2017 - 2020: Democracy needs imagination
We believe that culture can and does play a vital role in addressing some of the most pressing issues facing our communities. We will continue to work together with our partners to the greatest possible effect to help tackle some of the systemic problems as a matter of urgency.
Europe needs to tackle some urgent issues, including how communities are fundamentally changing as a result of the forced migration of hundreds of thousands of people arriving from war zones; and how to respond to brutal attacks by radical groups in Europe’s towns and cities, intended to undermine the very foundations of democracy and freedom that have underpinned Europe for decades.
We continue to be driven by our firm and unwavering belief in Europe and in culture; Europe in its widest sense and culture at its most inclusive. Culture and the power of imagination drive our vision of how the shared space of Europe should be negotiated and shaped in a more democratic way, both in the daily cultural practices of those living in Europe and through their interactions with Europe’s institutions – today, tomorrow and into the future.
2013 - 2016: Connecting Culture, Communities and Democracy
Under the theme Connecting Culture, Communities and Democracy, we co-developed Connected Action for the Commons, a network and action research programme. Growing out of this, the recurring Idea Camp was a catalyst for development and co-creation of initiatives that matter.
In the run up to the European elections in 2014, the foundation partnered in the New Pact for Europe project promoting a European-wide debate on reform proposals. Our reflective and programmatic work led to publications like Remappings (2012), Remixing Europe (2014), Build the City and the anthology Another Europe (both 2015).
2009 - 2012: Narratives for Europe
Narratives for Europe set out to rise to the challenge that Europe needs new narratives. On a policy level, Europe seemed to be moving towards closer forms of cooperation. On a national level, however, people started to question further integration, resulting in a growing gap between people and democratic structures. The looming financial crisis of 2008 and a wave of migration only served to widen this divide.
Europe was in need of a new perspective, a new ‘narrative’. ECF’s Narratives for Europe theme offered a platform to discuss new perspectives, as did Imagining Europe (2010), a four-day event reflecting on Europe’s future, and the Dwarfing of Europe? debate, which included reflections on Europe as seen from the outside.
2005 - 2008: Diversity, the Power of Culture
As Europe continued to expand, ECF’s focus lay on the cultural dimension of European integration and enlargement, and understanding cultural cooperation as an act of reciprocity. This produced new programmes, such as the Balkan Incentive Fund for Culture (later Balkans Arts and Culture Fund), and publications such as Europe as a Cultural Project, The Heart of the Matter and An Alternative Gaze. In 2008, the ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture was launched to recognise cultural change-makers who envisage a truly intercultural landscape and strive for societal change.
The rapid uptake of new technologies encouraged ECF to spearhead a new initiative called LabforCulture – an online networking platform designed to facilitate cultural exchange.
2002 - 2004: Enlargement of Minds
The enlargement of Europe created new borders and new ‘neighbours’. Intense cultural cooperation with neighbouring regions was essential to avoid cultural exclusion and to encourage an outward-oriented approach. Our series of Enlargement of Mind conferences promoted this expanding outlook. Other initiatives also grew out of this focus including the STEP travel grants (previously called APEXchanges) and capacity-building programmes in the EU Neighbourhood.