Firebrands give me hope

Uffe Elbæk / april 1, 2018

Firebrands give me hope

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As a politician in Denmark, people sometimes ask me where I get my hope and my optimism. “Uffe, does not everything sometimes feel completely hopeless?” They ask. And then, sometimes I can sit and think: With the rising inequality, with the growing climate crisis and with the opinion and community bankruptcy we are facing today – is it ever the right way? Is there any way out of all the crises?

But all the dejection is done to shame every single time, I’m out to meet some of the thousands of creative and dedicated firebrands who exist throughout the country. And fortunately, not so rare. For, indeed, I have my whole life – as principal of the Kaospilot, founder of the Frontrunners, leader of Outgames and now today as the political leader of Alternativet – I have been surrounded by the most inspiring and ambitious firebrands you can imagine.

Most recently, I was in connection with the municipal elections on ‘Tour de Håb’ around most of Denmark to visit and support our green city and regional council aspirants. I met a lot of engagement both from our aspirants and from everybody else who works with very hopeful projects. From Aalborg to Tønder and from Esbjerg to Copenhagen, it sparkles with firebrands who stand up every day for the sole purpose of making the world a better place. People with a project. People who really burn for what they do. It is so inspiring and that gives me hope for the future.

In Klitmøller I met the youngons behind one of the most courageous and innovative projects I have long seen, namely the Surfer and Entrepreneurial Initiative, Cowork Klitmøller. Instead of doing like the many young people moving to the larger cities, this group of visionary young people decided to use their power and energy to puncture the narrative of depopulation in ‘the Outskirts of Denmark’ and make Klitmøller a hotspot for creative entrepreneurs, surfers and nature lovers. With their open office community, they have simply created an oasis for locals and outsiders, who come from far away to experience beautiful scenery of Thy, the “Cold Hawaii’s” high waves, and Cowork’s entrepreneurial community. It is precisely the kind of projects that prove to me that we politicians can make many political initiatives with relocations and transport possibilities, but if there are no firebrands that add to the soul of the towns, it does not matter. It is the firebrands who make the whole difference for the life in the city. These are the ones that make it possible to see two cities in only 15 kilometers, where one city is struggling with depopulation, while urban life flourishes in the other city. It is the local commitment that is crucial. That’s why it was so inspiring to meet these young people who, with their creative ideas and clear visions, have made Klitmøller a place people move to and not from. I hope that we will have to create a more coherent Denmark if we just release entrepreneurship and allow the firebrands and the commitment to spread across the country.

Another firebrand I would like to emphasize is the man behind the resocialization initiative Carlos’ Kitsch, Søren Carlos. He has created a café in Svendborg, where inmates can get into practice at the end of their imprisonment, so they experience the need for them in society and that they have an alternative to the criminal runway when they have done their punishment. Most of the employees of the Carlos’ Kitsch have a criminal past but have now managed to start a new chapter in their lives. It is so important with firebrands like Søren Carlos, who sees the whole human being and is ready to give people a new chance. That’s why it’s also hugely well-deserved that he won the “Tine Bryld Prize” last year, which goes to firebrands who make a particularly great effort for socially vulnerable people. Søren Carlos creates hope, not just for the inmates he takes care of, but for all of us. He shows that we can all raise again if we fail. That we all have value. That feeling touches me deeply. And the café makes really good food – I eat there every time I’m in Svendborg.

In the end, I would like to mention a hugely ambitious and courageous project that I have yet to visit, but for which I am deeply respectful. Four firebrands in Tarm have transformed an old family farm to Denmark’s first insect farm, Heimdal Entofarm. It requires not only big visions, it also needs courage to be first movers on something that new as the market of insects. Nevertheless, it is precisely the kind of new thinking that the Danish agriculture needs. Sustainable and innovative ideas for alternative protein sources that will eventually replace the enormous production of climate-resistant pigs and cattle we have today. We can do much from the political side to create the best framework for new, sustainable forms of agriculture, but it is firebrands and entrepreneurs like the people of Heimdal Entofarm who make the big difference. Those are the driving forces.

I will end this post with a call to you as a reader. If you have ever had an idea for a good project, which for some reason you gave up on, just try to find out in yourself: Why did you drop it? Could it have made a difference for some people, for nature, for Denmark? Could it light a fire in you and make your life even more meaningful? So just promise me to rethink it. Because it is new thoughts, ideas and projects that bring our society forward. And when I see how many creative firebrands everywhere in the country, I get a lot of hope for the future. Because it’s them, us, you who together shall create the next Denmark.

Uffe Elbæk, Political Leader Alternativet