“Working to influence and change mindsets is the most effective way to achieve lasting large-scale change. As mindsets change, they will pull social norms, political opinions and consumer behavior along with them. While politics and leaders certainly can influence culture and norms, we believe culture has much more influence on politics and leaders. Where culture goes, politicians either follow or lose elections, and companies either change or go bankrupt.” (Butler, 2021)
Our best bet for “revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development” (SDG 17) is to channel the transformative power of people towards direct action, while using culture change as an accelerator (UNESCO, 2021). Informed, empowered, likeminded people will be eager to drive the transformations that society needs at a much faster pace than that of political or business processes. And this is what mainstreaming is all about.
In practice, as evidence collected over the years has amply demonstrated, cultural aspects, including active participation in cultural life, the development of individual and collective cultural liberties, the safeguarding of tangible and intangible cultural heritages, and the protection and promotion of diverse cultural expressions, are core components of human and sustainable development. They can also have positive effects in other areas of sustainable development. As the Preamble of the 2030 Agenda indicates:
“We acknowledge the natural and cultural diversity of the world and recognize that all cultures and civilizations can contribute to, and are crucial enablers of, sustainable development.”
Cultural aspects play a pivotal role for the 2030 Agenda to be successful. Cultural rights, heritage, diversity and creativity are core components of human and sustainable development.” (UCLG, 2018)
When looked from a bottom-up approach, the diversity of stakeholders (companies/investors, suppliers/service providers, clients/users and communities) that become aware and engaged, after a Participatory Action Research (PAR) process, strengthens the possibility of “revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development” (SDG 17), by prompting a top-down societal change through mainstreaming.
“Culture offers exploratory, interrogative and critical approaches to the world and its systems, and nourishes the ability to identify and analyse current and complex challenges that need transversal and multidisciplinary responses to be understood and acted upon. The sustainability concept is usually based on the three-pillar paradigm: economic, environmental and social. A cultural pillar is necessary for its value in the creation of collective narratives, its ability to consolidate communities and foster diversity as an essential element in sustainability. Indeed, culture has a transformative power crucial for building a sustainable future for all.”
Our theory of change is based on the premise that knowledge generated at the grassroots level by individuals, communities of practice and companies/investors -especially startups and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs)-, through Participatory Action Research (PAR), can have a huge transformative potential because it is collectively owned, and thus, mainstreamed.