Volunteer Fair Upper Austria meets Ars Electronica

FEST.ENGAGIERT will take place in the course of the Ars Electronica Festival for the first time in 2021. This collaboration is based on the belief in change, the belief in a "New Digital Deal.

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Financial crisis, refugee crisis, corona crisis, climate crisis – even before we have really mastered one challenge, we often find ourselves in the middle of the next crisis. It seems as if we are getting the bill for all the failures of the past decades. The fact that in the 21st century digitization is putting powerful tools into our hands that can help solve our problems may be true – but we are still moving far too slowly. Technology may be part of the solution, but without our social development it will remain without – sustainable – effect.

It’s no coincidence that this year’s Ars Electronica is calling for a NEW DIGITAL DEAL. Not an agreement or a contract. But rather a new way of dealing with our problems that focuses not only on economic but also on social and ecological added value and makes meaningful use of new technologies. Ars Electronica shows how this can be done by using artists as an example, and the association Unabhängiges LandesFreiwilligenzentrum (ULF) – Upper Austria’s Independent Volunteer Center – by showcasing numerous initiatives that are usually summarized as „civil society“.

The 10th Volunteer Fair – a premiere!

It will be the 10th Volunteer Fair, and it will be held for the first time as part of Ars Electronica. More than 50 organizations, associations and initiatives will be present to testify to the diversity and daily impact of volunteerism in civil society. Whether for children and young people, migrants, the elderly, the chronically ill or the disabled, whether for community and district projects, neighborhood assistance or climate protection – this is where those who are already socially-engaged, and those who plan to volunteer and want to find out about their options, meet.

Art here, civil society there? Perfect!

The festival for art, technology, and society and in the middle of it „civil society“ – there couldn’t be a more exciting and better constellation. The common denominator is the urge to make things better than they are and the firm intention not to back down despite the crisis of our times. In the context of Ars Electronica and in the immediate vicinity of its children’s and youth festival appropriately named „create your world“ as well as the first „Festival University“, at which 100 young people from more than 40 countries will address the transformation of our world, FEST.ENGAGIERT celebrates all those who don’t just talk about change but who actually work day in and day out to make it happen. People whose actions do not change the whole world, but the world of many of us.

Because co-creation works …

While outside the fair is happening – in a corona-proof setting! –, the symposium „Civil Society of the Future: Co-Creation Works” will talke place, starting at noon. At the opening talk, Upper Austria’s Social Affairs Councilor Birgit Gerstorfer is joined by Gerfried Stocker, Artistic Director of Ars Electronica and a juror of the Upper Austrian Prize for Social Innovation „dieziwi.21“. Christa Hofman from ORF-Weltjournal invites us on a journey around the world and reports on civil society initiatives in the USA, Kenya and Iran. Jakub Samochowiec, Senior Researcher and Speaker at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute in Switzerland, explores the question of what the encounter of the future will look like and thus goes straight to the impact of the New Digital Deal on our social behavior. Ayad Al-Ani, Professor at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa and lecturer at the University of Basel, then talks about the power of digitalization on our society and whether and how resistance can succeed …

Graphic recording of the last symposium “The Civil Society of the Future” in 2020, credit: Daniela Waser

It will be exciting on this Saturday, on 11th September 2021. And as every year, we hope that – when this day and with it FEST.ENGAGIERT and the symposium „Co-creation works“ have hopefully ended well – this end will in turn become a beginning. The beginning of many new ideas that will be solidified, discussed, developed and then implemented …