Laura Giesen

Laura is currently Programme Manager for Democracy Technologies. She is also organising the ACT NOW Local Change Labs, which is an interactive process where young people, civil society representatives together with local administrators develop solutions to local challenges. And she works on the ACT NOW Conference which involves a similar process. 

What is your background, your professional journey, and what sparked your interest in currently working to support political innovation?

I studied European Studies in my Bachelors and Socio Ecological Economics and Policy in my Masters. I have always been interested in politics, but only my Masters programme has really shown me how radically different we need to organise our societies and therefore politics. 

What is your first memory of politics?

My dad worked for a labour union when I was younger. I remember trying to explain to my friends in primary school what that is. This made me think about it politically more than my dad’s explanation (which I hardly remember).

Which historical figure would you most like to meet? What would you ask them?

Difficult to choose, but I would like to challenge some of the enlightenment thinkers on why they often excluded women or black people when writing about equality. 

The best political joke?

…is one that spontaneously comes up in a discussion. 

You also like to learn how technical things work. What is something you are learning right now and why is it important to you?

Knowing how to fix and make things is both practical and super satisfying. As opposed to purely intellectual challenges, you see very tangible results when you build a bed, install a digital switch or take a camera appart. I mostly learn what I need to know for a certain project. I have tried to learn things without that kind of goal in mind (for example coding) but that doesn’t often work for me. 

On Instagram, you had been documenting the life of a very special squirrel. What’s the story behind that?

That was basically a lockdown project with my family. My parents had that squirrel visiting their backyard almost every day and my dad discovered videos of ninja warrior courses for squirrels on youtube. We slowly started building small challenges for “our” squirrel and posting photos and videos of it on the squirrel’s own Instagram channel. Now we have become more lazy about it. 

You go out of your way to not travel by plane. What’s an amazing thing that happened to you because you chose to take a train, a bus, or hitchhike? 

To be honest, I am happiest when train trips are relatively uneventful. I often take night trains, so I hope to spend most of the time sleeping which works better and better the more used to it I am. Therefore, I would say that the most amazing thing that happened so far was getting on a night train, falling asleep almost immediately and only waking up again 20 minutes before arriving. It might not be a great story, but for me that was the ideal travel experience.