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Articles Inter-institutional relationships in creating the home of the future
XXI World Congress of the International Federation of Home Economics (IFHE)Lucerne, Switzerland (July 2008)

Economics starts at home! That was the remark that closed the welcome address of Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard at the XXI World Congress of the International Federation of Home Economics (IFHE) held in Lucerne, Switzerland (July 26-31).

Such a sound statement may be read at least in two ways: as a self evident truth that needs not even be mentioned; or as a fact that, hidden under different layers of misconceptions and ignorance, needs to be brought to light. 

At the IFHE XXI World Congress, around 1000 persons, from 57 different countries, reflected on these and many other possible interpretations and implications of such a statement. 

“Home Economics: Reflecting upon the past - Creating the future” was the theme that gathered home economic specialists, researchers, educators, practitioners, public policy makers; members of the five IFHE regions: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Pacific, to do precisely that: look back at the 100 years of the organization’s history -a century of fast pace changes affecting the life of individuals, families and societies- in order to understand the present and be able to create the best future possible.

Home Economics is a field of study and a profession that draws from a range of disciplines, as was highlighted by the contribution of Home Renaissance Foundation to the congress, so as to achieve optimal and sustainable living for individuals, families and communities. The disciplinary diversity synthesized through interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary inquiry enriches the view of the phenomena of everyday life, especially because the challenges of everyday life are multidimensional, context-related and typically complex.  Thus a interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary look enhances the possibilities of finding new answers and better practices for the on-going changes that twenty-first century life brings along with it.

Probably here lies the renewed interest that home life, household work and all the related issues have attracted lately.  It seems that the great challenges that we face today are somehow linked to them.  Climate change and ecological menace can be combat with knowledge and good practices that begin at home and with personal action; responsible consumers are the key to sustainable communities and shopping related to home and daily needs is the best place to start with; obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases can be prevented with healthy eating habits that develop first at family dinners; the growing debt among people, especially among the young, can be fought by teaching and learning how to handle money or how to manage a household budget; the ever more frequent combination of family and career and shared responsibilities between both parents require new skills and strategies. For example: better communication and coordination in order to agree on standards for the household and in raising the children, are skills that once developed can be transferred from the family environment to the work realm.

But in order to take a step further in the reflection upon relationships and to strengthen their impact, it is necessary to create links between the different loci of knowledge: NGO and universities, policy makers and researchers, the practitioners and the academics.  As briefly mentioned before, it was the research poster entitled “Family care and Household work in Colombia” exhibited by the Home Renaissance Foundation and INALDE Business School at the University of La Sabana partnership that attracted much attention.  This made visible that inter-institutional relationships and support can deliver good products and open the door to new ideas and projects.  The research carried out by S. Idrovo and M. Hernaez from the CTC, INALDE’s Research Center, was selected to be presented and together with two others from Brazil they were the only three from Latin America.

The informed discussions, the exchange of research results, the sharing of best practices among professionals and academics from different countries (from Australia to South Africa, passing through Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, Ghana, Turkey, Greece, Kenya, Jamaica, the UK, USA, Canada, Finland, Germany, to mention a few) revealed the need of scenarios such as the Congress but also the importance of the work that organizations like Home Renaissance Foundation have undertaken. Since only through the promotion and visibility of the theory and practice involved in home life and what it encompasses can we create the future human beings need in order to become better persons and citizens.

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