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IF2020, the virtual “Ideas Festival”

Date

11 Sep 2020

Sections

InfoSociety

Brussels, 11 September 2020 - Brussels-based startup One Policy Place (OPP) has burst the Brussels bubble with their recent international success IF2020, the Ideas Festival. More than 1000 international participants signed up for two packed days, featuring 100 expert speakers from all over the world and touching on a wide range of topics, including the European Green Deal and green recovery, packaging and waste, biodiversity, inclusivity and diversity in the Brussels bubble, and much more.

Held on the Hopin platform, IF2020 was the first ever virtual festival with a focus on EU policy and participants spent over 54 days on the platform enjoying the event. Igor Sarkissian, Head of Policy at OPP, says, “Organising this festival has been an amazing challenge and it allowed us to work with so many great people! I am really grateful to all the partners, speakers and staff involved. Seeing six months of work unravel live over 25+ hours of debate was an incredibly satisfying feeling. We set off with the goal of bringing new ideas forward, and the 100 speakers who took the floor did just that”.

The festival aimed to be a digital solution for bringing people together at a time when all in-person festivals have been cancelled and Zoom meetings have replaced traditional face-to-face meetings, discussions and debates. During the festival, participants made new connections in one-on-one video networking sessions and chatted with representatives of innovative startups in the festival booth area.

Because the event was marketed to an international audience and included speakers from non-European companies and SMEs, the Brussels bubble was truly burst, allowing for unique and fascinating discussions which featured a variety of perspectives and opinions. The best example was the hugely popular session “Is Brussels Really United in Diversity?”, which took place in the morning on the first day and set the tone for the festival with a lively and engaging discussion on an extremely important topic.

The session was organised by OPP, and Sarkissian said, “Sincerely, so much happened over these two days that it is actually tough to highlight one moment… Though, I’d like to give a special shoutout to the panel on inclusivity and diversity. This is a discussion that we increasingly need to have in Brussels not only in the institutions but across the Bubble. I am glad that OPP took the opportunity to bring this forward at #IF2020.”

During the session, Gurpreet Brar, COO, Edelman Public Affairs and General Manager, Edelman Brussels, pointed out that making Brussels - and Europe as a whole - more diverse was not just a task for the European Institutions, but that every industry and company would need to play its part. He said that we are “past the point of words” and now is the time to act.

Brar also highlighted the fact that having more diversity in business yields better results and increased creativity through engagement with different perspectives, meaning that if both government and industries became more inclusive it could actually lead to increased innovation and better solutions to today’s challenges.

The following day, Chelsea Football Club showcased its efforts to “have a positive impact on global society, on and off the pitch” by fighting against antisemitism. Panelist Lord Mann, Advisor to the UK government on Antisemitism said, “The reach of football is so huge, the badge of Chelsea is so famous, therefore if Chelsea does something, it represents the values of the club and you cannot underestimate the positive impact it has on the Jewish community, especially on young Jewish people in this country”.

The fact that the festival covered so many diverse topics enabled participants to pick up on overarching themes and “big ideas”. The need for increased consumer transparency to support consumer-driven change was discussed by almost every panel. Michèle Brülhart, Executive Director of The Copper Mark, said “Responsible practices are now becoming the basic expectation, both from consumers and investors”.

The sentiment was echoed by speakers in sessions focused on an incredibly wide-ranging set of topics, from sustainable fashion to transport. The speakers agreed that COVID-19 has set in motion a new wave of consumer demands for sustainable choices and alternatives, and that the pandemic has shown how fragile and unsustainable our way of life has become.  According to Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director-General of DG MOVE, “The public wants a different kind of mobility emerging from this crisis - especially in urban areas - which opens up new ways to reduce dependence on private vehicles...we need to do more to support public transport”.

Consumer transparency is now an essential issue in many industries. Consumers are demanding sustainable alternatives, but without the necessary information they will never be able to make the right choices. In the session on sustainable fashion, Baptiste Carriere-Pradal, Chair of The Policy Hub, said that information on the sustainability of fashion brands should be made so clear to consumers that the data is “not even a click away”.

Transparency and communication within industries was also raised as a solution for creating a more sustainable future. In a session on the renovation wave organised by Bellona, panelists highlighted the need to share information across the whole construction chain. This would increase efficiency, speed up innovation, and enable the industry to work together on the renovation of buildings.

Representatives of festival sponsor PepsiCo spoke on three panels related to waste management, the green recovery and biodiversity, and the need for collaboration in these areas was one of the main messages the company conveyed. PepsiCo highlighted some of the key commitments it is making in these areas, including its signing of the Business Ambition for 1.5°C pledge, support of the EU Green Deal as an ambitious growth strategy for Europe, and its commitment to reaching its long-term goals on climate, packaging and agriculture. Silviu Popovici, CEO, PepsiCo Europe, said “The only viable recovery is a green recovery. Europe has the opportunity to provide climate leadership globally and PepsiCo fully supports this vision. We look forward to supporting the ambitions of the Green Deal with bold strategies and decisive action.”

An online festival with a global audience and panels composed of international speakers would not be complete without a discussion on globalisation. The festival theme of “big innovative ideas” was showcased by Martin Sandbu, the Financial Times's European Economics Commentator and author of the hot off the press “The Economics of Belonging”.

In an interview with Shada Islam, Sandbu pointed out that “globalisation and deregulation do not have to go together” and that the right policies can lead to positive globalisation and liberalism.

A key takeaway was that the shift away from a west-centred liberal world means that the status quo is no longer enough. We need to find radical solutions with new partners if we want to maintain a liberal and multilateral global stage. And these solutions will have to satisfy sustainability, biodiversity and social criteria if they are to represent a credible alternative.

In true SME-style, OPP managed to put on this innovative and unique two-day extravaganza with only 10 employees, all of whom are working from home to do their part in the fight against COVID-19.

Anna Karklina, Chief Policy Officer at OPP says, “I want to say a huge thank you and well done to the whole OPP team for their efforts and dedication. They have worked tirelessly over the past 6 months to deliver this incredible festival, all the while making sure that OPP’s daily operations continue to run as normal and that our clients continue to receive high-quality EU information services. I also want to thank all of the attendees and panellists who made the first ever virtual Ideas Festival such a smashing success. I hope everyone left the festival grounds inspired by the festival’s big ideas, but also committed to taking the necessary actions to secure not only the future of Europe, but also of the planet.”

Contact

One Policy Place

Anna Karklina

Chief Policy Officer

anna.karklina@onepolicyplace.com

Luisa Frumenzi

Co-Founder

luisa.frumenzi@onepolicyplace.com

+32 488 968 319

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