SIP Tea Talk 1 – Learning from the Basque Country on gastronomy for local transformation (18.45-20.00 hrs.) by Gorka Espiau Idoyaga shares about recovery of the nearly collapsing country through food culture to become one of the global innovation leaders which many restaurants have received Michelin stars. The country gets rid of conflicts to create freedom and stand on own feet through innovation.
The facilitator has worked with UNDP for many years. The Basque Country is located in the northern of Spain, closed to the southern of France, with population of three million people. Its geography is similar to the southern of Thailand. It has own language which is one of the oldest languages in Europe. The challenge is it has different culture from neighboring states. In the past, it had metal industry and steel factories. However, it was nearly collapsed due to economy and the government’s actions. The people demanded for independent state which led to unrest. We have transformed ourselves through social innovation and gastronomy to connect to the world.
Study of Harvard University explains about the transformation. Human development index of the Basque Country is relatively high, comparing to other European countries due to changes of landscape, support from private sector, and cooperatives under service sector. Moreover, there are funds from big companies investing in motor industry; meanwhile, small companies get local support to develop economy. It also has association of researches on EU level, and the people have been encouraged to work as a group from levels of school, community and EU.
Students at school learn Basque, English and Spanish without separation. Funds are provided to restore the culture. Freedom and human rights have been promoted, and collaboration to solve the unrest has been created. At that time, the chef is able to work during the unrest. The transformation is quick, less than hundred years. While, the unrest is continuing, the solutions have been explored to build confidence that the transformation is possible. The people is motivated to collaborate which is considered as internal drive. If projects are in silo pattern, transformation will not be success. Portfolio project is needed, not silo project.
In terms of gastronomy which is in the service sector, related parties brainstorm and Michelin is invited. Cooking Club is arranged to gather chefs to brainstorm of how to utilize the culture as resources for gastronomy under the culture aspect. Technology has been developed to bring attention. Universities, restaurants, producers, companies join hands to create commercial value on food culture by experimenting new things and creating new menus from local resources. Finally, Michelin stars are awarded, and restaurants have become well-known.
For transformation innovation, most people think of innovation as technology, but it is not completely true. We need to consider social innovation and technology innovation working together to improve new things. For our case, we need to help our people to be freed from starvation and poverty which technology investment has been made as a solution. Furthermore, companies are established to create jobs in the Basque Country. The companies hire mental illness patients who are capable to work through agreement with the government, such as recruitment companies for motor industry. This is social innovation that helps the patients to work. The most important factor is stakeholders who have vision to solve issues, understand both aspects to create transformation and improve skills.
For policy makers, transformation does not aim to change people’s thinking, but create understanding. People will want to work with us, if we can reach them. Ordering them to work does not retain them to be with us. At present, we use digital listening to analyze deep meaning of conversation and consider changes. We need to truly understand the transformation through the deep listening. If we cannot connect narratives to our test regardless of how long we have been there, we need to retest it.
The Basque Country has solved issues through innovation. How can we adapt such solution to the southern of Thailand? At that time, it was difficult for the people to work together due to the unrest and it was hard to start something new. We tried so hard to bring up the freedom. Many sectors such as the government and the private sectors said that freedom was needed in order to have good economy. However, through the transformation, we found that the better economy positively impacted the mediation for freedom. Collaboration has been started first, following by portfolio, and consistent work, and discussion area is very crucial. At the Social Institution, public policy related teams work with UNDP to create collaboration framework. For the southern region, it has rich heritage in terms of resources and culture, and there are various startups. We need to start with community to gather participants. For example, in Basque Country, the Basque Culinary Center was established as well as cooperatives. Public service has been prepared for the people, and regulations are formulated to support all sectors. These factors enable innovation which will be improved occasionally resulting economic competition and better employment.
Local culture is a tool of transformation. However, it will be possible through listening to each other as to connect people together. Then, investments will be started to run projects. The systemic transformation and prototyping must take needed factors into account. Thailand has all of the factors, but timing might different. Thus, we need to be confident. Sandbox is necessary to test complicated systems. We cannot do the same thing forever; we need to change to create new things. Thus, co-creation is a must. The southern region has potential for the transformation. We just need to value our existing resources to achieve the transformation.
Thailand does not have suitable environment to operate projects at the moment. This is not different from the Basque Country; its regulations have been revised to achieve agreements through experiment which could be adapted in other projects. Sandbox is also a tool for sustainable transformation, which is better than issuing regulations without supplemental information. We need to enhance efficiency together with prototyping simultaneously. For example, 6-month permit is granted to test green technology for energy business in the southern region of Thailand; meanwhile, community capacity is being enhanced simultaneously.
For social innovation, sandbox is needed as well as investors’ confidence. We cannot build trust by doing nothing. The trust is from discussion and listening as to lead to creation. Money cannot solely build confidence. Investors must be involved from the beginning of projects. Therefore, platform is co-creation tool to attract partners who are aware of systemic work and long-term operations as well as having transformation ideas. Not only aiming to build global reputation, but confidence of local investors must be constructed. The civil society and the government sector must keep their words. Confidence is not built from benefits only, but dynamic from all sectors are needed to build confidence.