The 7th International KRAFT Conference titled, Creative Communities and Their Networks – In Pursuit of Sustainability, took place in a hybrid form at the Knights Hall at Jurisics Castle in Kőszeg. The participants of the three-day series of talks and discussions have presented a wealth of innovative and creative solutions for a more sustainable life and called for a tighter continuous collaboration across different sectors in pursuit of a real change and the achievement of true resilience in the times of multiple interlinked global crises. The creative, interdisciplinary dialogue among academics, professionals and government representatives alike revolved around the interconnected global issues and their localized ramifications. Panel discussions have produced interesting insights such as the need to transition from competition to cooperation, short-term to long-term thinking, complexity to simplicity, development to sustainable re-development or “homo shoppiens” to homo sapiens.
The main topic of the first day was the global landscape during the pandemic and climate change. Following the welcoming remarks of iASK director Ferenc Miszlivetz, who called for new ideas and new wisdom in the light of global crises, Péter Ágh, member of the National Assembly and Béla Básthy, the Mayor of Kőszeg spoke about the importance of fruitful collaborations in the context of developing small cities and preserving the rich cultural heritage. The issue of changing global and local landscapes has been discussed from different angles. Sándor Kerekes, a research fellow at iASK and the founder of the Department of Environmental Economics and Technology at Corvinus University spoke about destructive innovation and creative destruction as a new way of thinking about strategies for the future. András Gelencsér, rector of the University of Pannonia gave an eye-opening presentation about the limits of sustainability and possible strategies for preserving the planet’s resources, while Gergely Tóth, deputy director of iASK spoke about the importance of the soil for the existence of humans. The former vice president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and expert for material sciences, optics, neutron physics and science policies, Norbert Kroó has talked about the importance of slowing down entropy, controlling the accelerated development of technology and creating innovative solutions for global problems.
The second session of the first day of the conference was dedicated to two local examples of sustaining local culture, and tourism through introducing an Interreg-funded project (“Local Flavours”) and the Veszprém-Balaton 2023 European Capital of Culture project. Following general overviews by Mariann Szabó and Mario Neve about the Local Flavours Project and Miroslav Vujicic and Ugljesa Stankov about the European Capital of Culture project, the participants from Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Croatia, Latvia, Italy, Bulgaria and Hungary participated in the roundtable discussion about the experiences and achievements of the two projects. Meanwhile, a parallel session was devoted to discussing ways in which social service providers in western Hungary can improve their institutional resilience. Researchers of the service sector both at iASK and Faculty of Health Services Management Training at Semmelweis University invited managers and service staff from across the region to exchange views and experiences.
The main topic of the second day was Rethinking Sustainability in the Face of Climate Change and the Pandemic. The first session was chaired by János Bogárdi, senior advisor at iASK and the Centre for Development Research at the University of Bonn, while Tamás Tarpataki, Deputy State Secretary spoke about the possibilities for restructuring the economy and rehabilitating agriculture in Hungary. The second session chaired by Jody Jensen, the Director of the Polányi Centre at iASK brought together three experts from different fields to share their ideas and insights about new solutions for sustainability. Shen Xiaomeng, the United Nations University Vice-Rector in Europe and Director of the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security talked about managing interconnected risks of sustainable development. Speaking about the key events of the 2020 and 2021 (including the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon wildfires, Arctic heatwaves, Beirut explosions and cyclone Amphan), she emphasised the fact that multiple crises and environmental catastrophes are interlinked. She spoke about the Adaptive Social Protection project that aims to limit the impacts of disasters and increase the capacity to respond to disasters and climate change. She sent the powerful message: “nobody is an island, we are all interconnected” and underlined the importance of global cooperation in times of multiple crises. Charles Vörösmarty, the Founding Director of the Environmental Sciences Initiative and the co-Chair of the Global Water System Project introduced the concept of sustainable regional redevelopment and stressed that regional as well as global cooperation is necessary in order to tackle environmental issues. Finally, Miklós Szócska, Dean of Faculty of Health Services Management Training at Semmelweis University spoke about sustainable healthcare and emphasised the importance of global cooperation and systematic protection against viruses. The following discussion focused on the issues of preparedness for future challenges and summarised some of the possible approaches such as long-term thinking, cross-border cooperation and finding holistic solutions while emphasising the importance of platforms for exchanging novel ideas such as KRAFT.
The afternoon session of this day was dedicated to the Pannon KRAFT Lab and the Insula Magna research project which deals with complex water management and sustainable development. Ferenc Hizó introduced the concept of multilateral water management, while Ferenc Miszlivetz and János Rechnitzer described pathways from vision to concrete development strategy related to the unique region of Szigetköz in North-western Hungary. Ákos Jakobi and Mariann Szabó have summarised the first milestone of the project while Orsolya Raczova presented the Csallóköz view and Andrea Kárpáti presented research done at the Széchenyi University in Győr. Next, connecting past to the future, Éva Lovra spoke about historical changes in the hierarchy of settlement-networks in the Pannonian region, while Zoltán Gaál and Bálint Nagy discussed the new dimensions of cooperation in Pannonian cities.
Simultaneously, at the Zwinger Old Tower, the mayors and experts of the Pannonian cities gathered for a roundtable discussion. They spoke about strategic plans for the Alliance of Pannonian cities. The conference day ended with the exhibition of works of photographer Zoltán Alexay opened by János Rechnitzer.
The last day was primarily dedicated to summarising the key ideas presented at the conference and discussing the world’s most pressing current issues at a brainstorming session chaired by Mariann Szabó and Ákos Jakobi. Shen Xiaomeng, Jan Leentvaar, Ferenc Miszlivetz, János Bogárdi, Sándor Kerekes, János Rechnitzer and other participants exchanged ideas about dealing with complex regional and global issues from climate change and technological innovations that are challenging the entire humanity to develop, redeveloping and preserving the heritage of small- and medium-sized historic cities. Panellists pointed out that interlinked environmental, social and economic problems need immediate actions and radically new solutions, some of which have been presented at this conference, including sustainable re-development and transnational cooperation.
The second session chaired by iASK research fellow Katalin Galambos focused on the issue of resilience of public service sectors. Participants Monika Tóthné Almássy, Péter Juhász and János Czafrangó spoke about challenges and opportunities in the public service sector including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, digital transformation and artificial intelligence, as well as strategies for creating more opportunities for people with disabilities. The conclusion was that adaptability and cross-sectoral collaboration are crucial for increasing resilience, and the participants of this panel referred back to the previous session in emphasising the importance of interconnectedness, networking and cooperation on the local and global level.
The final session was dedicated to the creative cities of the future that are smarter, greener, more sustainable and more resilient, than the cities of today. Participants Lasma Ivaska, Graham Bell, Tamás Fejérdy, András Nagy, Zoltan Mizsei, Péter Poczai and others have offered new definitions of creativity that could pave the way to redeveloping large and small urban areas in the light of climate change and other grand challenges. In his concluding remarks, Ferenc Miszlivetz said that the key message of the VII KRAFT Conference was that cooperation is crucial in times of interlinked crises and that fundamentally new, holistic and long-term solutions are needed to tackle the global problems of our new hybrid world.