Harvesting an educational utopia

H-FARM is creating an innovation hub where entrepreneurs, professionals, and students live together.

by Riccardo Donadon

Education 26 February 2020

Believing in the power of education is probably the greatest utopia of our time. According to Thomas More, this power has nothing to do with formal learning but should rather be regarded as a model of continuing education irrespective of age — A free, practical education, based on the interests of the individual, that aims to make a person capable rather than to convey a set of notions. More’s belief – that most people are schooled but few are educated – is well-known. Education requires the right setting. H-FARM is located 10 minutes from Venice airport. We are progressing, overlooking a lagoon, and a city, where, for more than 1,000 years, people have gazed afar, envisioning themselves as an economic might at the heart of a market directly linked to the East. It was a utopia, and yet, they succeeded.

H-FARM’s new campus is anything but a “non-place.” It’s quite real, set amidst a countryside facing Venice with its extreme and even harmonious physicality: it provides answers. It focuses on the wealth of knowledge and therefore on the intangible; it seeks to train talent. In a country like Italy, where viewpoints, dialogues, and investments are focused on the past to preserve traditions, for once, the investment is on the future and on what new generations can do to make it better.

The matter of technology is paramount. If we struggle to keep up with innovation, how can we teach our children something that we ourselves fail to assimilate? The Z and Alpha generations are incredible. If we give them the right environment to grow in, they will easily learn what is going on around them. If anything, the problem is their parents: previous generations grew up in an analog world and have a hard time dealing with this change. They know little about digital tools and abuse them all the time.

The notion of spending part of one’s life on education and part on work has gradually vanished. Education has become “lifelong;” change is continuous and personal, and professional development training is essential. Over the last decade, learning has become a fun process, with amazing tools and approaches. I think it is quite reasonable that each generation feels that it is at the core of a radical change, the protagonist of a profound mutation, but perhaps today, as far as education is concerned, we are really at the dawn of an epoch-making transition. Since learning will move online and software will play a major role, at the end of 2020 we will also launch a completely virtual campus: one that will have a real impact on a large segment of the population. We will not be the only ones, but having a structure like H-FARM behind us will make a difference.

Investing to create an innovation hub in the countryside is complicated, but it is not a utopia. In a few years, we will see a rediscovery of the rural dimension. The development of technology is accelerating, and human beings — while evolving — cannot cope with this acceleration. So they will seek places that are in harmony with nature and are conducive to innovation, but also to thought and meditation. A place that is “off,” a campus (from the Latin meaning of campus: “field”) that is precisely in the middle of fields, where we can gaze past the horizon, and towards the future.