Marek Hudon (Solvay Brussels School): “Art makes it possible to rethink the economy”

The Solvay School (ULB) is shaking up pedagogy. Following the success of the play “Pizza economy”, which offers schools and universities a fun debate on the circular economy, a new one-man-show will sketch sustainable finance…

Like many teachers, Marek Hudonprofessor at the Solvay Brussels School (ULB), came to the conclusion that we don’t teach “quite as before”. Critical thinking and attention span are no longer the primary virtues of many students, yet easily captivating» as long as we use new ways of communicating. Convinced that “the use of art allows us to rethink the economy in a critical and creative way”, he designed new educational tools in the project context “Sustainable Economic Models”.

One of the most striking experiences is the creation of the play “Economy Pizza”which offers a reflection on the circular economy. Already played fifty times in higher and secondary education, but also in organizations such as Bruxelles Environnement, the play has met with such success that the number of schools inviting it to their premises continues to grow (1).



“Using art allows us to critically and creatively rethink the economy.

Marek Hudon

Professor at the Solvay Brussels School (ULB)

A success that prompted the designers of the project to design a second room, “The Unicorn in the Room”wearing this time on sustainable finance which will be launched shortly. As summarized by Marek Hudon, the first advantage of such an approach, which mobilizes theater but also video, is its effectiveness: “It is much greater than if we asked the students to listen an ex cathedra course or to summarize a scientific article. These artistic means also make it possible to stimulate all the imagination linked to environmental concerns.

Pizza Economie – circular, shared, functional (Solvay Business School) with actor Martin Ophoven

Concretely?

Marek Hudon: The play is a one-man show carried by the actor Martin Ophoven, from the Carbonic Theatre. The teacher can rely on educational sheets and short videos prepared for him to fuel the debate that follows the play. It is obviously during this exchange that the educational component takes on its full force. What did the students take away? What appeals to them?

How to avoid, in such a spectacle, the many ideological biases in these matters?

By closely linking research and teaching. We do not wish to give an idealized image of economic models. If I come back to the circular economy, it works in some cases, but its impact can sometimes be almost negligible, or even negative. This is why we want a scientific and rigorous approach.

The comedian Martin Ophoven, of the Carbonic Theater, in his only economic scene.
©Doc

Similarly, our new piece on sustainable finance incorporates theoretical elements allowing us to ask questions of nuanced answers. We are thus going to evoke the concept of “trade off”, this arbitration according to which, to speak briefly, when one goes up, the other goes down. More social or environmental aspects sometimes lead to less profitability, for example…



“The changes are much too slow. In any case, the stakes are high, because the current economic system is unsustainable.”

Marek Hudon

Professor at the Solvay Brussels School (ULB)

Aren’t corporate eco-responsibility and greenwashing above all marketing? Nothing really changes in the textile industry, one of the most antisocial and most polluting in the world with its “fast fashion”…

I would be a little more nuanced, but it is true that changes are much too slow. The stakes are in any case considerable, because the current economic system is unsustainable. It is essential that the ambitions of companies are no longer limited to long-term objectives – the famous carbon neutrality in 2040 or 2050 – but also include an action plan with shorter-term intermediate objectives. Too many companies focus on carbon offsets without really questioning their production chain.

How to change this mentality?

The consumer pressuremore and more real, or a more assertive regulation achieve social and environmental results. A third way, which I clearly see, is the pressure exerted within a company itself by some of the workers, often among the youngest, in disagreement with what is happening there. Some dare to say that if nothing changes, they leave. However, an employee who leaves a company after two or three years represents a loss of training and knowledge, but also a devaluation of management in human terms.



“Mere accountability will not suffice for the fundamental changes needed to decarbonize our economy.”

Marek Hudon

Professor at the Solvay Brussels School (ULB)

In short, the way in which you disseminate knowledge is transformed into an incentive to action?

Exactly. We must go beyond pure criticism of the existing economic model, because mere accountability will not suffice for the fundamental changes needed to decarbonize our economy. The debates generated by our show must lead to awareness but also to an openness to action!

“Pizza Economy” & “The Unicorn in the Room”

Written by
Marek Hudon, professor at the Sovay Business School (ULB)

Martin Ophoven, alone on stage

Information on the ULB website / Sustainable Economic Models (SEMod) Find out more

College La Fraternité – Interview at the exit of PIZZA ECONOMIE

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