Uffe Elbæk was an expert at this years SURPRISE FACTORS SYMPOSIUM „Where does free­dom start and where does it end?” in Gmunden.

The Interview with Uffe Elbæk

Any con­ver­sa­tion about free­dom makes me ask ques­tions: Are we talk­ing about free­dom from or free­dom to? Inner free­dom or out­er free­dom? Free­dom for every­one or free­dom for the few? When I think about these ques­tions and my life, it begins with my par­ents. I’m 61 years old now. When I was 20 I would have said, “No, I’m not like my par­ents at all!” Now that I am old­er I see how much my par­ents and my upbring­ing have meant for who I am. My par­ents have always been edu­ca­tors, social activists, very polit­i­cal. Dur­ing World War II my par­ents were part of the resis­tance move­ment. My father had to go under­ground. My mother’s broth­er was sent to a con­cen­tra­tion camp. My grand­fa­ther was jailed.

„How can we cre­ate a pace where we can be who we are?”

The way we were raised, my sib­lings and I, was that we should fol­low our heart. We should stand up for what we believe in. We should devel­op our own per­son­al voice. We should have fun doing what we do, but we should also be seri­ous about it. It should mat­ter. So when I look at my life, there is a red line going through it: How can we cre­ate a space where each of us can unfold our life to the high­est lev­el of mean­ing?

As a politi­cian and head of my own polit­i­cal par­ty in Den­mark I have a lot of insights about what is hap­pen­ing in Europe and the world today. But actu­al­ly on a per­son­al lev­el what I am focus­ing on right now is, how can I be even more free inside myself? When I’m on the floor of the Par­lia­ment dis­cussing with the Prime Min­is­ter, how can I speak from my heart? How can I be even more true to what I believe in? How do I take my own inner free­dom to the next lev­el? It has noth­ing to do with mon­ey or ego or pres­tige. It’s about can I get even more trans­par­ent and hon­est in the way I am?

„Free­dom is the con­nec­tion between head, heart and hands.”

One thing this has allowed me to do is to start my own polit­i­cal par­ty, the Alter­na­tivet. I was declared super-dead when I announced it, but actu­al­ly the Danes have respond­ed for two rea­sons. First they were fed up with the polit­i­cal cul­ture as we know it today. You see this not only in Den­mark but also all over Europe. You see it in the Unit­ed States with Don­ald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Sec­ond they were curi­ous about how we can define a new per­spec­tive on eco­nom­ic growth. Peo­ple were tired of the whole neolib­er­al econ­o­my, the com­pe­ti­tion men­tal­i­ty, the indi­vid­u­al­iza­tion, the split between win­ners and losers. Can we cre­ate anoth­er def­i­n­i­tion of growth: cul­tur­al growth, social growth, spir­i­tu­al growth?

To me, that is the ques­tion we should all be focus­ing on. What kind of eco­nom­ic mod­el will come after the cur­rent, known ver­sion of cap­i­tal­ism? One thing we know is that we can’t use up more of the lim­it­ed resources of the plan­et. Anoth­er issue is the grow­ing inequal­i­ty in the world today. In the long run the world will not accept a sit­u­a­tion where 63 peo­ple own the same amount of wealth as 3.6 bil­lion peo­ple. With that kind of inequal­i­ty the sys­tem will break.
Some years ago NASA did a study of what made civ­i­liza­tions fail in the past. There were two main para­me­ters with every col­lapse: A lack of resources and too big of a dif­fer­ence between the rich and the poor. We need to fig­ure out what kind of a new eco­nom­ic mod­el will address dimin­ish­ing resources and the grow­ing gap between the rich and the poor.

Personal data

Uffe Elbæk is a polit­i­cal fight­er for free­dom. In 1991 he found­ed the „KaosPi­lots“ School, with the objec­tive to estab­lish not the world’s best school but to build the best school for the world. To this day this school mod­el inspires inter­na­tion­al schools in Nor­way, Swe­den and the Nether­lands.

From 2007 to 2009 Elbæk served as CEO of the Out­games, a sports and cul­tur­al fes­ti­val pro­mot­ing equal­i­ty and free­dom for homo­sex­u­al, bisex­u­al and trans­gen­der peo­ple. Dur­ing the years 2011 to 2012 he act­ed as the Dan­ish Min­ster of Cul­ture, but resigned from this posi­tion after crit­i­cism for favoritism, which was lat­er inval­i­dat­ed.

Uffe Elbæk was invig­o­rat­ed by these events and in 2013 found­ed his own par­ty „Alter­na­tivet“, which first par­took in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in 2015. Despite many crit­ics, Elbæk‘s par­ty claimed sev­er­al seats in the Dan­ish par­lia­ment where he acts accord­ing to the self-imposed val­ues of „Alter­na­tivet“: courage, gen­eros­i­ty, trans­paren­cy, mod­esty, humour and empa­thy.