Therefore, here we have a case where a Hollywood success has again had a translation into the real world. Despite all the troubles and difficulties, the bad memories coming alive and resistances found in the way, there are a lot of positive angles to stress starting from the fact that the powerful filming industry starts breaking its own racial barriers.  And second, but as important as the former, the efforts of the communities to initiate frank talks about their past and to move forward a shared future in a shared society.

Additional information: see the original text from the New York Times (20th of  January, 1853) that documents Solomon Northup story. “THE KIDNAPPING CASE. Narrative of the Seizure and Recovery of Solomon Northrup. INTERESTING DISCLOSURES”.

Leading Change for Transformation: Experiences from African Leaders

SSP African Symposium 005

How can we foster shared societies and inclusive sustainable development in Africa?

How are the experiences from African leaders in seeking to achieve inclusive economic transformation for their nations?

To answer these questions, a group of informed African leaders and citizens met on 19th and 20th November in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania under the auspices of the Club de Madrid and the UONGOZI Institute of African Leadership for Sustainable Development. It was co-chaired by Club de Madrid Members H.E. Benjamin Mkapa, former President of Tanzania, H.E. Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana and H.E Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria.

A breakfast roundtable discussion with the theme of ‘Leading Change for Transformation: Experiences from African Leaders’ kicked-off the symposium on November 19th, where the former presidents imparted their respective leadership experiences in seeking to achieve inclusive economic transformation for their nations and look forward to Africa’s future challenges and opportunities. The roundtable discussion gathered over 80 participants including politicians, senior officials and executives from the public and private sectors, and leaders from civil society.

Watch the Session “Leading Change for Transformation: Experiences from African Leaders” here:

The meeting reviewed development in Africa to date and the current challenges facing future development in the continent and reach the following conclusions which they share and commend to political leaders and policy makers and Africans as a whole, believing that they provide perspectives which will allow a more effective sustainable and inclusive development for the region.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR. Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.



Karamba Diaby, from a small town in Senegal to Germany’s Bundestag


The recent election in Germany brings us a new Shared Societies Champion: Karamba Diaby, who has won a seat in the Bundestag. This 51-year-old chemist writes a new page in the History of the country by becoming its second Black parliamentarian.  Diaby, representing the Social Democrats, was born in a small farming town in Senegal. He finished his studies in Eastern Germany in 1986, and he decided to stay in the country. Since then, he has lived in Halle. And now, the city wants him as their representative.

Halle’s scenario adds a special value to Mr.Diaby’s election. Because it can help to fight the image of racism that sometimes is associated with Eastern Germany. It’s a positive milestone to overcome negative aspects, like the success of the extreme right in Halle (in 2011 regional elections; the neo-nazi party NPD obtained 10% of the votes).

I feel accepted”, said Mr.Diaby after the victory. And this acceptance is very meaningful. Because, due to the colour of his skin, Mr.Diaby has received many offensive letters, death threats and he was even beaten in 1990 by a group of right-wing extremists. But he has always maintained his commitment to Halle, being active in local politics since he moved to the city. One of his greatest successes in the 90s was to stop investors from bulldozing private garden plots. His neighbours first recognized his efforts by electing him for the city council in 2009, and now taking him to the Bundestag.

His election campaign was followed closely by the international media. A hype that, as he told to Newsweek, has something to do with “the fact that the public has realized what a deficit [Germany have] in terms of political participation of people with immigrant backgrounds”. About 10 percent of the country’s population is foreign-born, but their political representation is not proportional with this number.

Anyway, Mr.Diaby refuses to be regarded only as an example of good integration or a model for other immingrants. “I want to be recognized for being good, not for the colour of my skin”, he claims. And also jokes about his integration in Germany: “I’m only 95 percent integrated. When it comes to food, I’m probably not as integrated, because I love African food with spicy, flavourful sauces. I love to have that with rice and okra.”

Scandinavia, the champions of Social Cohesion


Which factors can make a country a Shared Society? And what countries are the best examples? The Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Jacobs University in Bremen (Germany) have released a study that tries to answer this questions, based on a conception of social cohesion as the special quality of how members of a community live and work together. Their idea of a cohesive society is one with resilient social relationships, a positive emotional connectedness between its members and the community, and a pronounced focus on the common good.

According to this definition, Scandinavia is the champion of social cohesion.Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland have the highest levels, followed by Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand. On the other hand, the countries studied that suffer low social cohesion are Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Greece and Romania. In a middle ground are most Western Europe countries, that feature above-average to average social cohesion: Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, the UK, France and Spain.

Anyway, the study examines only 34 countries: the whole European Union member states and seven OECD countries (Australia, Canda, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Switerzland and the US).

Going back on how it defines a Shared Society. It breaks down the concept of social cohesion into three domains: social relations, connectedness, and focus on the common good. From these domains, it compiles a list of measurable dimensions: social networks, trust in people, acceptance of diversity, identification, trust in institutions, perception of fairness, solidarity and helpfulness, respect for social rules, and civic participation.

From this idea, the report finds the three most important economic factors jn greater social cohesion: First, a good national wealth. Second, a balanced income gap: less equal societies tend to be less cohesive. And third, good development towards a modern information society: the diffusion of modern communication technologies makes a country more likely to be socially cohesive.

Photo: Ivelin Radkov/

A comic to inspire young Kenyans building a peaceful future

MDG : Comic book in Nairolbi, Kenya

In The Shared Societies Project Blog, we have talked many times about Kenya and the lessons learned for the latest presidential elections after the 2007 post-electoral violence. The Kenyan civil society made a great effort to avoid the tribal rivalries, promoting initiatives to avoid the hate speech and build a shared and peaceful future. This time, we would like to remark on a very powerful tool that is giving an example of citizenship to 5 million Kenyan youths: a comic.

The comic, called Shujaaz, is distributed monthly free through the Daily Nation newspaper. It was born in 2010, after the nationwide reflection that followed the chaos of violence. It is intended to be at the same time an entertainment product and an educational guide for the young Kenyans, giving them tips on everything: from planting maize seeds to nutrition and the role they can play in society, as this article in The Guardian tells.

In fact, Shujaaz means “heroes” in Sheng, the language that the comic uses. This also gives another key about its intentions: to transmit a message of national unity beyond tribal rivalries. Because Sheng, a brash mix of Swahili and English, is one of the few things that can be shared by all the Kenyans, specially the young ones. Against some criticism from academics, government officials and older people, many initiatives have been launched to promote Sheng as unifying factor. For example, Tukuve, a successful initiative launched to ensure that the latest elections were peaceful and free, encouraged the use of the language.

Shujaaz also shows its intention to promote unity by never mentioning specific locations or tribes, even when they are treating topics of conflicts between tribes. It describes problems in which the characters assume a committed attitude. The lead role is DJ B, a big-haired pirate radio star and school dropout who tries to act with good civil behaviour.

Well Told Story, the creators of the comic (that has funds from the UK Department for International Development, Kenyan mobile giant Safaricom, or USAid), have a clear vision on how it can help to make Kenya a shared society: “We want those innovators to be the ones to act… We need to use these wonderful interactive media to get people involved in the conversation. We think the more people we are talking to, the more people we are bringing into awareness, the more innovators we are enabling to take action… It’s just a numbers game.”

Photo: Riccardo Gangale/USAid


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