The thematic working groups are an important strand of the ENCC activity, as they bring together cultural centres and invited experts to reflect together on specific topics and identify innovative ideas to improve the organisation and implementation of their missions within local communities.
This strand replaces the "Project Fair" events organised between 2008 and 2016, which brought together ENCC members and other cultural centres to present and discuss their projects and work on new ideas for future cooperation and networking. These events were successful and the issue of continuity between the "Project Fairs" was raised. How to foster further cooperation after the end of the event?
All of you are experts in one way or another... working in a cultural centre.
Thus was born the proposal to organise "Experts Meetings"or "Thematic Working Groups" as ongoing cooperation processes; it has been implemented since 2011. The themes tackled have been: networking between cultural centres in metropolitan areas, cultural centres in rural areas going beyond their own limits, model of multidisciplinary spaces as key venues for culture policy in the city, cultural centres as adult educational centres, and vice versa, arts and disabilities, community arts, development in rural areas, refugee and migrants in Europe, social innovation.
By essence, local cultural centres are working closely with their neighbourhood and local communities with their sociological and environmental characteristics. The Thematic Working Groups take stock of the expertise of the cultural centres' staff and encourage them to find common grounds for developing new, innovative projects. They aim to:
- Provide virtual space, motivation, and support for cultural centres' staff to imagine new projects;
- Encourage new approaches to the core missions of cultural centres;
- Act as incubators for innovative projects and cooperation in line with cultural centres' activities and European challenges;
- Contribute to European debate through experimental projects.
All over Europe cultural centres accumulate expertise in socio-cultural artforms and activities. Since their implementation the Thematic Working Groups resulted in the organisation of European conferences (such as "Culture for Shared, Smart, Innovative Territories - Towards 2020 European Regional development"), project applications for Erasmus, Creative Europe, and Horizon 2020, and an improvement of communication and networking between ENCC members. Besides Skype meetings and group e-mail exchange,s the members of a Thematic Working Group meet in person in a seminar/conference format once per lifetime of the working group.
6 European projects were submitted to strengthen cooperation and exchanges between cultural centres and enlarge partnerships with new cultural stakeholders.
European cooperation projects:
- Vital Villages - Made of Culture (Erasmus+/Knowledge alliance) in partnership with the universities of Hildesheim, Germany and Antwerp, Belgium;
- ViViC (Erasmus+/Strategic partnerships), which aimed at identifying and disseminating models and methods of sustainable local development in rural areas;
- A broad group of organisations dealing with performing arts and persons with disabilities participated in a Creative Europe Platform application 2015. Besides the ENCC, three other European Networks (IETM, On the Move and NETA) were partners in this application.
- The COHERE research project, successfully submitted in the context of Horizon 2020 European Research programmes, was launched in April 2016. It explores how critical reflection on the historical, cultural and normative roots of Europe’s cultural and democratic practices and institutions contribute to an evolving European identity today. It is led by Newcastle University and involves Aarhus University, Denmark; Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey; the University of Bologna, Italy; Amsterdam University, Netherlands; Heriot-Watt University, Scotland; the Latvian Academy of Culture, Latvia; the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, Denmark, as well as several non-academic organisations. ENCC is one of the field partners and will involve some of its members in research through Living Labs;
- REDEEM, a research project on youth and new forms of democratic participation was submitted in February 2016 (Horizon 2020). It is led by Newcastle University, and notably involves Aarhus University, Denmark; the University of Warsaw, Poland; the University of Udine, Italy; the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia; the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Greece; UKCOD (MySociety), UK; AEGEE, EU. ENCC was involved as an associated partner, and may involve some of its members in the field research.
- "The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other" project focuses on what the new narrative should be for cultural centres and European societies facing the recent refugee and migrant crisis. The project aims to experiment and incubate new forms of dealing with transcultural society through socio-cultural work. This project was submitted within the framework of Support for Refugee Integration Projects (Creative Europe).
Challenges and further steps
In the future we will continue to identify key thematics for the Thematic Working Groups in line with main European challenges.
We will explore new ways to provide a supporting and structured ecosystem for innovative projects (concealing, mobility, networking, reflection and positioning, lobbying, etc.); to support our members' capacities to design, position and build innovative European and international cooperation projects.
Feel free to contribute to this process by contacting us and suggesting issues that are common to cultural centres and that would gain by being discussed and tackled in a European context.