Economists are commonly deemed to be more prone to abstract reasoning than to concrete action. There must be a grain of truth in this, because it is quite common to hear economists jokes in Economics Departments. This one, for example:
After a shipwreck, an economist ends up stranded on a desert island. He looks around and sees a wooden box, washed upon the shore by the waves. He opens it: it is full of canned food, nutritious and long-lasting! However, he does not have any tools to open the cans: is he doomed to starve amidst abundance? The economist does not lose his cool, and he tackles the problem the way his profession tas taught to to: “Assume I have a can-opener…”
Many of us yearn for concreteness. This is why I am so happy to fly to Potenza on Friday 4th: in May 2007 the Ministry of Economic Development asked me to help the Basilicata regional administration in designing a policy to build creative spaces, and now the first space (called Cecilia) is here, and the other four will follow in a matter of months. Not only have they been designed chiefly by the local creatives that are going to use them; they also come with clear guidelines for being turned over to private sector– and third sector entities or running them, which the competent local authorities have signed off to; and are integrated with a pretty advanced governance model of the Region’s cultural policy.
The project is called Visioni Urbane. I have dealt with it before. I’m told it’s becoming some sort of flagship project for the regional adiministration; the “Visioni Urbane method” is being demanded on tackling other policies (for example setting up a regional Film Commission), and the administration itself is building upon the partnership with the creatives created within Visioni Urbane to launch Matera’s bid for European Culture Capital 2019. It is no coincidence that the person in charge of Visioni Urbane, Rossella Tarantino, has been appointed as coordinator of that bid; and another Visioni veteran, Paolo Verri, is serving as scientific director.
My book Wikicrazia contains a lot of Visioni Urbane war stories, and the grandopening of Cecilia will include a book presentation. But what I’m really looking forward to is the joy of witnessing a policy that I helped to develop go live, live and so concrete that I can actually sit and listen to a concert in it. For an economist, this is a thrill, alas, all too rare.