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Global Business Anthropology Summit 2021


The Global Business Anthropology Summit 2021 was held as a virtual event over the course of five days, from June 14-18 2021. The summit featured six sessions, each focusing on challenging current sustainability practices through presentations of business cases highlighting the success of doing anthropology with business. Below you can find recordings and material from the Sessions of the Global Business Anthropology Summit 2021. Team Berlin Organizers and Session Contributors invite you to connect and collaborate through their LinkedIn profiles.

The GBAS2021 Organizing Team

Monday June 14: Opening Ceremonies and Keynote Speakers​

The Summit opened with welcome greetings by Prof. Dr. Günter M. Ziegler, President of Freie Universität Berlin and Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Dilger, Head of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the FU, followed by two thought-provoking and engaging contributions from keynote speakers Joana Breidenbach, trained socio-cultural anthropologist and founder of Betterplace, and Carlo Colpo, global manager in charge of brand communication for Lavazza, moderated by Claus-Bernhard Pakleppa, founder of P4D (Partnership for Development). The keynote conversation focused on how businesses face challenges, at different scales, from the small and local, to the big and global and explore the contributions that anthropology can make to support that process. 

Tuesday June 15:

Making Sense of the Future: How Anthropologists "See" It

This session discusses how anthropology can add cultural richness to the field of foresight and future studies.

Presenting a “mobile” approach to sensemaking and knowledge, with examples from science fiction, COVID-19, and technology, it shows how engaging in intentional and strategic observation to challenge predominant assumptions, especially from big data, can illuminate different future(s) realities.  

The session also discusses various perspectives, frameworks, and methodologies currently used in commercial, design, and anthropological environments. It demonstrates how to sense anomalies and weak signals, trace them, and compare them with past and present patterned behavior to gain understanding about shifts in practice and meaning to both explain them and anticipate their future paths.

Tuesday June 15: Tax Culture in Business

The session explains how cultural values influence how we think about taxes. How do different (tax) cultures impact business behaviour and community engagement? 
Through business examples, it shows manifold aspects of taxation, beyond making financial contributions to community and society. 
The session contributors discuss how individual and collective tax cultures are changing due to the world-wide increase of exchange relations — goods, services, labor and ideas. What is the future role of corporate tax in creating sustainable communities?

Wednesday June 16:

GLobal Black Lives Initiative: Navigating Business as a Black Researcher of African Descent

In this session, three senior-level researchers of African descent discuss their career trajectories, their experiences working with multi-national corporations and non-profits, and their advice for other researchers of African descent pursuing careers in business.


Session Contributors:

Lucia Laurent-Neva, Semiotician, Anthropologist and Cultural Strategist, Visual Signo, UK

Carsten Claus, Business and Future Anthropologist, OBERKORN, Hamburg, Germany

Dominique Desjeux, Anthropologist, Professor (Emeritus) at the Sorbonne (University of Paris), and International Consultant for Daiz and Co, Paris, France

Julia Gluesing, Anthropologist, Research Professor at Wayne State University, President Cultural Connections, Inc., Detroit, Michigan  USA

Allen Batteau, Anthropologist, Professor (Emeritus), Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan USA

Session Contributors:

Pavle Menalo, University of Belgrade, Serbia

Niccolò Marino, Beyond Research srl, Milano, Italy

Lotta Björklund Larsen, University of Exeter Business School, UK

Hera Brown, Fulbright-Schuman Researcher to the European Union, USA

Christine B. Avenarius, The Central Agency for Continuing Vocational Education and Training in the Skilled Crafts (ZWH), Berlin, Germany

Session Contributors:

Autumn D. Mcdonald, Owner at ADM Insights and Strategy 

Michael Lewis, Marketing Insights Executive

Tharius Sumter, Insights and Innovation Leader

Thursday June 17: Beyond Sustainability

The session "Beyond Sustainability" explains how the extent of human centricity in technology and business makes us overlook the needs of other types of life on and beyond the planet – to the detriment of all.
Through business examples it shows how building for the broadest ecosystem leads to behavior change among consumers using the case of Mobistyle energy design systems.
The session contributors discuss implications for the future by showcasing how overcoming the concept of sustainability might enable us to integrate the needs of all elements of ecosystems.

Session Contributors:

Pablo Mondragón Valero, Antropología 2.0, Spain

Dan Podjed, Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), Slovenia

Veronica Reyero Meal, Antropología 2.0, Spain

Lucia Laurent-Neva, Semiotician, Anthropologist and Cultural Strategist, Visual Signo, UK

Thursday June 17:

Change + Diffusing Behaviors within Organizations

The session explains how roles in business respond to internal and external forces that bring new managerial practices and technology.
Through business examples it shows how the need for internal change is identified and managed in two cases: AB InBev and ACME Productions.
The session also discusses implications for the future by revealing ways organizations communicate the need for change across sectors, motivating individual, societal, and governmental commitments with concern to technology access, environmental sustainability, equality, and wellness.

Session Contributors:

Kyle Gibson, University of Nebraska, Center for Entrepreneurship, USA  
Natalia Usme
, Flipa Consultora, Colombia

Melissa Vogel, Business Anthropologist at Hanover Research, USA

Karen Smits, Organizational Anthropologist at Practical Thinking, Australia

Friday June 18: Business Anthropology for the Future + Building a Knowledge Commons

The session explains how business anthropology can be applied and promoted to stimulate growth.

Through a series of interviews with business experts it explores how anthropology can work in different industries.

It discusses implications for the future by exploring how anthropology contributes to the scope and rigor of innovation in business, and how agrowing community of knowledge of business anthropology practices globally can help businesses become future-proof.

Session Contributors:

Allegra Pochtler, TraceMap, Berlin, Germany

Robert J. Morais, Columbia Business School, USA

Susan Kresnicka, Kresnicka Research and Insights , USA

Alberto Guglielmone, Marketing Innovation & Business Anthropology, Milan, Italy

Rosa Ester Snyder, User Researcher, Berlin, Germany

Closing Ceremonies and remarks

Video: Jerome Beauvois, anthropology and architecture

The Summit was concluded with a closing ceremony featuring contributions from Marguerite Coetzee, Ed Liebow from the American Anthropological Association, Lora Koycheva of EASA-AAN, Summit founder Allen Batteau and Carmen Bueno Castellanos, host of the Summit in Mexico City in 2023.

The last day of the Summit featured a contribution from French architect Jerome Beauvois on the role of anthropology in architecture, discussing the transformation of the Palais de Justice, a former courthouse in Nantes, France, a project headed by Beauvois.

Serendipity Wednesday: GBAS Virtual Cafe

In true Berlin Style, Wednesday at GBAS2021 featured a virtual café where moderators presented various topics to discuss over a cup of coffee. Moderators and topic descriptions are listed below.

Graham Pruss

Seeing the future of human settlement

Does the future of human settlement need new models? Settler colonialism, wherever in the world it has taken place, has created private environments within public spaces. Can we learn from the realities of unhoused or home-less communities around the world; from mobility, environmental catastrophe, and displacement? What do you think?

Marguerite Coetzee

In South Africa, the youth are ancestors of the future

Today, June 16, is Youth Day. It honours youth’s contribution to South Africa’s transition into democracy and considers the future of our youth. In 1976 there was an uprising in which school children were massacred. Does the focus on youth in South Africa’s national celebration offer new ways to see the future?

Taapsi Ramchandani

In technology we trust, for the future of businesses

Let's talk about intersections of technology, anthropology, and lived experience. In this golden age of the smartphone, can our tools, methods and theories help businesses aggregate people-insights to anticipate the future? How does the anthropological lens fit into quantitative data sources like surveys? Bring your questions and ideas. We’ll chat.

Dominique Desjeux

Discovering the Future of Consumption by Observing the Present

Are we facing war between China, the USA, and other countries because of the globalization of consumption? Competition for raw materials, "proteins" (soybean) and energy yields conflict. Perhaps business anthropology’s work in observing and tracking material, social, and symbolic constraints on consumption can deter conflict. What do you think?

Federico Barbieri

Business Anthropology revitalizing public spaces

Can corporations use anthropology to build the social and cultural fabric and revitalize cities? In Genoa, for example, the MONUMENT© Project - a collaboration of industrial partner MecPlex and the Politecnico di Milano - a square or park may become the city’s investment in social sustainability. What about your experiences?

Lotta Björklund Larsen

Data through the anthropological lens

What are data? How can we use data to know something? In the age of opinions, ratings, facts, fake news etc., there are lots of data – also big data. Many of us use the anthropological gaze to help business sort out what data to use. Let’s discuss worldwide experiences.

Keiko Yamaki

Companygraphy, an Instrument of Civilization

Does “Companygraphy” describe how society is organized? A company is a community, a place where people spend time together. Within each role-based team in a company, are overlapping networks of private relationships and collaborations. Products and services are created in a multi-layered set of norms and values. Companygraphy as instrument?

Jonas Ecke

Humanitarian crises - what can anthropology do?

What is the public awareness of businesses’ role in humanitarian crises witnessed across the globe? Global warming, Covid-19, persistent famines and forced migration, unending proxy wars in the Middle East. Do anthropologists in business and in global and local NGOs have influence in remedying and preventing such crises?

Camilla Carabini

What is the (digital) money of the future?

Can anthropology add to the study of new kinds of money? Fintech giants contribute to radical change in the use of digital money from Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies to the stablecoins. Governments are developing digital currencies too. How will monetary sovereignty be reshaped? What will be the implications for businesses?

Jean Balestrery

The Transforming Terrain of Organizations

What are some emerging trends in business organization? From diverse teams to digital geographies, from empathic organizations to work-life flexibility, moving beyond business-as-usual. For example, my work in the private health insurance industry in the U.S., witnesses less soloing today. What organizational shifts are you seeing or contributing to?

Lora Koycheva

Marketing Anthropology?
Or Cassandra's Curse?

Is anthropology an avant-garde discipline, ahead of its time? Does anthropology suffer from Cassandra´s curse? How can anthropology become a lens for new ways of seeing? What is lost and what is gained in the space between marketing the discipline to others, translating our empirical apparatuses, and negotiating our jargon?

Partners of GBAS2021
Business Anthropology in collaboration with Freie Universitat in Berlin
Partnership with American Anthrpological Association
Partnership with EASA Applied Anthropology Network
Partnership with ADM Insights & Strategy
Partnership with Omniology
Partnership with Nebraska Center for Entrepreneurship
Partnership with p4d
GBAS2021 was held With technical support from
Partnership with NomadIT
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