Logo: The Term Progress in Different Cultures
Logos: GIZ, Goethe-Institut

The Term Progress in Different Cultures

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'Your vision of a better world, your drive to promote dialogue and inclusion, as well as hard work made the beautiful wonder of the Fortschritt (Progress) Conference come true.'
Alexander Songal, Head of the Directorate for International Relations of the District Duma of Kaliningrad, participant at the Russian Progress Conference

Initial: C

ulture influences development processes. This idea is by no means new. Cultural factors have always played a major part in development cooperation. In international cooperation the realisation is gaining currency that sustainable development is founded not only on economic, ecological and social factors, but that the cultural dimension is also vitally important. Against this backdrop, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the Goethe-Institut appear to have pinpointed one of the most relevant questions of our times, with their look at the concept of progress in different cultures around the world.

With the project 'The concept of progress in different cultures', the two organisations identified an area where culture and development overlap, breaking new ground in both development cooperation and foreign cultural and education policy. With its interdisciplinary and intercultural approach, and with a focus on dialogue and exchange, the investigation of the concept of progress around the world triggered heated and controversial debate.

In Alexandria, Kolkata, La Paz, Kaliningrad, Windhoek and Gödelitz, close to Dresden, the question 'What is progress?' served as the basis for an exchange of views among academics, politicians and creative artists. It was less an invitation to define the concept of culture than a forum, which allowed participants to discuss the topics that will be vital for the future in the context of the topical and urgent issues facing each region. The question as to how the concept of progress is understood also moved authors, artists and youth groups to take a creative look at the subject, generating an unforeseen momentum that was carried on in a huge number of follow-on activities.

'Progress can be seen as a mix of all that is best in the various cultures around the globe.'
André Strauss, Deputy Director of the Government (Arts and Culture Programmes) in Namibia. Teilnehmer am Fortschrittsprojekt

Everywhere in the world the discussions were punctuated by irritations, sudden flashes of understanding, protest, misunderstandings and accord. One thing is certain. The project is by no means wound up as far as international cooperation is concerned, because our future will continue to be shaped by a process of negotiation – on the political, economic, environmental, social and cultural levels. It is then worthwhile exploring the concept of progress, and returning to this discussion at regular intervals.