The United Colors of Benetton

It takes work to get a team in different continents and diverse cultures to meet and work together, but the results are more than worth it.
Erlangen GERMANY

April 15, 2023 01:37 EDT

Dear FO° Reader,

Remember an advertisement by an Italian company. It had a number of people from around the world dressed in colorful clothing. Four Benetton siblings—Luciano, Carlo, Giuliana, and Gilberto—started the United Colors of Benetton in 1965. It went on to become a global fashion brand that is still based in Ponzano Veneto.

Multigenerational, multicultural and multilocational

As I sit in Duxbury, a stone’s throw away from Plymouth where the Pilgrims landed in 1620 to kick off the American experiment, Benetton comes to mind. I have been speaking with Peter Isackson who lives in France and Roberta Campani who lives in Switzerland using Google Meet.

From Duxbury, I have conducted workshops for our young editors who are spread all the way from Guam and India to England and Indiana. It is inspiring to work with such young people who want to make sense of the world. One of them called the process of editing with us a crash course—a fast-track masters—in international relations. One compared us to the United Colors of Benetton.

With so many people from different generations in locations around the world, many people ask me how Fair Observer works?

Our team regularly speaks using Google Meet or ZOOM. We discuss, decide, divvy up the work and reconvene to take stock. We get submissions from a very diverse set of authors. We then send them to our authors who fact-check and, if needed, improve the structure, flow and language of the piece. Once the piece is ready, our team in India uploads it on our website.

Forthcoming events

We also publish monthlies, timelines, photo features, videos and podcasts. We organize events in different cities as well. On Thursday, 13 April, we are hosting our first FO° Meetup in Greater Boston at 8 Cleveland Street, Cambridge from 6.00 pm to 8.00 pm.

On Saturday, 15 April, we are hosting our big event of the month. The latest of our FO° Talks hosts Professor Srinivas Reddy of Brown University who will be speaking on “Returning to the Roots of Buddhism.”

Reddy is a classical scholar, noted author and accomplished sitarist. He will outline the growth and development of Buddhism from its beginnings in modern day Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in India to its spread across South Asia and all the way to Japan. Once Reddy has fed your soul, the Indian Consulate will feed your body. After all, even philosophers have to eat.

If you have not already done so, then please register here for the event.

Civic engagement and local democracy

At the start of the email, I mentioned Duxbury. So, here is a local story. I went to the local town hall meeting where elected town representatives discussed how to run their schools and public libraries, manage woodlands and water bodies, and adopt green and clean energy. This meeting was most inspiring.

In former colonies, such local democracy does not exist. In India, we still have the colonial district officer who rules the roost. This callow young person from an elite administrative service is the de facto ruler of the district. This executive serves two-three years in the district, which serves as a stepping stone for a life in the state or national capital. Some of these administrative officers speak just like their white-skinned colonial forerunners when they brag about changing—a more modern replacement for civilizing—the districts where they served fleetingly.

Unlike towns in former Asian or African former colonies, local people run Duxbury. They may not realize it but they have Protestantism to thank for this privilege. After all, Plymouth is only 10 miles away. It is here that the Pilgrims landed from England to kick off the American experiment. In 1517, Martin Luther kicked off a conflagration in Europe. Protestants who did not feel at home in Europe started boarding ships to North American colonies. Unlike the top-down Catholic colonies in Latin America, the Protestant ones turned out to be self-governing, entrepreneurial and economically dynamic. In 1776, they rose up in revolution.

The bottom-up tradition and the dynamism of civic life that fascinated young Alexis de Tocqueville still lives on in towns like Duxbury. In New England, this tradition is arguably more robust than most other parts of the country. At its best, it represents the uniquely American democratic genius. It is built on civic engagement of informed and educated citizens. To stay informed, citizens need the local press. The journalist sitting in town hall meetings informs those who were not physically present there about what is going on.

Just as local media plays a role, so does any media that covers world affairs. Fair Observer believes that the model that works in Duxbury also works in an African village or an Asian town. Informed and engaged citizens are fundamental to changing anything in any society. When my father was born, India was still under British rule. It took hundreds of newspapers and thousands of writers to sow the idea of freedom in the Indian consciousness.

If you are still reading this, then tell us which issues matter to us and why. We examine global issues through local lenses. Your perspective matters. Send us a piece, introduce us to an author and share this with your friends. We would love to hear from you.

My warmest regards,

Atul Singh
Founder, CEO & Editor-in-Chief

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