P!oneers: ‘Making the impossible possible’

By: Eva Kelder

The P!oneers Sessions organised by Felix Meritis and Humanity in Action from April 1-3, 2009 in Amsterdam have brought together innovative thinkers from Amsterdam and New York City. By creating a platform for inter-disciplinary inspiration and exchange as well as exploration of urgent developments faced today these pioneers have engaged in discussions about critical topics, personal growth and problem-solving as active citizens of open societies. The following questions have been addressed:

  • Imagining the ideal city: What would you do to improve your city? How can the public sphere be reclaimed in terms of empowerment?
  • Harvesting the human capital of pioneers: How can human capital and resources be provided within the existing networks of pioneers?
  • Political mobilization of communities: How can local communities, on and offline, be empowered in the political progress?
  • Disenfranchised youth and empowerment: How can minority groups be empowered? The focus lies on urban youth.

Out of these frameworks four concrete initiatives have emerged:

  1. Creating and establishing an open society which consists of a collection of personal stories from the community.
  2. Establishing an intercity membership association in Amsterdam and New York.
  3. Documenting the personal histories of citizens in Amsterdam and New York. Where am I coming from? Where are we now? Listen to me. Citizens will be encouraged to document key events in their lives. The pioneers will push for the inclusion of personal stories in official documentation.
  4. Founding a ‘Ministry of the Impossible’ which will fund the realisation of unexpected initiatives that come out of urban chaos.

From Amsterdam to New York
In the upcoming months both groups will be meeting in Amsterdam and New York to transform all the presented ideas into concrete initiatives and proposals. When asked how they will take their creative ideas into the big, bad world one pioneer answers: ‘we are the big, bad world’. ‘We live in that world. We know what it means to live in an urban environment that is suffering from social unrest. We want to encourage both communities in Amsterdam and New York to stop looking at politicians to come up with solutions, but instead make use of their own power as a community to change their lives and surroundings. We can help them achieving that goal.’

The Pioneers see themselves as a Triple A group.
The A’s stand for:

Authenticity: Each pioneer is authentic and represents the city’s DNA.
All-inclusive: No one is excluded.
Activity: Every pioneer wants to activate people.

The injection of new energy and ideas in the work of the Amsterdam and New York pioneers has to generate an impact on the local Amsterdam and New York levels through this exchange of best practices and experiences. Through this process of exchange and inspiration by pioneers, an ambassador’s network with the goal of sustainable cooperation has been built. The Amsterdam Pioneers will travel to New York in November of this year to meet up with their American counterparts.

Pioneers is an initiative of the Felix Meritis Foundation in Amsterdam and Humanity in Action in New York City and is part of the NY400.NL celebrations. Pioneers is financially supported by the Directorate for Citizenship & Integration of the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment of The Netherlands; the Ministry for Youth and Families of The Netherlands; as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands.

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