In conversation with Christian Girardi, founder of the Global Forum Südtirol

What is time? Why is it important? How can we make the most of it? These were just some of the questions discussed recently at the Global Forum Südtirol – a think tank aiming to stimulate future thinking among members of the creative and business communities as well as society in South Tyrol. In this interview, the forum’s founder and organiser Christian Girardi explains how various international speakers responded to the theme “Time is money - collective burnout or paradigm shift?”, and how PLANK helped make the conference a success despite local coronavirus restrictions.

You founded the Global Forum Südtirol back in 2009. How do you describe the GFS and its main objectives?

The GFS provides perspectives on global trends and future topics with the aim of contributing to the discussion and shaping a long-term vision for South Tyrol. We are a very small multilingual and cross-border Italian region and our think tank talks about big topics and aims to inspire new ways of thinking among our society. In previous years we’ve focused on diverse topics including beauty (bellezza), digitalisation and bio-diversity.

This theme for this year’s event was “Time is money – collective burnout or paradigm shift?” Why did you choose this topic?

The topic was selected in November 2019, so before the coronavirus pandemic. We are all familiar with the phrase “Time is Money”, which was coined by American Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin. Our goal was to go beyond money and explain what time is and to discuss its importance in today’s society. It links to last year’s theme which was “Beauty & GDP – competitive identity or insignificant value? ” because I believe that true bellezza is timeless. I am constantly fascinated and inspired by this connection between time and beauty.

What are the key highlights or ideas that came out of this year’s event?

The main finding was that we have to think about the importance of time and find ways to live it that can help improve happiness, quality of life and even health and productivity. The last two aspects were explained to the audience by Charlotte Lockhart and Andrew Barnes, the founders of the Four-Day-Week movement, who joined us from New Zealand. Covid-19 has shown us that the world cannot continue becoming faster and faster. There needs to be a greater focus on what is important, such as spending time with family. If you don’t live in the present you are not able to experience bellezza surrounding you, to feel bellezza in your family or in society, and you also don’t find time to create bellezza.

Do you feel the GFS audience was receptive to these big ideas and learned something they can apply in their everyday lives?

What I’m talking about sounds very philosophical but it definitely affects our daily lives. I think the people in the room began to reflect on the idea of time and maybe went home with the inspiration to change something. The feedback I received was the best we’ve ever had and there was a really positive atmosphere. This is down to the ideas we discussed as well as the effort we put in to staging a really aesthetically beautiful and curated event.

What were the main challenges you had to overcome when organising an event like this during the ongoing global pandemic?

It was a real challenge because when I approached the venue everything was forbidden due to the restrictions around coronavirus. This gave us a boost, though, to be very creative. We were not allowed to use typical café tables so one thing we did was provide each participant with a MIURA stool from PLANK that they could use to eat at, to sit on, to write on, or as somewhere to leave documents or their tablet. This was a good functional solution but also we were able to fill the space with bellezza.

What else are you working on currently? What are your hopes for the future of the GFS?

I’m currently working on the topic for next year’s forum. I’m very confident that the event will go ahead again next year, at a minimum in the way we managed it this year. I am also developing a new brand and services that will launch soon and will be focused on timeless bellezza.

Interview by Alyn Griffiths
Photo: © Global Forum Südtirol