By: Lorenzo Casagrande & Thomaz Talarico
According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, the word “ÁGORA” is Greek for “open place of assembly” and in the early history of Greece, used to be a place for citizens to gather, hear civic pronouncements, discuss politics and even buy goods from merchants that would make commercial use of the opportunity. Known in ancient Rome as “The Forum”, ÁGORA was also a place where upcoming philosophers voiced their thoughts and opinions, thus attracting curious youth to hear their provocations on society’s norms and reflections that craved for new ideas.
In light of the latter, RIO+ Centre partnered with the Federation of Industries from the State of Rio de Janeiro (FIRJAN) and the city hall’s Institute Rio Human Patrimony (IRPH) to launch the first edition of Rio's ÁGORA. Keeping the same commitment to listen and involve civil society in a constructive dialogue, the LivingLab2030 was launched on last 29 June. The laboratory was established to gather youth initiatives and projects that address the main challenges faced in light of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, launched at the United Nations and signed by 193 countries.
Gathering the business community, government officials, civil society leaders, youth representatives and academic researchers, the ÁGORA and the LivingLab 2030 will serve as a contemporary epicenter for pressing issues to be raised and for creative solutions to be weaved for the sake of local sustainable development. The idea is to allow multiple actors from the society to interact and share expertise that can lead to a better understanding of the challenges and potential solutions, placing people in the center of development debate.
The first ÁGORA edition, hosted at FIRJAN’s HQ in Rio’s city center, discussed the thematic of “Making Cities for People” and featured an international participation of representatives from the Districts of Creativity Network (DC Network). Five speakers from the creative districts of Baden-Wutterberg (Germany), Cataluña (Spain), Flanders (Belgium), Noord-Brabant (Holland) and Tampere (Finland) shared their experiences on how innovation and creativity are being used to promote better use of resources and conceive partnerships for developing cities into smarter and more sustainable environments.
City Hall’s IRPH presented several initiatives promoted by the town hall to protect cultural and artistic patrimony and restore public squares, monuments, and venues for the population to interact and make good use of public spaces.
The RIO+ Centre illustrated creative approaches that can be used to advance with the 2030 Agenda in Baixada Fluminense, following the ethos of Leaving No One Behind and engaging citizens and local governments to the sustainable development mission.
The LivingLab2030 presented seven civil society projects, mainly led by youth organizations, showcasing initiatives that address one, or more issues related to the SDGs and faced by different public in Rio. The projects presented innovative approaches that tackles old problems, such as Casa Fluminense and Data_Labe's "Cocozap" ("poopoozap"), an app that explores the intense use of "Whatsapp" by the local population from Rio’s favelas in order to gather public data to identify poor sanitation spots at Favela da Maré, one of the major communities in Rio’s peripheries. The final result will be a detailed mapping of identified problems such as low sanitation in poor areas, to be presented to the municipality. Six other Brazilian initiatives were presented to the members of DC Networks and a networking experience was held to allow constructive feedbacks to be given thus improving some of the projects' scope.
As of today, Rio de Janeiro will be able to count on the very same assembly occasion that was critical to shape western philosophy. While Socrates provoked the society with new revolutionary ideas, Rio’s ÁGORA and the LivingLab2030 will equally challenge traditional models of development and inspire out-of-the-box solutions to be born collaboratively in a new multidisciplinary environment.