Patricia Kahane

“I wanted to do something for some of the most disadvantaged members of Moroccan society. My choice fell on women with disabilities.”

Patricia Kahane is a social entrepreneur, industrialist and president of the Swiss Kahane Foundation. In the past she also owned and managed a publishing house and a documentary film company and was active in the non profit sector in her free time. Based on her observation of European politics from 2015 on, she is convinced that to effect positive changes towards the preservation of democracy and transparency one cannot rely only on high-level “politicians”. This is why she became part of the founding partner group of the Innovation in Politics Institute.

Which political moment shaped you? What was the trigger that made you become politically conscientious and engaged?

The 1967 war between Israel and its neighbours. Although I was a teenager at the time, the fact that this ended in the occupation of territories and oppression of the Palestinian people stuck with me. Also I grew up in a conservative environment and was educated in French Lycées. There we studied philosophy and were immersed in the “Égalité Fraternité Liberté” culture which kind of put me in the social democratic spirit. I was and am still engaged in the Palestinian, Human Rights, and social issues.

How did you come about founding ACT NOW, and later on, co-founding the Institute? 

Act Now started in 2015, when we saw on the news that refugees from the Middle East literally started  walking from the main train station in Budapest towards Vienna. Discussing this with a group of friends we decided we had to do something. We had a shared Jewish history and we did not want to have to tell our grandchildren one day that we saw something happen and did not do anything about it. The period 2015-2017 in Central Europe with the failure to solve even part of the humanitarian challenges led me to want to become more active in “politics” in a wider sense. When a group of friends approached me to ask whether I would be interested in joining a new venture addressing challenges of democracy and change at the local and international levels. This could not have come at a better time and I became part of the founding partners of the Innovation in Politics Institute.

How did you experience building and working together with your partners and teams and what have been the greatest successes and learnings for you in that process? What about the challenges? How did you tackle the moments of crisis and risk? 

It is a very amicable, professional and productive collaboration. In this process I have learned that less can be more and also that I can let go of things when I am confident they are in good hands.  Of course the past couple of years were challenging, merging ACT NOW into IPI just when the pandemic hit and then the COVID-19 time which is not yet over. We overcame them on the partner level by communicating closely and reaching shared understandings and positions.

Which political beliefs have you thrown overboard over the course of your life?

That Western democracy is not always a quick fix for countries with different traditions.

You have founded AlNour in 2006 with the mission to give disabled women the opportunity of a self-determined life rooted in dignity and independence through the traditional Moroccan art of embroidery. What is the story behind that project and what have you learned from working with these women? 

After spending quite some time in Morocco since 1995, I settled here part-time and started seeing more than the usual tourist does.

I wanted to do something for some of the most disadvantaged members of Moroccan society. My choice fell on women with disabilities.

Patricia Kahane

This was the starting point of Alnour. There were many learnings: Working in a totally different socio-cultural environment, dealing with a team consisting of people with very different levels of education, from analphabetists to university graduates, dealing with corruption and red tape in all walks of daily life. But also seeing how the life of the women working and using the day-care facilities of Alnour changed fundamentally to the better.

When and why did you cry about politics?

Maybe not cry, but I was very disappointed when many years ago the Social Democrats entered a coalition with the right wing FPÖ and later on when the same thing happened with the Austrian People’s Party unter Chancellor Schüssel. 

How do you encourage creative thinking in the workplace?

By listening closely to the ideas of the team.

What do you value most in the youths? Where do you see the most impact happening now in youth activism and what is revolutionary about how they engage politically?

It pleases me to see that young people are taking stands in politics concerning the future of our planet. The internet is a great multiplicator for these activities (unfortunately also for “the other side”). This way of connecting and creating networks almost in real time is new and exciting. 

Which politician(s) should have more to say?

Local politicians on the municipal level

Please name a must-read political book. 

East West Street – Philippe Sands

What gives you hope?

That as far as we know up to now: Life goes on.