Ajay Reddy, founder of GoUNESCO

What’s your take on cultural heritage and intercultural dialogue?

What’s your take on cultural heritage and intercultural dialogue? Culture is expressed through symbols, sagas, rites and rituals. It binds people into community through a sense of purpose and identity to foster collaboration. The stories and ceremonies illuminate the reason for behaviors and world view of communities. Culture evolves over time as it endures rough times and blossoms into a complex labyrinth with deep layers.
To appreciate the development and evolution of a culture, an outsider needs to observe, interact and participate in the cultural observations and practices.

How do you think we can amplify the relevance of cultural heritage in the everyday life of people (outside the sector)?

We amplify the significance and relevance of cultural heritage primarily through communication and engagement.
Communication design should be carefully orchestrated to effect at least three facets. First and foremost, it be relevant and interesting to elicit interest from a wide range of audience in various age groups. Secondly, use multiple representation and media to communicate while presenting a coherent theme. Finally, it should incentivize people to participate in intercultural dialogue by demonstrating the benefits to society and instill community pride.

Further, the timing and frequency of communication is also very important to generate impact. The communication needs to be articulate, consistent and recurrent.

The second way to amplify relevance of cultural heritage is though engagement. We remember less than 50% what they read or hear by retain over 80% of what we experience. I clearly saw the need for innovative methods so as to enable common people to learn about heritage and culture. I have created multiple online and offline platforms to provide experiential engagement in cultural heritage. For example, Go Heritage Runs (destination marathons we organize at heritage sites across India) not just gives us an opportunity to speak about local heritage online, but also gives participants a deeper engagement with it. The entire experience is crafted with elements of heritage incorporated into design as well, plus the experience of traversing the heritage site on a run which leaves an indelible impression in the participant’s mind.

In creating these platforms, I have carefully considered the motivations and aspirations of the audience to offer exceptional experiences and life-long memories.

Which big challenges do you think that cultural institutions have concerning the future?

In my experience, cultural institutions are facing two main challenges.
Firstly, the smartphone revolution is testing the traditional ways people engage with information. Cultural institutions have to gear up to reach their audiences who use modern technologies and social platforms. They will also have to rethink the role they can play in the lives of a generation of digital natives,

At the same time, the tech revolution is also a great opportunity since the institutions are now not limited by space and time, but can reach people across the globe.

The other important challenge is in the realm of funding for public cultural institutions. With an exception of certain large well-funded ones, several of the smaller and/ or newer institutions will have to be creative about raising funds sustainably.


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