ARTS World Café at the Umundu Festival 2014

ARTS World Café at the Umundu Festival 2014

Shortly after the kick-off event of the ARTS project in Dresden the team invited activists for change to a World Café at the Umundu Festival. About 30 people joined into the discussion about sustainability, personal motivation and how to accelerate change in Dresden.

Die deutsche Version des Artikels ist hier.

Umundu Festival

Just a few days after launching ARTS officially in Dresden, the research team conducted a World Café at the Umundu Festival 2014. This festival wants to promote globally sustainable consumption and is in its 6th year now. Check out this promotional film for the Umundu Festival 2014:

Next to about 100 events throughout the city Umundu also hosted a symposium to deal more in depth with this year’s festival theme. The theme was “The good life – What do we need for our happiness?”.

The good life - Umundu Festival 2014 Picture: Umundu press photo

The good life – Umundu Festival 2014
Picture: Umundu press photo

ARTS World Café

At this symposium the ARTS research team hosted a World Café event to come in close contact with Dresden’s activists for change. In a World Café event people sit around café tables and talk about given questions. It is not about a solution to the questions, it is more about openly sharing thoughts, ideas, knowledge and experiences between various people. The main points are written on a big piece of paper and after a while the people on the table change, mix and start talking about another question on another table. This allows the group to go more in depths into the topics. Find more on that here.

World Café table conversation Picture: Julia Leuterer

World Café table conversation Picture: Julia Leuterer

After the ARTS research team of Dresden introduced itself and the project they revealed the questions for the World Café to the about 30 participants. The three questions were partly derived from suggestions from the kick-off event a few days earlier.

The three questions to be discussed were:

  • What does sustainability mean to the active people in Dresden?
  • What is their motivation to be active for change and where does the inspiration come from?
  • What is helping or preventing an acceleration of change in Dresden?

My impressions

Unfortunately I cannot tell you everything that happened in these three hour long conversations with all these different people. I can just say that I found it fascinating how deeply we delved into the questions and how helpful it is to connect to other people in the process. One effect of the event certainly was that the local initiatives reflected on themselves, their perception and their current potentials as well as limits.

One key insight for me was that most activists prefer the positive and creative aspect of their commitment for a sustainable system in comparison to a fight against an unsustainable one.

The most used source for inspiration seems to be the learning from other working models for change throughout the world. Through talks, workshops, visits and internships the knowledge is shared and spread.

The groups also reflected that they are forming a group with their own values and borders which makes it harder for new people to join into the movement. In their experience new people are most likely to join in through low-threshold activities. A barbeque in a community garden is more likely to attract various people than a talk where you need to learn new transition vocabulary first ;)

What does help or hinder accelerating change in Dresden?  Picture: Julia Leuterer

What does help or hinder accelerating change in Dresden?
Picture: Julia Leuterer

I feel the most divergent opinions came up about the question of sustainability. Some people thought it will be unpleasant to reduce the standard of living to be able to live sustainably. Others argued that you gain other, not necessarily materialistic traits in exchange. You may not be able to afford a brand new bicycle for yourself due to limited resources but you can share a few brand new bicycles with your neighborhood, thus improving your communication and organizational skills. And whilst this seemed like a hassle to some, others argued that it would help ease the widespread loneliness, particularly in some parts of society like the elderly.

Sharing the findings afterwards Picture: Julia Leuterer

Sharing the findings afterwards
Picture: Julia Leuterer

So it seems that there is a lot more to talk about. About why we are doing things, how we do them and where do we want to go together. I think the World Café on this 18th of October was quite helpful to get to know each other better and as an open invitation to do more of this in the future.

A penny for your thoughts

What do you think about these questions? What does sustainability mean to you? And what is your motivation to be interested in or active for a changing system? Let’s talk about it… with or without coffee :)

Happy sharing,



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This article was written by

Hi, my name is Julia and I am a permaculturist, an environmental engineer and a blogger for the ARTS region Dresden, Germany. I lived and worked in Dresden, India and Australia on organic farms, in development projects and towards a better understanding of human society. I am excited to be a part of the ARTS project because I see great potentials in combining the efforts of many towards sustainable change. See my blog at

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