In 2014, the NGO tapis plein (Flemish Centre of expertise in ICH and participation; accredited NGO to the UNESCO 2003 Convention) published the book Een toekomst voor ambachten (A Future For Crafts) for a Dutch-speaking audience. The publication collated five years of accumulated practical and policy experience with respect to the modernising of crafts in Flanders. The book offers a guidebook as well as inspiration for policy and craft-related activities that can make crafts future-proof and better position them.

In the book, the praxis and questions, which are challenging contemporary craftsmen, are linked to the UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. This point of view, that links the craft-related praxis of today’s ‘makers’ to the objectives of the UNESCO Convention of 2003 to safeguard immaterial knowledge, skill and craftsmanship (traditional craft-related skills, inter alia) for contemporary and future application, seems to be absolutely real and relevant across national borders. For, around the globe, policymakers, craftsmen, makers, entrepreneurs, NGOs and so forth, are active in the field of crafts and craftsmanship and are confronted with similar modern-day challenges. It did not take long before the initiative takers received requests for a translation to make the insights that were assembled, and the practical examples from this publication, accessible for an international audience.

A few partners were happy to oblige and work together to translate the experience from the Flemish Community in Belgium that is collected in this publication and to make it accessible for all who were willing to use the inspiration here, as well as for the world. Since the early days of the UNESCO 2003 Convention, active contributions from Flanders have been made for international development. What is special about this initiative of international sharing of experience, is that it is a collaboration from various perspectives: a civic society initiative from NGO tapis plein, with support from the Flemish Commission for UNESCO and Design Vlaanderen – which constitutes a part of the Agentschap Ondernemen of the Flemish Government.

And, it is just this sort of intersection – amongst cultural heritage, design, economics and other domains – in which there is a future for a sustainable development of crafts; perhaps mutatis mutandi indeed for intangible cultural heritage in a more general sense. As such, the book initiates the dialog from Flanders regarding practical experiences in the safeguarding of crafts from the proper background and context, but always with an open mind to the world, and with the gaze directed at the future.

To be continued!

Made possible by a cooperation of NGO tapis plein, Handmade in Brugge, the Flemish Commission for UNESCO, Design Vlaanderen and with the support of the Flemish Government.

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