Florens 2012: Elevating the Arts, Cultivating Conversations with Social Media


Photo courtesy of Fondazione Florens

Florens 2012 is putting the social media and blogging world on notice.

Florence, Italy — one of the world’s most acclaimed arts and cultural destinations — wants you to come and join her for a nine-day conference, featuring handcraft exhibits, lectures and a host of other activities that only the most progressive cultural arts city can pull off.

Florens 2012 Cultural and Environmental Heritage Week is a biennial event that organizers hope will draw global attention via social media to begin exploring how culture, food, arts and the environment can blend seamlessly to spark solutions and provide an economic stimulus for a sustainable future.

The organizing team at Fondazione Florens is encouraging members of the social media revolution to share content about the connection among the economy, environmental sustainability and culture.

Five winners will be selected as members of Team Florens who will travel to Florence for an all-expense trip for five nights to officially cover Florens 2012 featuring 300 international speakers.

Florens is the German word for Florence.

Other diverse activities will explore the arts, culture, food and beverage, couture fashion, handmade traditions, economic solutions, sustainable travel, smart cities and technology.

Board of Cultural Directors Mauro Agnoletti, Andrea Carandini, Walter Santagata developed this year’s Florens 2012 theme of “From Grand Tour to the Global Tour.”
Photo courtesy of Fondazione Florens


Alexandra Korey, a social media user and blogger, is organizing an international “tweetup” in Florence, Italy.

Via the miracle of the World Wide Web which turned 21 today, I asked these questions to Alexandra Korey, manager of Team Florens social media for Fondazione Florens, about the exciting project.

What was the inspiration behind the theme for this year’s Cultural and Environmental Heritage Week that runs from Nov. 3 to Nov. 11, 2012?

The theme for 2012 (the second edition of Florens) is “From the Grand Tour to the Global Tour,” and was developed by the Board of Cultural Directors made up of Mauro Agnoletti, Andrea Carandini, Walter Santagata.

The theme reminds us of the sustainable travel habits of 19th-century Grand Tourists, who stayed a long time in each place and attempted to get to know the culture there, appreciating and supporting workmanship and other local creative industries.

And what are the tangible results that you would like to see realized from the week’s activities?    

 The final objective of our “International Forum” and Florens 2012’s other initiatives is to provide transformative examples that stimulate and promote an economy based on cultural and environmental resources, a sector with tremendous potential that can contribute to GDP growth.

After Florens 2010, we produced a study (that can be downloaded free here) that, in its final section, indicates a series of recommendations and policy indications designed to contribute to highlighting and developing the cultural and creative sector in Italy.

Some of the suggestions point to actions on a Country System scale while others focus on specific features of Tuscany or cultural and industrial situations specific to Florence. All reference innovative experiences or international best practices explored during the event, as will be explored again at Florens 2012.

It is still early to evaluate if tangible results have been reached after the release of this study, though the upcoming event will be an opportunity to do so and to make additional concrete proposals.

The site is majestic for real-time sharing either in person in Florence, Italy or participating online.                 Photo courtesy of Fondazione Florens

What do you hope others throughout the world will attain from the “localized’ messages from the week as well as scholarly case studies that they can put into practice?  

In the study mentioned above, we produced the Florens Index, a comparative measurement first of areas within Italy, then on an international scale.

The international analysis compares potential and dynamism shown by the cultural and creative sector in Italy and seven other European and non-European benchmark countries: France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, Japan and the United States (the top UNESCO world heritage list countries).

Based on 14 different KPIs (things like amount of green space, number of university students, number of museum visitors, etc.) this study identifies areas of excellence and improvement for each country. This study can be used by those countries as a starting point for change.

Handcrafts along with food, wine and other unique offerings will delight the thousands expected for Florens 2012 in Florence, Italy.
Photo courtesy of Fondazione Florens

Share examples — either in concepts or in application — how local craftspeople and their crafts may play a key role in the long-term successes of Italy and the EU.

Can you give me examples of some people and their crafts that I may feature [should I participate in the event]?    

This is a large question about which whole articles could be written, and I’m not really prepared to answer on behalf of the Foundation, though I can give you my opinion!

Each country in the EU has a different production history, so it is difficult to generalize; each place needs to find the creative industry that is intrinsic to it and determine if that needs to be developed, changed, etc.

On a local level, Florence has always had a strong tradition of craftsmanship, resulting in people who have a know-how that deserves preservation but that may need assistance to meet new market demands and incorporate new technology, production systems, etc.

It is clear that the local economy is not going to rise up through industrialization – Florence has never headed in that direction – so, in my opinion, it needs to focus on what it does well.

Single and groups of craftspersons may well be the key to this growth, one that parallels the growth of the creative economy of Italy as a whole upon which some recent theories of rebirth are based.

Photo courtesy of Fondazione Florens

With the global economic recession widespread, and especially hitting hard in Southern Europe, how have the harsh economic realities impacted the planning of the event?

The economic recession here is undeniable, and indeed has had a major impact on our event, which will operate on half the budget that it did in 2010 – approximately 1.5 million euro.

However in 2010, we had start-up costs that this year are not necessary, and we like to point out that the Foundation’s budget is balanced for the third consecutive year in a row.

We do have much private and public support for which we are thankful. The lesser funds do not impact the program negatively: We are expecting a huge event with 300 international speakers, three days of international forum, 43 panels and roundtables held in the prestigious Salone del Cinquecento and adjacent rooms of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio.

There will be six lectio magistralis by important designers and professors, eight cultural aperitivos or happy hours, and many other things planned outside the conference space that will involve the whole city.

Who are some of the influential people or type of people you are trying to reach and what would you like them to do to advance your program’s objectives?  

The Foundation is in direct contact with influential people able to make change happen – many of them will be speaking at the event. But seeking change does not mean just talking to super influential politicians, scholars and policy-makers.

Andrea Carandini and Andrew Wallace-Hadrill are among the influential people who hope Florens 2012 will make a lasting impression on participants attending the special gathering either in person or on the social web. The word “Florens” is German for Florence. 
Photo courtesy of Fondazione Florens

If you want change, you need to raise awareness of the issues (which then generates critical mass), which is precisely why we are running the Team Florens call for bloggers this year.

Through bloggers like you, Ted, we can reach readers interested in the same themes we wish to explore at the event: sustainability, culture and economy.

The nine-day event will be a banner forum for technology, sustainability, arts, culture, economy, environment, couture, food and handcrafts.
Photo courtesy of Fondazione Florens

Reaching the widest number of interested people really is a goal for the Foundation. And this year, we’re hoping to increase that reach online.

The event itself is free to access for anyone who can make it to Florence, but we realize the trip is not easy for everyone. So we’re starting out by offering five bloggers the chance to prove their interest and win a trip to attend the event.

We’re already seeing articles being produced by Team Florens contestants that are starting to generate buzz about sustainable themes.

Furthermore, we are going to be providing a live stream online of the main talks, and there will also be a Twitter wall with the hashtag #florens2012 where we hope dialogue will form.

The dialogue starts here, with this article – and your readers’ comments!



Check out the chance opportunity I had to chat and interview an American professional living in Florence, Italy for the past four decades.

Follow the ongoing conversation about Florens 2012 on this Twitter feed with the official hashtag #Florens.

The engagement of my network has helped generate more than 2.7 million impressions, reaching an audience of more than 1.6 million followers on Twitter.

Let me know what you think about this unique opportunity. How do you think social media can help engage people for special events? And what do you think will be some lasting legacies of Florens 2012? 



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