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.
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.