#IYIL2019: Connecting language, culture and social enterprise

2019 marks the International Year of Indigenous Languages - a chance to celebrate, promote, and protect indigenous languages and improve the lives of those who speak them.

Our Highlands & Islands Hub Manager, David Bryan, reflects on the role that social enterprise can play in promoting indigenous langages and cultures, while increasing the economic development of these communities.


Culture is how we make sense of the world. It is reflected in the things we do – music, crafts, dance, art, song. Collectively it defines communities, it binds us together. 

Globally, indigenous cultures are under threat. The rise of mass communication since the late twentieth century threatens to bring about a pervasive single global culture. This has accelerated a process that began with colonialism, in which a handful of languages from the global north replaced many thousands from the global south. Instantly recognisable brands are ubiquitous on every continent. Sport, art, and music is all becoming homogenised. In this process, some indigenous cultures can be perceived as less sophisticated, of lower value, or associated with rurality and under-development.

Connecting cultural identity, creativity and social enterprise

Celebrating cultural identity is the starting point for cultural rebirth. While language is central, there are other key elements to be considered, such as how we approach tourism.

Tourism is the world’s single biggest industry and it continues to expand exponentially. Increasingly, tourism is about authentic experiences in which visitors can become ‘temporary locals’, with meaningful engagements with local culture. Culture is reflected in creativity, so it has an instrumental value. Since culture defines not only individuals but communities, collective responses to enterprise opportunities are an obvious vehicle. Far from being a ‘woolly’ concept, worth preserving only for its own sake, preserving culture is central to the economic and social development of communities, and social enterprise is an ideal catalyst.

"Far from being a ‘woolly’ concept, preserving culture is central to the economic and social development of communities, and social enterprise is an ideal catalyst."

This has been recognised by the British Council in its ‘Developing Inclusive and Cultural Economies’ (DICE) programme which supports the development of creative and social enterprises in the UK and five key emerging economies: Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and South Africa.

In July, Social Enterprise Academy facilitator Anne Martin travelled from Skye to Jakarta to support creative social entrepreneurs from several Indonesian islands. Part of British Council's DICE programme, “Inclusive Islands” is a collaboration between  PLUS (Platform Usaha Sosial)British Council Indonesia and the Social Enterprise Academy, which will boost Indonesia’s impact support ecosystem by uniting social enterprise experience from the remote islands of Scotland to Indonesia - the worlds largest island archipelago. 

Anne spent a week with 25 learners from five different communities, different cultures, all reflected in the creative social enterprises they are developing. The programme ended with learners producing a social business model canvas for their enterprises, which characterised their plan for realising value of their cultural identity.

Sharing learning from Indonesia to Scotland's gaelic-speaking communities

Anne is an internationally renowned Gaelic singer and organiser of Gaelic music festivals in Skye. She understands culture and identity, but goes to Indonesia not as an ‘expert’ but a facilitator open to learning herself. These insights will be taken back to Scotland, and specifically to the Isle of Lewis where Anne will facilitate a ‘Future Leaders for Creative Communities’ programme in Autumn 2019.

The programme, facilitated in Gaelic medium, will share the innovation, inspiration and vision from Indonesia's islands, and apply this to the reality of Eilean Siar. Taking learning from one archipelago to another rather different island group, we are beginning to create connections which form a global community of social entrepreneurs; a community using social enterprise as a way to celebrate and share cultural identity and languages.

"Taking learning from one archipelago to another rather different island group, we are beginning to create connections which form a global community of social entrepreneurs."


Find out how you can support and promote the 2019 Year of Indigenous Languages.

Learn more about British Council's DICE programme collaborations in this article from Pioneers Post.

 
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