Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Five years ago I started my own business and developed Lijnspel as a cooperative because alone I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it. It was an experiment because we were trying to find the best ways to collaborate and creating a platform for it without having one concrete goal or direction. We also wanted to create a brand with Lijnspel.
[Lars gets up and starts drawing how Lijnspel arose and how he got to where he is now.]
We started with four people who founded the board of Lijnspel who all had different backgrounds in sales, finance, social networking, marketing/communication and cooperative innovations. Next to this we worked with thirteen people in different disciplines like graphic design, text writing, education, etc. The challenge was that the market and our clients didn’t clearly know what our expertise and capacity was. Because of that we started to explore and designed our vision for the future: ‘creating a cooperative society’. In this we divided individual tasks based on our own expertise and collective tasks. We use the metaphor of the ‘atomium’ in Brussels. In all the bolls autonomous activities happen but the connecting poles are very important because they connect expertise and create an overall offer. Underneath there are four pillars based on the ideas of Mondragon (ES), who serve as a big inspiration for Lijnspel. Mondragon is one of the biggest industrial groups (75000 employees) in Spain and are organized as a cooperative to improve the society in different disciplines. The four pillars are education, social welfare, finance, and research & innovation. We are working on the development of the region South-Limburg. For example we are now working on a project in which we create durability networks for this region.
What would you consider your distinctive achievement?
We are not afraid to do something out of the box to achieve something for this region. We are working on the development of the region and that is something to be proud of. The cooperative way of thinking is what we are trying to launch and have people understand. It’s also the line of development we made from five years ago until today. We made some failures but that got us to where we are now.
Also I’m proud of the place we work in which has become more of a community than an office place but is now on the verge of developing to a new fase. Out of the inspiration we got from our past projects and collaborations we made the choice to reinvent ourself and this is resulting in some promising social projects.
What are you looking forward to?
In the pillar education we are working on a project which is based on a concept of the university in Mondragon named Team Academy. We want to create a learning program in which students learn how to be a cooperative entrepreneur and create their own business. This is based on self-studies and studying in a cooperative business guided by coaches. The purpose of Team Academy is to transform society through team entrepreneurship based in cooperative values and through active learning. We hope to start this in 2017. Next to this I’m looking forward to creating a project which gives concrete results and all over the world is very successful, and a lot of people are enthusiastic about the idea.
Which advice would you give to other professionals?
Dare to fail and don’t be afraid to have a flop. I had just finished my studies when I started Lijnspel. I made a plan on how to start it, but while working it turned out that my plan was not sufficient so I could throw it in the trash. It would be more functional to just start and when something goes wrong to solve it. Start, go talk to people without thinking of all the barriers that might come up. Start doing something and don’t hold yourself back because of fears and restrictions. On the other side it’s really important to set a straight goal and think of your future. But don’t hold on to it too tight because other plans and projects will evolve. There is always a next step, you are never finished.
What are the challenges we need to overcome to make cultural entrepreneurship more accessible?
I started this because I believe the education system creates ‘learned helplessness’. This means that we create students who wait to have their teachers tell them what to do. It doesn’t work that way in the world. There is no platform with information which teaches you how to be an entrepreneur. People need to learn that when they want to achieve something they have to do it themselves and they need to connect to other people. Everyone can learn how to be an entrepreneur and most importantly in this is not being afraid to fail. People who are doing well in the cultural industry, like for instance Daan Roosegaarde, are passionate and have one goal in which they create their work. Every entrepreneur has troubles and challenges when starting. But going trough this process makes you a good and unique entrepreneur.