Democratising cultural policy

The European Cultural Foundation (ECF), together with Netwerk Democratie, organised a workshop on ‘Participation in culture all right, but then what ..?’ to discuss how municipalities can successfully involve citizens in cultural policy.

The workshop was part of the Culture & Municipalities 2018 conference organised by Kunsten ‘92 in the run up to the local elections in the Netherlands. The national conference, which took place on 2 February at the Harmonie in Leeuwarden - European Capital of Culture 2018 - was designed as a platform to discuss the urgent arts and culture challenges facing our cities and regions together with mayors and local decision-makers. 

 During the workshop. Photo by Jan Duker.

During the workshop. Photo by Jan Duker.

In the workshop on participation we asked aldermen and local decision-makers as well as cultural practitioners to share their vision on co-creation of local policies. The thought-provoking workshop highlighted three key values that are urgently needed to help democratise cultural policy: create trust, connect & bridge the divide and develop a long-term vision.

1. Create trust: to create trust on all fronts – from residents to aldermen and from cultural organisations to local councillors – there need to be clear expectations and clearly formulated questions right from the start. Preferably all these parties need to be part of a core team with equal rights to share their expertise and formulate a shared core question to steer the process and keep an open mindset to new perspectives.

2. Make new connections and bridge the divide: new connections can be made in two ways: within municipalities to structure departments in a cross-sectoral way (including their budgets) as well as making new connections with civil society. A community council, founded by active citizens and artists but joined by local councillors and decision-makers, can help to bridge the divide to work on new forms of cooperation, experiment and come up with alternative solutions to local challenges.

3. From a one-off initiative to structural engagement: there are several ways to turn civil engagement into a structural process. For example, the core teams or communities should have ownership of their own local budgets and be more engaged with cultural expressions and policy to create a more connected audience. Two concrete solutions for long-term participation discussed during the workshop were: 1. an alternating community council in which active cultural practitioners connect communities with local councillors on relevant themes; and 2. connecting participation with long-term policy goals, for instance to the Sustainable Development Goals, and putting a long-term strategy of 10 years in place to overcome the four-year changing cycle of politicians. 

Read more in Dutch:
A report by Netwerk Democratie.
Opening speech, keynote and reports on the other workshops via Kunsten'92.
 

 Aldermen in discussion during plenary. Photo by Jan Duker.

Aldermen in discussion during plenary. Photo by Jan Duker.