Civil society has the right and the power to influence decision-making. That means people like you, being listened to and making change in their communities. We cooperate with a broad range of partners and networks in wider Europe. Together, our goal is to make sure civil society's needs are moved up on the European political agenda. We connect civil society with policy, allowing them to influence policy debate at all levels, from local to European and neighbouring countries.

MEP and Tandem alumni Julie Ward talks to Idea Maker Silviu Medesan at the Idea Camp 2015. Photo by Julio Albarrán.

In order to restore trust in democracy, we need to place culture and more participative, commons-based models at the heart of EU decision-making. Commons models are based on enabling citizens and governments to share power and co-design and co-shape legislation, management or collective action for the common good. Culture contributes to this by engaging and inspiring people, challenging stereotypes and transcends boundaries. This is essential to build a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable future.

Connected Action for the Commons

Members of Connected Action for the Commons during the Idea Camp 2014. Photo by Cedric Moulard.

Members of Connected Action for the Commons during the Idea Camp 2014. Photo by Cedric Moulard.

We are working together with Connected Action for the Commons, a network and action research programme led by ECF together with six cultural organisations from across Europe. 

Our shared ambition is to amplify the change-making power of cultural communities at local and EU level and build new strategic alliances across sectors for reinvigorating democracy.


Recommended reads and content:

EU external relations

Federica Mogherini at the European Culture Forum 2016. Photo via European External Action Service.

For more than a decade, ECF has been advocating to put culture at the heart of the EU’s strategy for international external relations. Together with our partners, we carried out research and co-founded More Europe – a coalition of stakeholders to provide studies, vision and guidelines for an EU strategy for international cultural relations. We have achieved that culture has been integrated into the EU’s external relations: on 23 May 2017, the Council of the European Union adopted Conclusions on an EU strategic approach to international cultural relations, underlining that the strategic approach should be “bottom-up and should respect the independence of the cultural sector”.

ECF engaged from the outset with the EU’s former Wider Europe Task Force that led to EU policies and strategies towards its eastern and southern neighbourhood. Bringing cultural knowledge and experiences from these regions into European policy arenas, ECF helped securing a cultural dimension in these policies. ECF is an active contributor to the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, and part of on-going discussions on cultural cooperation strategies. By merging our advocacy expertise with local lobbying initiatives in Eastern Europe and South Mediterranean, we help build capacities to push for structural change. We facilitate mobility and exchange and make the independent voices from these regions heard at the EU policy stage.

In 2011, we joined the advocacy initiative More Europe – External Cultural Relations. This action helps to keep the doors of dialogue open between the cultural sector and the European institutions, pressing for culture to be made a competency within the European External Action Service. In Amsterdam, in September 2012, we brought together high-level Dutch and EU policy-makers, diplomats and international artists to discuss the added value of culture and creative industries in the EU’s external relations. 

Since 2012 we have been part of a European consortium mandated by the European Commission to conduct a Preparatory Action on Culture in EU External Relations. As part of a consortium led by the Goethe-Institute, we are taking part in a worldwide consultation and mapping of culture in the EU’s external relations. In May 2013 we co-initiated the international expert conference The Dwarfing of Europe? A Dialogue between Brazil, India and China.

All these actions ended up in in the long-awaited achievement in 2016: the launch of the Joint Communication: Towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations – encouraging cultural cooperation between the EU and its partner countries.

To help the EU implement this strategy and create synergies among all EU stakeholders, a Cultural Diplomacy Platform was set up . Funded by the European Commission and operated by a consortium, ECF as one of the partners, the Platform will deliver policy advice, facilitate networking, carry out activities with cultural stakeholders and develop training programmes for cultural leadership.

ECF is one of the partners in shaping the Global Cultural Leadership Programme. This training programme specifically aims to improve the skills of cultural managers, enhance collaborative peer-to-peer learning, network building and enabling to develop fresh insights into international cultural collaboration practices.

ECF Director Katherine Watson and Tibor Navracsics, EU commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and SportPhoto by Xander Remkes.

Recommended reads: 

Dutch EU Presidency

In the first half of 2016, the Netherlands held the Presidency of the EU Council. ECF has participated to a wide range of events as part of our advocacy work, and our focus was on including citizens and culture in the Urban Agenda for the EU.

During the Dutch Presidency of the EU Council, we launched the Build the City Manifesto, which then developed into the Build the City Magazine, in collaboration with a.o. Eurocities, our Connected Action for the Commons programme, CAE, and Pakhuis de Zwijger. This publication was widely disseminated, highlighting models of civil-public partnerships to inspire the Urban Agenda for the EU, launched in May 2016 where “the potential of civil society to co-create innovative solutions to urban challenges” has been integrated in the Pact of Amsterdam.

In the framework of the Europe by People programme, we have worked with a wide range of partners in organising a series of events on democratic and cultural renewal in Europe from a citizen’s perspective, to raise awareness, reflection and practice exchange. Events included:

We have also hosted and partnered in high-level events such as the 2016 ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture, which took place at the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam, the EFC conference, the Forum on European Culture: Re-Creating Europe, as well as the ECFR Council meeting

Past Projects

We have been involved in many European wide projects throughout the past few years. You can see a list below, linking to various material - books, reports, videos and more, that we still use as references throughout our work. 

Towards a European Mienskip debate, April 2015. Photo by Ruben van Vliet

Towards a European Mienskip debate, April 2015. Photo by Ruben van Vliet

  • New Pact for Europe (2013-2014). ECF partners in this new initiative supported by a large consortium of organisations from across Europe. The goal is to promote a European-wide debate on the EU’s future at both European and national level, involving policy-makers and citizens, and to bring fresh but realistic thinking on how to address the challenges facing Europe.
  • Voor Europa door Cultuur - Manifesto. To strengthen the position of culture in the run-up to the European Parliament elections on 22 May 2014 in the Netherlands, ECF and partners launched the manifesto Voor Europa Door Cultuur. This Manifesto is part of the wider EU initiative of Culture Action Europe with the political manifesto and advocacy toolkit and the we are more campaign, an ongoing action to implement culture firmly in all strands of European policies. For more information, read the dedicated Manifesto page in our Library
  • More Europe – External Cultural Relations. ECF is part of a cultural civic initiative and campaign that advocates for culture – one of the strongest assets of Europe – to be positioned at the heart of EU external relations. Launched in December 2011 as an alliance of national cultural institutes and independent foundations, the initiative involves research, debates, and public media work.
  • Go Vote! campaign. As part of our goal to increase participation in the European elections in 2014 as an act of civic responsibility, we have joined our partners’ and others’ initiatives, such as thecampaign "Go vote! Bring a friend." launched by European cultural networks.
  • we are more campaign. ECF is the key strategic partner of the campaign, which is led by Culture Action Europe with the aim to strengthen the position of culture in the next European Union policy period (2014–2020). ECF expanded the campaign in the Netherlands and engaged a broad alliance of cultural and creative organisations.
  • Drawing Citizenship. ‏Between 31 March and 25 May 2014, we have joined forces with the Cartoon Movement to explore perspectives on the upcoming European elections through comics and cartoons.Drawing Citizenship: Toward the 2014 European elections through comics & cartoonshas invited artists to reflect on European citizenship and the various issues that are currently facing Europe. You can now see all eight selected cartoons including information about the artists in our Library.
  • Doc Next Network's Radical Democracy Video Challenge invites participants to become part of the debate around the 2014 European Elections and win a €2500 award. The call was open until 13 April to media makers, social activists and critical thinkers for submission of audiovisual media works to challenge prevailing notions of democracy and representation, and reflect on alternatives. For more information visit Radical Democracy: Video Challenge's dedicated website


Our advocacy work currently focuses on:

  • Create a more central position for culture and community participation on local level and in EU policies (in co-development with the Connected Action for the Commons Programme)
  • Culture in EU External Relations
  • Global Cultural Leadership Programme

Advocacy news & publications from our Library:

Download the overview of our advocacy activities (PDF)

Download the overview of our advocacy activities (PDF)