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  • Writer's pictureShreya Nagarajan Singh

Kultur Symposium Weimar, 2023

(May 10-12th, 2023 Weimar, Germany)

This blog is a compilation of notes by Shreya Nagarajan Singh who had the opportunity to visit Germany and the Kultur Symposium in Weimar this year. This opportunity was made possible thanks to the Goethe Institut, Chennai.


The Kultursymposium returned to Weimar under the theme A Matter of Trust! The Goethe-Institut brought together exciting personalities from across the globe to exchange ideas about the multifaceted topic of trust in debates, presentations, workshops and artistic works over the course of three days.

(Shreya with Dr. Carola Lentz, Head of Goethe Institut.)

Trust plays a central role in many areas of life, both as an individual emotional category and as a fundamental social resource: as trust in our fellow humans, in private and business relationships, trust in political systems, media and science, in legal systems and international agreements, as trust in cultural codes, new technology and currencies – and last but not least, as trust in ourselves.

Shreya’s Notes

Panel 1 - Control Is Good, But Trust Is Better - Towards a new culture of trust in the corporate world?

Panelists: Meisha-ann Martin, Kingsley Omeihe, Judith Wiese Host: Melanie Stein

Do you trust yourself?

Do you trust yourself to adapt to change?

Do you trust your skills are relevant moving forward?

  • Competence vs capability

Psychological safety - It is important to feel safe in the workplace with reference to race, color, caste etc. One needs to feel they can be themselves around people even if they’re different in these aspects.

  • Several ways to build psychological safety

  • Checking in frequently with your team and upper management

  • Recognition from the higher management - who you are and what you do .

  • We live in the times when trust is lowest. The company environment should reflect its principles.

How leaders may build trust within the company:

  • Lead with trust especially from far

  • There should be structured listening. - between peers and the leadership.

  • Sit in teams and have meaningful discussions. Have periodic follow ups and change in action.

  • How to fill the vacuum of distrust?

  • Work on developing psychological safety consciously focussing on how one has these conversations.

  • It is important to check on the company’s employees not only in terms of their work in order for them to build trust in their leaders, their leadership and to share vulnerability.

  • Leaders can show vulnerability and lay the foundation of trust. This relationship is the foundation of how outsiders will perceive the company.

  • It is often easy to build trust but difficult to repair it once the trust is lost. Continuous violation of trust is difficult. There are plenty of weak organisations that don't have the capacity to build strong trust.

  • Contracts don't always work because people believe that law and court is for the elite.

  • Foundations of trust - vulnerability, benevolence, keeping your end of the bargain. Without these 3 things - distrust sets in.

  • Trust and control are not opposite

  • Situational leadership - to know when it's a situation of control (For example - in case of fire in a building, to understand which is better - giving instructions vs what can be done best and then coming to a consensus).

  • Control - Mindset of growth and empowerment. Trust in people to make the right decisions, and which framework you give them that control to make a decision. Set the right boundaries and give freedom accordingly.

  • There is a difference between control and governance. Innovative ways to work are often derivatives of how one controls execution/ micro-manages.

  • Admit your mistakes and commit to rebuilding trust. Actions are key.

  • In meetings, try to understand what people need depending on age. Know how to keep young and older minds engaged.

General Points

  • Team success - one with the most amount of psychological safety performs the best.

  • Most successful leaders are the ones that apply to be authentic leaders, where you transform your role from follower to leadership quickly.

  • Servant leadership strategies - When ideas work down up and not just top down.

  • How to deal with an employee coming into an organisation who has trauma - Apply logic of growth mindset. Leadership at all levels.

  • Company's name is Work Human led by panelist Meisha-ann Martin who works with psychological safety. All the panelists were brilliant!

(The 5 fellows from representing India - Murtaza (Delhi), Samata (Kolkata), Shreya (Chennai), Shyam (Pune) and Indu (Bangalore))

Panel 2 - In Tech We Trust? Confidence and Innovation in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Panelists: Rasika Bhalerao, Ramak Molavi, Lykke Margot Ricard, Patrick van der Smagt Host: Jakob Racek

  • Find places we don't need to trust and use artificial intelligence. For entertainment.

  • Gpt making up answers and sources.

Panel 3 - Do Women Make Better Borrowers? A deep dive into the world of finance, loans and the economy of trust.

Panelists - Prudence Muchinouta, Smitha Radhakrishnan, Linda Scott Host: Amira El Ahl

  • Countries like Ethiopia and Yemen are losing out because they don't allow women to contribute.

  • More wars, more conflict and more diseases prevail, where women don't contribute to the economy.

  • In these countries, the financial system has removed women, 80% of the surface is owned by men and women don't have a share of ancestral land which are all archaic masculine concepts.

  • Women - produce more than 50% food, 30% business owned by women, 70% consumer decisions made by women, but only 5 Percent of loans from banks go to women. There is a systemic inequality where banks are male dominant. Micro loans are a possible solution. Since it's a loan taken as a group, the group has to pay back the loan thereby

  • Including women in the financial plan but not acknowledging the challenges and barriers they face is not going to help in long term integration. Over hall of financial structure is needed with a female perspective.

  • If you are going to stand up to the brotherhood you are going to need a sisterhood.

  • Capacity building structures for women are not helpful, considering their skills in construction of managing the house and up skilling.

  • Can capitalism evolve to bring gender equality or does it have to be revamped?

  • The Capitalistic system didn't dis-include women. It has been there for many many centuries prior.

  • Violence and finance are very very closely related.

  • Rise in masculinity around the world from all geographies.

  • Highly recommend Linda Scott's book - The Cost of Sexism - Click here

Activity and Interaction - Trust Lab

Panelists: Rasika Bhalerao, Ali Fathollah-Nejad, Martin Hartmann, Lykke Margot Ricard Host: Benjamin Bergner

  • Everyone wants trust but no one wants to trust.

  • We trust some people because we don't want to trust others.

  • Trust and vulnerability

  • You need trust but you don't really know how to approach it.

  • Because people don't want to trust, we substitute trust with many things.

  • Different notions of trust - Trust is not certainty or a contract.

  • From hegemony to harmony - trust in a post unipolar world


Audience discussion with Magda Szpecht

  • Q&A - How has the economy shifted?

  • Geo economy is different from geopolitics.

  • Sources of power - military, economy and currency. The US leading that way where they can also deploy military around the world within 24hrs. No other country can do that.

Cyber activist and performance. She is a cyber elf that narrates the show as that.

FILMS - All 3 movies were fabulous!

Anna Directed by: Julia Roesler (2022) Blue Boy Directed by: Manuel Abramovich (2018/2019) Ten Meter Tower Directed by: Maximilien van

Panel 3 - A Trustless System - How blockchain technology could redefine trust

Panelists: Oluwaseun David Adepoju, Flavia Gonçalves Macêdo, Henrik Hahn Host: Katrin Sohns

  • Arts and innovation are key to creative solutions

  • Brazil Rio - Flavia - created a cultural currency on the block chain started by artists during the pandemic.

Panel 4 - Distrust - The benefits and burdens of a negative emotion

Short talks by: Silvia Caprioglio Panizza, Fahmi Quadir, Claire Yorke, Samarth Bansal Host: Marie-Christine Knop

  • Mistrust - the power of empathy

  • Healthy mistrust

  • No universal rule. There are certain standards of behavior. Distrust is rooted in vulnerability and empathy is the way to solve mistrust.

  • Important to know how we understand what people are going through to understand mistrust.

Claire Yorke

  • Calls for change - we don't talk about how mistrust plays a larger role and weakens cracks in IR and relationships between countries. Eg - disproportionate vaccines to the global north

  • Empathy with the government and including it in strategizing is key. This involves how people are addressed and treated.

  • Rebuilding trust is key. Eg - China gives us money but the west gives us a lecture.

  • This is a space that requires collective solutions. It's a process of going from competition to coexistence. It's key to build channels of communication, even if it's back door channels.

  • Coexistence - shared investments and collective responsibility is how we should move fwd.

Samarth Bansal - Journalist

  • Distrust is coming.

  • Reading more doesn't really lead to better understanding the world.

  • Toxic entertainment channels like tiktok and reels have an impact

  • ChatGPT has already come and we haven't even understood the impact of social media.

  • At this point we need to find the equilibrium to build trust between the reader and writer.

  • Uncertainty - we need to be honest to tell the reader that it's hard to reach the truth.

  • Being skeptical about knowledge and being a skeptical person is different.

  • It's not that good journalism is dying. It is increasing but there is an information overload and bad journalism tends to make more noise.

  • He doesn't believe in single source stories.

Fahmi Quadir

  • Her investors give her money to be skeptical. Her procession is based on mistrust.

  • Boom cycles in the economy will always be the time people will turn a blind eye to problems in the interest of revenue generation.

  • Difference between mistrust and distrust - One is based on emotion and the other is based on knowledge.

There were many elements that were packed into this 3 day symposium, but my notes concentrate on the ones that had the most impact on me. To find out more about the symposium visit -

Apart from the symposium the key elements were visiting the Bauhaus Museum, Goethe’s residence and indulging in the exclusive vegan catering during the symposium. It was truly inspiring to be amidst thinkers, activists, cultural leaders and doers discussing Trust in various formats from various perspectives.

Author: Shreya Nagarajan Singh

Shreya is the founder of SNS Arts Management Consultancy. She has a strong background in the performance arts, as a Bharathnatyam dancer and comes from a family of performers. She has been a regular patron of music, dance and theatre for a decade and a half. Through her company she helps artists navigate the management of their careers and art organisations in curating and executing business plans and events alike.

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