The Idealenfabriek ("Ideals Factory") puts utopian themes up for discussion through our own magazine, discussion evenings, meals, exhibitions and publications. The Idealenfabriek wants to look at all the different angles of complex issues in an extensive and thorough manner, thereby attempting to improve society – even just by a little bit. Trying to improve society is worth the effort alone. Utopian dreams give hope. Hope for a better future.
After several years of organizing discussion meetings as a platform, we’ve decided to focus more on offering direct supporting to different kinds of initiatives working to improve our society. For this reason we have decided to discontinue the Idealenfabriek activities in their current form. We will no longer organize meetings, and the last edition of Andersland will be the last one which is published.
The Idealenfabriek will not completely disappear: we keep the door open for the Idealenfabriek to make a comeback in the future to highlight utopian themes – perhaps in another form, through one-time events, or collaborations.
Conversations in Leiden and Wageningen
The Idealenfabriek activities took place at two Utopa locations: the Weeshuis ('Orphanage') in Leiden and Sculpture Gallery Het Depot in Wageningen. At each location we regularly engaged in moderated conversations with scientists, writers, journalists, artists, filmers, photographers, musicians, government officials, politicians and civilians.
Each speaker's 'pitch' has been uploaded to our website (under Video's), as well as a video summary of each discussion.
In our own magazine Andersland ("Different land") we highlight and deepen the themes of the Idealenfabriek.
Utopian ideals seem to be in the spotlight again. And of course that is not only related to the fact that 500 years ago, Thomas More's Utopia rolled off the press in Leuven. In the Idealenfabriek, the Utopa Foundation wants to look at all the different angles of complex issues in an extensive and thorough manner, thereby attempting to improve society even just a little bit. We put varying utopian themes on the table through our own magazine, discussion evenings, meals, exhibitions and publications.
Utopian ideals, belief in something better
Utopian ideals have increasingly faded into the background since the end of the previous century. Utopian thinkers were dreamers. The chance at realising these dreams was marginal, very marginal. Over the years, these utopian ideals were replaced by self-interest, cynicism, negativity and pessimism. People thought it less and less necessary to put idealist effort into social and political improvements, if these did not center the individual. Even so, idealism is the best answer to these developments. It is not so much about realising our ideals at all costs, but utopian ideals rather allow us and our fellow citizend to believe that there are other and better options. Utopian ideals lead the way.
Attempting to improve our society is worth the efforts alone. We do not always have to give in to feeling discouraged. Utopian dreams give hope. Hope for a better future. A better future for ourselves, our children and our planet.
Chair of the Utopa Foundation
Stichting Utopa (The Utopa Foundation) derives its name from the Topa Group, a group of companies operating in transport packaging, focusing on trade, production, technology, research and training. The foundation was launched in 1988, since when it has owned all the shares in the Topa Group. Some of the income of the foundation comes from the dividends that the foundation receives from these shares. Despite the link that exists between Stichting Utopa and the Topa Group on account of the share ownership, the foundation has no commercial control over the Topa Group. The relationship between Stichting Utopa and the Topa Group resembles that of a coin: two sides that cannot see each other but which still belong together. Two different faces that constitute one unit.
The main reason why former owner of the Topa Group, Loek Dijkman, decided to subsume his company into Stichting Utopa was his vision that a company’s role in its environment goes further than providing employment and making a profit. In his view, a company does not pay out its ‘surplus profit’ to shareholders but to the community that nurtures it. The profit is used for the greater good.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
Neither the act of subsuming the assets of a company into a foundation or the idea underlying it are new. Back in 1889, in Germany Ernst Abbe founded the Carl Zeiss Stiftung in Jena. Abbe was personally convinced that ‘corporate ownership should serve more stringent ethical standards and be treated as public property, insofar as that exceeds the standard of a suitable wage for work’. In our own country, in around 1900 utopian movements were started around Frederik van Eeden and Nescio. In 1972, the Van Leer Group, another packaging company, channelled its corporate assets into a foundation for idealistic purposes.
OBJECTIVE ACCORDING TO BY-LAWS
The objective of Stichting Utopa according to its by-laws is: to stimulate and promote the creative talent of people, particularly those whose potential goes unrecognised, for whatever reason. Our society places great emphasis on certain values, while neglecting others. The foundation aims to restore such imbalances. As the values emphasised by society regularly change, the foundation constantly adjusts its focus. History teaches us that economic arguments are often key to decision-making. Later these arguments sometimes prove to be one-sided, debatable or even incorrect. With the resources it has at its disposal, the foundation wishes to somehow compensate this one-sided value judgement and act as a catalyst in a desired change process. At the same time, the foundation wants to emphasise the relativity of our current system without immediately offering a better (utopian) alternative.
The name of Stichting Utopa fits wonderfully well within the Topa Group. This name obviously evokes associations with Utopia, the book published by Thomas More in 1516 in which he described an idyllic society. A utopia... Thomas More was followed by many more utopians, also in the Netherlands. Despite the differences in substance, all utopias throughout the ages concern the relationship between man and his environment, between man and his fellow man, between man and nature and between man and his work. In terms of these relationships, historic realisation is a recurring element in the work of Stichting Utopa.
Utopa Foundation, Leiden
Sculpture Gallery Het Depot, Wageningen
Utopa-Weeshuis Kinderrechtenhuis, Leiden