Over the past eight years, I have had the privilege of spending extended time in Singapore and Denmark. I have come to see these two small nations as a complementary pair, similar in size, alive with creative energy. Whenever I am in Denmark I find myself talking about exciting things going on in Singapore, and vice-versa. Both societies are world leaders in balancing individual opportunity and the common good in the achievement of economic and social success.
I was delighted when, in June 2008, Singapore and Denmark signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a cooperation programme on design.
I now propose a somewhat more radical, but to my mind logical, next step.
I propose the establishment of SINGMARK, the world’s first global co-nation, an entirely new kind of state, one that is not political in form but cultural.
SINGMARK would be an extension of the design MOU to the broader sphere of national culture at large, including education, arts and design, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Here are some of the features of SINGMARK:
1. Every citizen of Singapore and Denmark will receive a SINGMARK passport making them bi-national citizens of the world’s first cultural co-nation.
2. SINGMARK will maintain a knowledge network to enable creators, innovators and entrepreneurs to find and collaborate with counterparts in the partner nation.
3. Students will take part in a lifelong interchange program, taking cross-courses in schools in both countries, traveling for residency periods, and networking in online 3-D worlds and groupsites to collaborate on co-creation projects involving the arts, design, innovation and entrepreneurship.
4. English is the first language of Singapore and nearly all Danes speak English, so language will not be an inhibitor. Danes also speak many other languages and Singaporean exchange students will be encouraged to partner with a Danish student to study other languages. Correspondingly, Danish students will be able learn Chinese collaborating with a Singaporean study partner.
5. SIMGMARK students will grow up thinking of themselves as culturally bi-national. Coming to maturity in proximity to people from different cultures will help inculcate a broader world view, more inclusive habits of mind and personal experience with international cooperation – an important antidote to trends toward protectionist rivalry as ever-growing populations contend for ever-diminishing resources.
6. Most optimistically, SINGMARK will serve as a template for many other nations to seek out life-long cultural partners on the other side of the globe. International organizations working “top down” do not seem to be able to make consistent progress toward the multilateral agreements required to manage the complex economic, trade, political, social, military and environmental challenges of our era.
SINGMARK is a modest step toward embedding values of cooperation, concord and shared purpose, individual by individual, from the “bottom up.” When the SINGMARK generation comes to run the world, perhaps they will be better global citizens than were their forebears.
One could imagine pursuing this cooperative agenda without creating a third, virtual entity, SINGMARK. But I would argue that SINGMARK, given tangible form as a bi-national cultural passport, serves to signify, frame, brand and provide a tangible center of focus for the idea space of co-cultural citizenship.
Besides, I think the name SINGMARK is cool.