Border Sessions Festival:“Our thinking about society needs to get linked to the latest technology”

Global challenges Social innovation Startups Technology

Gerrit Jan Van ‘t Veen is co-founder of Border Sessions, a cutting-edge international festival in The Hague that focuses on technology for society. Or, more specifically, on how emerging technologies are shaping our future society. He has an interesting take on The Hague’s unique dynamics as governance city that focuses a lot of its energy on resolving societal issues, both in the Netherlands and internationally.

“The fact that The Hague is first and foremost a government city determines its identity to a large extent,” Gerrit Jan explains. “The city has a large number of professionals that are thinking about societal questions on a relatively abstract level. Combined with the large number of international organizations that are present in The Hague, this makes for an interesting cocktail of a large number of people that are thinking of societal questions that are relevant in the Dutch context, as well as the world at large.”

Technology for society: fresh new outlooks

“We decided to found the Border Sessions festival, because we were interested to see what happens when we’d introduce a technology-focused festival in a city like The Hague,” Gerrit Jan says. “Because The Hague is not at all part of the technology hype, the environment creates spaces for fresh new outlooks and interesting new ideas.”

The festival focuses on technology for society. “When you look at the very real societal questions that many organizations that are based in The Hague are grappling with, and you match them with up-to-date ideas about social and technological innovation, interesting new ideas come to the surface,” he says.

“It’s my wish for The Hague that its resident international organizations that are working on resolving the global issues of our day and age start looking more inwards, towards the city” – Gerrit Jan Van ‘t Veen, co-founder at Border Sessions festival

A shame

Many of the long-time resident organizations in the city have traditionally attracted their external expertise and collaborators from elsewhere – simply because it was customary for international organizations to spend their funds abroad, or because being located in The Hague made sense primarily from a political point of view. “As a result, local networks aren’t fully developed,” Gerrit Jan argues.

“This is a shame as there is so much opportunity for interesting solution-driven collaboration, right here, in the city,” he adds. “It’s my wish for The Hague that its resident international organizations that are working on resolving the global issues of our day and age start looking more inwards, towards the city.”

Building local networks

“The Hague provides a veritable seed bed to come up with all sorts of exciting, out-of-the-box solutions for different kinds of complex challenges. The presence of knowledge centers, such as Leiden University, Delft University and Erasmus University, as well as world-renowned innovative companies and organizations all help to create this unique environment,” says Gerrit Jan.

That’s why he hopes local parties will increasingly start building local networks to provide their supply line of innovation of all kinds – entrepreneurial, technological, and social – to feed into their work on societal issues. He adds, “I firmly believe that The Hague is the type of place that offers the perfect environment to test all sorts of solutions that are relevant, both locally and internationally.”