Casa de las Estrategias was born out of the pleasure for research, the fidelity to a question and the need to undertake studies, analysis, and writing with freedom. Casa de las Estrategias founding members were brought together by their work ethics and commitment to social transformation, as well as their belief that gathering independent evidence and developing independent analysis lead to positive results.
Casa de las Estrategias is in essence research, but is concerned with organizational strengthening and the achievement of social transformation through cultural change.
Our research led to the development and disclosure of our ideas and ideals, as well as the development of cultural initiatives and citizen campaigns. These activities in turn directed us to a networking phase allowing us to support young artists, strengthen youth movements, and help new collectives organization. Our work started with young artists but then extended to other types of youth organizations with all kinds of interests.
Through this process, we learned we can change ideas, develop and produce new codes. We can create access –with pleasure- to the knowledge by showing references, esthetics and conditions for the free speech.
A committed research team allows us to maintain a think tank.
A small Communications Office (built from ideas) enables us to keep, promote and drive a network of artists, researchers, promoters and youth-based collectives. Casa de las Estrategias gives opportunities to adolescents, strengthens youth organizations and pushes forth new ideas.
Despite Casa de las Estrategias’ simplistic approach to research and methodology development we have always aimed at bigger accomplishments through rigorous procedures and the development of appropriate tools. We also feel proud to do this giving culture and cultural change a major role in the process; it is based on the belief that achieving cultural change is the mean to find new interpretations of the world and the way to build or transform relationships and social practices.
The shift is in the individual desires which become collective over time. The cultural shift is necessary because our institutions and strategic organizations are made of people and the intense dynamics that rule life in cities which are, themselves, built on thousands of small decisions.
The main issue arises when trying to find out how to do it. Doctor F. Thoumi, professor and researcher states: “We all are aware of the need for a cultural shift, but nobody knows where to start from.” As citizens, we are trapped in a vicious circle defined by space and the construction of it. Nevertheless, we used to allow the space defines us, and change does not seem plausible: a series of objective conditions, formal and informal regulations, and relational language (unspoken, implicit, symbolic) define pleasure and the limit of what is thinkable.
This big arena filled with ruled relations and mediated by a speech of what is established –whether it is right or wrong, prevents us from some desires and defines success and wellbeing.
It is necessary, therefore, “break spaces” and develop a counter-cultural speech and message.
A City with no Fear
Overwhelming power, cruel environment conditions, unfair rules and illegitimate leaderships are built on latent violence.
A person begins to resolve his/her fears and, sometimes, at the end of this chain, his/her solutions are based on violence. Violence is the cornerstone of all fears.
The State should protect its citizens from violent crimes, above all; murder in particular. It should eliminate homicide as a source for any citizen to solve conflicts or gain what he/she wants.
This is the start but not the end point. The end purpose is to eradicate corruption and that is when citizen are really free of fears and free to debate and welcome change.
And once citizens are free of fear. Once freed from fears, debate, critical thought and the opposition become an option and difference is welcomed with sympathy and not perceived as a threat. The end of fear becomes the beginning of mercy.
A city dreamt by artists
Our conception of culture is linked to desire. It defines our capacity for longing, for identity.
Culture in general, comprehensive and conscious, has art at its core: the texture, vision, poetry and narrative of art develop into genuine sensitivity. It is a way to perceive and see the world through the eyes of others; it rehabilitates us and brings back lost pleasures.
Art is the “what” and science the “how.” Art will open the path to imagination and with it, the enlightenment of lives previously shadowed by greed competition, aggression and absurdity. Art develops the power of imagination, and at the same time refutes standard ideas and counter-productive constructions. At the end, art, makes counter-productive constructions seem absurd.
By replacing the idea of competition (the winner is the best) with the idea of excellence (remarkable, brave and rigorous) allows us to undermine the notions of “competitors”, “supervisors” and “subalterns”.
Life needs not to resemble a market, neither should collectives resemble companies: social groups can take many forms and can function without a fixed idea of supervision, even without the idea of leadership. Social movements in particular, cultural collectives, research groups and the artists associations as well, can work based on cooperative relations. This fosters dialogue and deliberation, also the creation of new spaces, room for creativity and a less formal relations. In this scheme, being together becomes a mean rather than an end; being together is the reason of accomplishment and revolves in the idea on wellness. It is almost intuition and a sense that at the end “we’ll be fine”.
As a result, organizing as a group, without a supervisor, without an owner is also a way to value and appreciate difference; homogenization is not necessary or desirable under this scheme. Dissent allows for creativity.
The above makes informal rules and ordinary means of communication relevant to organizational development because agreements are alive and renewed in every moment. This form of collective grouping relies on mutual trust and not on rigid rules.
The disposition to be together, in solidarity also represents a willingness to be exposed to emptiness and the idea that not everything is defined, and therefore that void can be filled through the interaction with others. There is always room for new proposals expresed in a space where new things can happen; things can be re-arrange to embrace new ideas, new feelings. It does not make any sense inviting someone to something already full. Hence, developing collectives, movements, and their campaigns is the invitation to something with voids, something unfinished with the need for new contents.
Networking based on the idea that a void needs to be filled, also implies that individuals can complement each other, help each other develop skills, instead of trying anything and every tasks of the group. Networking is nomadic; it is not localized or territorial.
Those who are seeking to work through networks are radically different from those who are trying to win at all cost risking everything, even trust. Those who are working through networks have different objectives to those who search for growth models, via the incorporation of groups and proposals to their organizations. Those who bet on the net, are afraid of the aridity of monopoly (even if it is beneficial). It is also afraid of the solitude brought by success.
Networking seeks to bring us together and imagines a society where a multitude of organizations and collectives must exist, contribute and be. The network is the return of all colors.
The path is to focus on youth, developing and enabling spaces for encounters and for the strengthening of organizations in such a way collectives can make exchanges (mainly ideas and knowledge), and create and develop lasting bonds of solidarity and friendship.
Adolescence is a time where imagination resides and also a time where is frequent to suffer from chronic demotivation. It is the delicate time when dreams either fall apart or grow stronger.
This society conceptualizes youth as a postponed subject, whom we would like to confine in some box where there is no danger for them. That space denies them pleasures, denies their longings, and undermines their distress.
As we did developing networks, we did working with youth. We let their adolescence define their needs and objectives and make them co-founders of their own process.
Traditional approaches emphasize on welfare, and treat adolescents as victims or threats.
Youth should be treated differently. They should be treated from another perspective, in the present and providing them with new opportunities.
Study groups and creative groups design a plan for themselves, they are then provided with tools and tangible conditions enabling them to create tangible products and results from their work ( paper, a song, graffiti, a theater play).
This kind of dynamic hides an insightful objective: different type of encounters, with other rules for relationships, where you can find protection and restitution of self-respect, and then, other economies of exchange and creation. It becomes a priority to look for debates between adolescents, trying to re-define the idea of success and the appropriation of new symbols.
The love of knowledge then allows individuals to seize learning adventures and learnings are transmitted by example using playful methods. Once self-esteem is reconstructed, the capacity to dream is recovered with knowledge and passion for the information given free will of expression.
A key notion here is instrumentalized adolescents carrying out terrible acts, painful for them and others because they are easily manipulated, and have no criteria to distinguish right from wrong.
Adolescents are capable of thinking for themselves. We must not work under the assumption that adolescents are not obedient because of a need to be persuaded by arguments or that he is not a follower. We must work under the assumption they are different from others, capable. When adolescents acknowledge they can think for themselves, they become indomitable critics relentless to manipulation from violent actors and absurdity.
We need rebel adolescents, to whom you cannot put a price, and who are not obsessed with success. Instead, we need adolescents that promote collaboration, solidarity, friendship, love and support. An adolescent, exposed to art, can finally develop sensibility and mercy.
In the end, it all comes to giving adolescents the sense of life through the pleasure of creativity and the development of their relationships.
By achieving cultural change –acknowledging existing material needs–, we face fear, we eliminate angst and help adolescents find sense to life.
The adolescent period is a very complicated phase, but the adolescents know the truth: this world has lost all sense.