Walking or ‘flaneuring’ through streets, alleys and promenades is a great way to open one’s mind. The French word ‘flaneur’ – meaning: stroller or wanderer – refers to the process of seeking to understand urban phenomena. The CONSTELLATIONS International agency in Shanghai took this concept to the next level, offering walking programs that spark new ideas in a way and on a level that office sessions can never match. The name of the successful program: ‘SHANGHAI FLANEUR’.
A group of a dozen people is strolling through Shanghai Old Town, the former French Concession. Holding maps and ‘trigger cards’, they stop here and there to see the sights, smell the kitchens in back alleys and – sometimes literally – taste life in Shanghai. The Chinese or international expert that leads the group triggers the discussion among the group members, against the background of the old and the new Shanghai. Participants are invited to discuss on concepts related to liveability in cities and urban development. Sometimes they stand still for a moment, reflecting on the observations they made.
This is not your regular city walking tour: creative walk shops entail a rich intellectual content, delivered by old China hands and insiders, and guided by professional facilitators. Such walk shops can fits a variety of needs, from board members visit to team building, executive learning to trends scouting. From short to long, simple walks to complex investigations, SHANGHAI FLANEUR can bring insights to organizations on business relevant issues, such as: business and society, value shifts in China, social entrepreneurship and innovation, urbanization and sustainability against the inspiring background of bustling Shanghai. This ‘walking conferences’ service was designed by Constellations International, a consulting firm for learning, leading and collaborating based in Shanghai and Berlin.
There is more on the menu. Shanghai Flaneur offers China learning journeys (one week or more) that offer an extensive orientation to not only the city of Shanghai but also to understanding China, its culture, its history, its society.
Such journeys can complement well week long executive programs or offer a series of modules over a period of several months as an addition to academic programs. “Such programs cater well universities and business schools”, Yan Chu, Shanghai Flaneur’s project manager, explains. “Our other programs are aimed at international corporates, from managers to boards of directors and even foreign government and industry delegations that visit China and are looking for ways to connect to this country and its people.”
Source of inspiration
Shanghai, with its history and its contrasts is a rich source of themes and inspiration. It offers a great décor for team building and brainstorming about new ideas for business. “We have a variety of team building & learning programs on offer”, Yan Chu insists. “The group that just crossed the Old Town was on a Sensing Shanghai walking tour, exploring the urban transformations. Their goal is to understand local culture and lifestyles by investigating the diverse faces of Shanghai, but also to bring back ideas for the business and the organization as a whole.”
Earlier this year the board of Givenchy luxury goods company took the ‘Nurturing Harmony’ program that offers a journey through Chinese philosophy. Yan Chu: “It was an interactive walking tour, that helps understand better local culture, how business is done in China and generates new insights for the day to day operations.”
Other bestselling programs such as Megacity on the Move focuses on understanding how megatrends such as urbanization and sustainability translate in the urban real. “Participants learn about a large Chinese city’s development and reflect on potential for improvement, linking the trends with organization’s core business.”
Open the minds
The walking tours are guided by are wide variety of Chinese and international experts. The team includes architects and designers, sinologists, historians, journalists, authors and sustainability experts. Yan Chu: “They all offer their own perspectives and comments on the city of Shanghai, its stories, its themes and learning’s: each participant is looking to find new perspectives and inspiration. Not only our program offers a deep and inspiring Shanghai experience, but also we hope to open the minds, by taking business meetings out of the conference room and into the city.”