© Marion Custred

Trilogue Salzburg 2021: United in a Fragile World – Defining the Fineline between Progress and Improvement

How can progress be actively created against the backdrop of a multidimensional world? "United in a Fragile World - Defining the Fineline between Progress and Improvement" focusses on the differentiation of both term in order to overcome current challenges and to build a better future.

The quest for progress and improvement is as old as human history. Disruptive technologies and new creative ideas - in case of success – are replacing existing technologies, products, or services. As innovation they create and possibly disrupt new markets and value networks, displacing established market-leading firms, products and alliances. In equal measure they encompass fundamental improvement through significant change. Correspondingly, progress and improvement is regarded as the decisive driving force of sociocultural change.

At the same time constant and consistent action prevent that not every new idea leads to changes in strategy and planning reforms and thus to restructuring and reorganizing. Any change implies the risk of failure, breakdown or negative consequences, which are likely to end in individual catastrophes – or even worse in societal destruction.

Especially in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and perceived ambiguous world it is necessary to actively manage progress and improvement. In modern society both progress and improvement form the general outline as well as precondition for a promising future and growth – at the same time they are also facing skepticism and criticism. While in nature any evolution must inevitably be embedded in the functional interrelationships of the overarching ecosystems in order not to endanger their preservation, any development of human cultures is subject to women’s and men's limited, incomplete, and fallible judgment. Not every kind of progress and improvement does inevitably lead to more quality.

This year's Trilogue Salzburg is therefore dedicated to the question of how to create progress and improvement multilaterally in a fragile world. Thus, the following aspects are up for debate:

  • Can we define what progress we seek to overcome current challenges and to build a better future?
  • How can the world overcome the fragmentation that exists in many places?
  • Can progress and improvement succeed better together in the future?
  • In a fragile world, is it foolhardy to aspire to long-term planning and progress although some challenges will unfold with time delay (e. g. climate change)?