House of Beautiful Business Festival 2024: Creating a Life-centred Economy

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On a mission to find poly-opportunities in a world of polycrisis, a gathering of thinkers, makers and artists came together in the city of Tangier.

It wasn’t a coincidence that the 2024 gathering of House of Beautiful Business, a global network that aspires to build a life-centred economy, was held in Tangier, Morocco.

The city has a rich history as a place for outcasts to ‘embrace their otherness’, but it also sits between two worlds – Europe and Africa.

This sense of duality was at the heart of the event, which brought together experts in everything from economics and agriculture to arts and politics, in a four-day experiment dubbed Between the Two of Us (2–5 May).

Channelling the words of keynote speaker Priya Parker, whose book The Art of Gathering is all about designing the informal, the event had little in common with the average business conference, instead taking inspiration from the serendipity and accidental wisdom of music festivals and literary salons.

In fact, you’d struggle to find any mention of ‘business’ beyond the title. Speakers were decoupled from their workplaces, allowing them to take to the stage as individuals; sometimes in a Q&A discussion, sometimes reciting a poem or taking a football penalty, but never selling products, themselves or their organisation’s purpose.

Social connection was woven into the texture of the programme. Dotted around its grand venue were chess boards, encouraging audience members to play with a stranger, while many of the event’s largest revelations did not come from the main stage, but the coffee station or lunch queue, where the informal collision of minds confirmed that we’re entering the era of Neo-collectivism.

Read the full article on LS:N Global.


 

‘What does it actually mean if 70% of the world is urbanised? Numbers are a cloak for us to feel comfortable with the future’

Source: Geci Karuri-Sebina, urban planner 

Published by:

9 July 2024

Author: Holly Friend and Rachitha Seneviratne

Image: House of Beautiful Business- Between the Two of Us, photography by João Nogueira, Tangier, Morocco

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Left : The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker, published by Riverhead Books, US. Right : House of Beautiful Business- Between the Two of Us, photography by João Nogueira, Tangier, Morocco

Imagining, Not Predicting, the Future

It’s easy to be pessimistic about the future. But in Tangier, speakers bucked the trend of doomerism, instead choosing to approach tomorrow with hopeful creativity.

Rejecting the act of ‘predicting’ in favour of ‘choosing’ the future we want, cultural anthropologist Matt Klein and urban planner Geci Karuri-Sebina sat down to share their hopes for tomorrow. They agreed that culture is suffering from a failure of the collective imagination, whether it’s the entertainment industry pumping out reboots, the foresight industry borrowing one another’s trend reports, or playing a game of Chinese Whispers with vague data points, which Klein found typically led back to studies sponsored by organisations.

Future thinkers must now take themselves out of their comfort zone. In a workshop with Klein and Karuri-Sebina among other futurists, participants were tasked with imagining the year 2070, but with one caveat: we are all telepathic. Cue innovations such as ‘dark zones’ that soften the noise of other people’s minds, and new sexualities that draw from our deeper connection to plant life. Using fictional concepts like human telepathy to imagine the future forces us to think beyond what already exists and to dwell on the impossible.

This could lead to new business structures where storytellers are an important part of decision-making processes, believes Fri Forjindam, a vibe curator who designs experiences ranging from travel destinations to theme parks. ‘Theme parks are a fantasy that help you lose reality,’ she said. ‘What if we took stories and turned them into real worlds?’

Community is Not a Commodity

Another dualistic theme of the weekend was belonging, and its unfortunately widespread counterpart: loneliness. Attendees were encouraged to look beyond the walls of the event to Tangier as a place where community exists through necessity, and which everyone knows, and helps, everyone.

This led speakers to ask the question: ‘How do we design for belonging? It encouraged attendees to think beyond the well-worn trope of how the physical world spawns connection, while the digital atrophies it. Belonging expert Kim Dabbs examined corporate renditions of community, noting that responsibility and reciprocity are foundational to any organisation.

‘We don’t teach civility in corporate contexts. Organisations that disinvest in people aren’t going to stick around’
Kim Dabbs, belonging expert

House of Beautiful Business Festival 2024: Creating a Life-centred Economy

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