Shetelig and Fjeldstad say they quickly got the impression that ordinary people feel important decisions are far removed from them. &ldquoThere is an enormous amount of red tape, and locals describe their government as bureaucratic, ineffective and weak. Crime and corruption is a big problem”. Other observers concur: writing in Aftenposten, Aasmund Willersrud, a Norwegian journalist who has written about the Balkans since 1990, observes that &ldquothe weakness of the State structures has created criminal sub-structures which in turn undermine the development of civil society”.
Ideas and creativity have suffered in these surroundings. Far away in prosperous Scandinavia, things are very different. At the School of New Business Design and Social Innovation in Denmark, students are constantly told, &ldquoanything is possible”, and then taught how to turn ideas in to reality. They call their students KaosPiloter, and yes, it does translate as ‘chaos navigators’. This year, the students were told to use this training to &ldquodo a European project related to urban renewal and making the world a better place”. Hence five KaosPilots arrived in Sarajevo.
The reason they picked the city was a coincidence according to Fjeldstad. &ldquoI was looking at a map of Europe, and happened to notice that Sarajevo was not on it! It struck me as significant that a city which so dominated the news when I was a teenager, could simply vanish off the map. I mentioned it to some of the others, and we mused about what the place might be like now. Why not go and find out?? &ldquo
Soon after, the five students were on a plane. They knew very little about their chosen destination, but had plenty of energy, ambition and belief that they could make things happen. An unorthodox education would also assist them in implementing their ideas.
Shetelig describes what happened on arrival in Sarajevo.
&ldquoIn college, we are programmed to think positive. Here we encountered such a sense of hopelessness, it seemed to be overwhelming the city. But there were also all these remarkable individuals. For the first two weeks we spent all our time in coffee shops and bars, and everyone spoke to us. We quickly realised our project had to be special if people here were going to take us seriously. Coming here was a big eye-opener. We were very naïve at the start and had no idea of the difficulties involved, but sometimes that can be a good thing. Had we known we might never have tried”.
The project, they decided, had to be linked to hopes for the future, and to the youth of Sarajevo. They came up with the idea of asking children and young people to paint their visions of the future on large canvases. The local art college got involved, as did twelve schools and the city's orphanage.
Sandin Medjedovic is one of the arts students who contributed to the project. &ldquoI think the kids really liked being asked, and there was a sense of real pride when their work was there for everyone to see. They enjoyed taking part – especially when they could get unsupervised use of the spraycans! For me, it was a good project, meeting other creative people and working hard together with them. That was fun.”
The art exhibition also made a crucial linkup to an established cause: revival of the local youth centre. Both Shetelig and Fjeldstand stresses the importance of this: &ldquoLinking up with the local interest groups, we managed to make our ideas work with a very concrete, local cause. We decided to focus attention on a specific building by covering it with art, which also expressed the potential and aspirations of its creators. The building is no more than a ruin now, but it has a very special significance. This was where the young people in Sarajevo got together before the war. It used to be THE meeting place for young people, where they could hang out, listen to music, meet members of the opposite sex. It was also the biggest concert hall in the Balkans – bands like U2 played here!”