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? 



Tags: , , , , ,

  • I love this post! AND I love the thought of going to Florence to participate and learn! I will enter and keep my fingers crossed, but even if I can’t make the trip, I will happily participate online! It is inspiring to see a city take this approach; attracting the best and brightest in social to help elevate everything in their city and country! Imagine the benefits that Florence and Italy will receive from this event! Imagine what we will all learn! Thank you Ted for sharing!! Let’s pack our bags!!

    • With that eloquence, how can you not get in John? I’m excited to see both you and Ted cover this event – it’s an incredible opportunity, a wonderful cause, and if you ask me, a match made in heaven. Best of luck, gentlemen.

      • Thanks, Rochelle, for your kind comments and your support.

        What are some stories that you’d like me to cover or issues that I may write in the next two weeks or so?


    • John,

      Thank you for reading this post on this wonderful opportunity to utilize the power of the social web in covering a unique week in Florence, Italy.

      Imagine the possibilities of sharing the activities of Florens 2012 and engaging with people throughout the world.

      I’m really thrilled with this unique moment in our world’s history where we may document the sights, sounds and scents of the Cultural and Environmental Heritage Week the very minute as they unfold, but more importantly share these experiences in real time.

  • How fun is that! Social media and travel – for some that is an ideal combination.

    • Bridget,

      Yes, it does sound like a dream come true — social media and travel.

      Based on the interview that you read from the organizers of Florens 2012, what topic would you be interested in learning more about? How do you think we can draw inspiration from Florence and bring it back to Southern California so we may replicate some ideas for our cultural arts and environmental community?

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  • Danielle Babbington

    Very informatavie post. Thanks for sharing and I hope you get selected so I get to read more blogs of the event come November 🙂

  • Allen Wilson

    Wow! Very fascinating article. Social Media, culture, food and arts all at once in Florence, Italy = DREAM!


  • Meaty, beautifully written post Ted. Like was said above, I really hope they select you – I look forward to reading more posts in your blog – you have an effortless way of bringing great stories to light, and it would be wonderful to cut you loose in Florence 🙂 #OneOfTheGreatestCitiesInTheWorld

  • Kim Pham

    If I was in charge of choosing the 5 bloggers to attend this educational & influential event- You, Ted is a MUST on my list. Im fortunate to have a friend/ mentor who is so passionate and well- rounded. Good luck & keep up your terrific work 🙂

  • I’m the stepmother Nancy was visiting while Ted was at my house. He is the professional who has put all my books on Ebooks and now on to Books in Print. Nancy was visiting and what an opportunity for both Ted and Nancy to share their knowledge. Ted, as I’ve always said, you are special. I’m sure you’ll be selected to go to Florence and that you will meet Nancy again. Cheers, June

    • What a chance encounter and such a small world that Nancy has lived in Florence for more than 40 years.

      It was absolutely wonderful to spend Saturday morning with both of you sharing insights and perspectives on world events and reflecting on the cultural aspects that connect us and make our lives more meaningful.

      I hope to see Nancy again — perhaps next time in Tuscany!

      Warmest regards,

  • They’d be lucky to have you Ted. Florence is smart for bringing today’s storytellers from around the world to that amazing city, to learn all about the critical issues related to the environment and culture and then come back and share their stories with their networks. Storytelling has passed stories since the beginning of time, and they would be lucky to have you spreading the insights and ideas generated there to us here in California.

    I’d love to learn more about how the EU looks at sustainable energy and climate change and our dependence on foreign oil, and how those all work together. I’m also interested in how they think it’s best to protect and ensure the rich cultural heritage of the EU is preserved and ingrained in future generations?

    Good luck!

    • Morgan,

      Thanks for sharing your comment. You’re absolutely right — it’s really all about story-telling. And it starts right here before the event. I think the event organizers have a goldmine on their hands with the sheer talent of story-tellers throughout the world.

      I’d also like to explore your suggestions on climate change and sustainable energy. I can’t wait to find out more, share and learn with the social media community.

      Hope you will follow the hashtag #Florens2012 and let me know how I’m doing!


  • Brian Hall

    Ted, This event is right down your alley! I hope you are able to go. With your professional background in community development, transportation/transit, public relations and now social media…oh, and your passion for food, your perspectives would be most interesting.

    Take me with you!

    Brian Hall
    Seoul, South Korea

  • Farid

    Good luck, Ted! They’d certainly be lucky to have you. Especially with the sustainability theme and your expertise in transit.

  • Jenna

    I agree that Florence is the place to hold such an event that mixes culture, arts, traditions, unique workmanship, and more. The event sounds very exciting, and the more I learn about the foundation and its work, the more I talk to others and get them interested, too! I enjoyed reading your interview with Alexandra.

    • Jenna,

      Thanks for the kind comment. I’m super excited about the possibility of meeting you, Alexandra and the rest of Team Florens 2012 should we be so lucky to be selected.

      Did you check out the post about the Pageant of the Masters, a nearly 80-year tradition in Laguna Beach?


      It’s amazing how this little community could sustain the arts pageant for eight decades and it’s stronger than ever, contributing to the local economy and strengthening the arts.

      Looking forward to reading your posts! Go Team Florens!


      • Jenna Francisco

        I just saw the post about the Pageant of the Masters.It is so important for communities to take pride in such events, even here in the U.S. Looking forward to meeting you and working with you soon!

  • Ashley

    Excellent article.. I’ve heard a lot about Florens and many of my friends in the field of art go there,learn and gain experience.. This year am not gonna miss it!

  • Laura

    Wonderful blog Ted! I hope your expertise in social media,community and public relations you can certainly bag for the spot in Team Florence..Goodluck!

  • Brian Mcmillan

    I am eagerly looking forward to Florens 2012 in November
    which has been a major international conference on themes related to cultural heritage, with associated events interesting to the general public. A bi-annual event, last time they staged a copy of the David in the various places it might have been installed, and also put down green grass in piazza Duomo for a weekend.It was great!

  • Mark Davis

    Nice blog! I have been really looking forward to plan my holiday somewhere and Florence looks a perfect destination this time.
    Beyond the many permanent tourist attractions in Florence like churches and museums,these exhibits, major concerts, fairs and otherevents make life or a holiday here more varied.

  • Carl Jenkison

    Florens 2012 Cultural and Environmental Heritage Week:a biennial event which has been exploring how culture can generate economy, a thesis that is particularly relevant in arts-rich Italy. This year by implementing this type of blogger engagement which is often used in the travel, fashion and food industries but is unique in the field of the arts, demonstrating how Florens 2012 is adopting a visionary strategy to reach its goals.

  • Joe Allen

    I am so happy and excited that Ted has been chosen for this wonderful event to create awareness.. I hope this going to be an excellent event!

  • James

    Beautiful article Ted! With you in the bloggers team it shouldn’t be difficult to grab attention and spread the event and its publicity.. Hope to have a chance to meet you there in November.

  • Matilda

    It is a creative move from Florence this year to appoint mediators like you Ted between the organizers and public who can publicize the event more efficiently and bring more people to the city of Florence.. Good job Ted!

  • Chrissy

    Its gonna be dream come true to visit and experience this event live in the authentic and historical city of Florence.. Thanks for posting this wonderful information Ted!

  • Collins

    Fabulous article Ted! I have been participating in this event since quite some time and this year i hope it turns out more fruitful.. Learners like us get to grab so much from this wonderful gathering.. Gonna start packin my bags now:-)

  • Joseph

    Congrats Ted on making to the Team Florens 2012.. It wasn’t much a surprise though as we all expected you to be there..Wish you all the best. You hav been doing a terrific job! Thanks

  • Elmira

    It’s great that a region with such a rich history is embracing the ever-evolving platform of social media. It’s helpful that they’re providing a live stream of some of the talks because, as your post mentions, not everyone that is interested is able to attend.

  • Pingback: Little Saigon enchants with big flavors of culture and cuisine()

  • Oh Ted! I hope you get chosen to go to Italy and report on this lovely event live and in person. I count on your blog to open my eyes to some of the most touching and culturally diverse stories around the world. I VOTE FOR TED.

  • Ted, this conversation, which from my point of view is an experience, shows that an audio story is still very powerful. Is the tacit knowledge Nancy gained by living in Italy, an experience that one has to live in order to understand a culture and be able to share it with others. We, at talkexperience.com, are strong believers in sharing the tacit knowledge not only at personal level, but also at the professional one. Imagine the wealth of history Florence has gathered over hundreds of years. The golden nugget is to find the people who lived or are still living in a 16th century building and have them tell their story in that building and the stories they heard from the previous owners. Same goes for objects sold at auctions: sell them along with their audio history. This is what, in time, can become an universal tacit knowledge library. Cheers, Claudiu @talkexperience

  • Danielle

    Ted I love how you have provided a complete picture on what Florence is trying to do. You would totally rock this!

  • Pingback: Cultivating the Kingdom of Cambodia’s majesty with sustainable tourism()

  • Pingback: Facebook launches hashtag feud with Twitter - Ted Nguyen USA | PR, social media and other moving solutions()

  • Pingback: Facebook Launches Hashtag Feud with Twitter | Beehooved()