“Unmatched Level of Diversity”
I was looking forward to a week of learning, and was also keen on hearing different perspectives from this ‘global’ seminar. Leading the civic issues as well as the housing and transport verticals at my organization, the topic of the seminar was of relevance to me.
For someone who grew up in India, it is often difficult to categorize exactly which ‘ideology’ you belong to. Due to the sprawling ethnic and religious diversity, India has a history of harboring a multi-party system; ideologies often get blurred and candidates’ stances on issues often seem to be of conflicting ideologies.
In this context, for me exposure to the ‘liberal’ ideology was truly fascinating. It was inspiring to see the staff members and facilitators feel so passionate about liberalism. The right to privacy, an open market and free trade, and minimizing regulations to harbor innovation and entrepreneurship were the underlying themes of all the teachings. The conviction of the facilitators to these core principles was self-evident. It was absorbing to witness Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and International Academy for Leadership (IAF) stand up so strongly for what true liberalism is. For me, it was also a testament to the organization’s belief in its founding principles.
23 participants from 20 countries joined the seminar. They included members of parliament, architects, engineers, civil society workers, bureaucrats - stakeholder from virually all areas of policy making. I found the level of diversity unmatched; this brought out some great experiences and perspectives. Through the sharing of experiences, I learnt that in all our diversity, all our races, cultures, values, languages, and traditions, we all have a lot in common: Frustrated with our leaders, we demand better; we desire policy makers who have the foresight to build a better world!
For me, the seminar was of great professional and personal benefit. I enjoyed numerous experiences which I will probably never forget and also built an extensive network. Professionally, my biggest take backs were on urbanization and urban planning, the role of technology from a liberal perspective, the roles of urban governments in the building of smart cities, and the implementation of best practices in the context of various global cities.
The campus is located in the picturesque and quaint town of Gummersbach and seems conducive to learning and innovation. Beyond Gummersbach, our visit to Cologne left me awe-inspired. Climbing to the top of the Cathedral tower and looking over the city, I realized that everything I am seeing has been built up from rubble. The resilience and patriotism of the German people is inspiring. I found Germany to be a beautiful, advanced country with good people and great beers!
I am now looking forward to using my network to enact change for the betterment of people, advocate for smarter planning of our cities, and implement the knowledge gained in the seminar in my professional career at Praja Foundation. I aim to disseminate the information I obtained in the seminar to the various urban planning experts and policy makers to aid and enable them to truly build not just a smart city, but a smartly governed city with the help of technology.
Rahul Kulkarni is currently working at Praja Foundation in Mumbai, India. He manages Research & Data under the ‘Civic Issues’ as well as 'Housing & Transport' vertical. He recently attended FNF-IAF's leadership program in Gummersbach, Germany on Smart Cities and Modern Mobility. In this report, he is sharing his personal thoughts.