European Network of Cultural Centres (ENCC)

Joining the Dots: our 2023 annual conference

Orihuela, Spain
Speakers At A Conference
As cultural organisations, what do we mean when we talk about sustainability?

Our annual conference goes beyond the catch-all keyword to highlight specific intersections between culture, ecology, digital practices, and care.

Many pathways to low-carbon futures have been articulated, but most fail to engage communities in imagining themselves as part of those futures and involved in the transition. Cultural centres play an important role in building imaginaries and providing inspiration to navigate future horizons. How can they become key actors in the necessary environmental, social, and digital transition?

Post-fossil societies would look very different from the ones we inhabit today in Europe. Landscapes, transport systems, buildings, communities, and indeed most social relations would be transformed. For this meeting, our guests will be practitioners, multidisciplinary researchers, artists, and policymakers working on low-carbon futures, who will share the concrete questions they are working on and the practices they are building to help citizens appropriate the future and feel that they can create it.

Leaving petro-culture behind will not happen just through mitigation of fossil fuel use. It will also require systemic and cultural change. In-depth workshops will look at how cultural organisations can

  • switch to a more ethical and sustainable use of digital

  • care for their human resources

  • improve their environmental impact

  • use art as a transformational practice

A key concern will be moving away from extractive logics - which exhaust natural resources, human resources, and data - towards collective practices for care, creation, and flourishing.

Who will be interested?

  • Coordinators and staff of cultural and community centres and cultural networks

  • cultural managers and policy experts

  • professionals involved in mental health and well-being, digital and cultural rights, sustainability, and climate justice

  • artists, activists, educators, social workers

  • researchers and students

  • policymakers from the local, national, and international levels.

This event is organised in collaboration with the Municipality of Orihuela, Casa Mediterráneo, the Diputación de Alicante, and the Catedra Iberoamericana Alejandro Roemmers de las Industrias Culturales y Creativas of the Universitas Miguel Hernandez. It is endorsed by the New European Bauhaus and funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Commission.

Wednesday 29 March
12.00 - 14.30
13.00 - 14.30 Welcome standing lunch and networking
14.30 - 15.00 Official opening with Carolina Gracia Gómez, mayor of Orihuela; Juan José Sánchez Balaguer, Co-director of the Iberoamerican Chair of Cultural and Creative Industries; Ivo Peeters, ENCC Chairman
15.00 - 17.00 Opening panel “Joining the Dots: environmental, digital, cultural and
mental health sustainability for new imaginaries”, with:
- Heather O’ Donnell, psychologist, consultant, and founding director of The Green Room
- Jara Rocha, artist and cultural researcher
- Mariachiara Esposito, policy officer DG EAC, European Commission
- Pierre Huyghebaert, graphic designer and teacher
- Vittorio Bianco, cultural manager and sustainability expert, member of ENCC’s Board of Directors
17.00 - 17.30 Coffee break
18.15 - 19.45 Guided tour of the old town of Orihuela
20.30 - 22.30 Welcome dinner
22.30 - 23.30 Cantos de la Pasión on the streets of Orihuela

Thursday 30 March
09.30 - 10.00
Inspirational talk “Digital dependencies: plotting infrastructure solidarity with cultural organisations”, by Femke Snelting, artist and researcher

10.00 - 12.00 Opening talk and workshop “Towards a regenerative justice of/for digital ecologies”, by Pierre Huyghebaert, graphic designer and teacher, and Jara Rocha, artist and cultural researcher. Launch of ENCC’s guidelines for digital ethics
10.45 - 11.05 Coffee break
12.30 - 14.30 Lunch and networking
14.30 - 16.30 Workshops:
- Workshop A: “For an ecology of human resources and mental health in culture”, by Heather O' Donnell, psychologist, consultant and founding director of The Green
- Workshop B: “La sostenibilidad ambiental de los centros socioculturales” (ESP), by Vittorio Bianco, cultural manager and sustainability expert, member of ENCC’s Board of Directors
- Workshop C: “Possible worlds and how art can change our reality and our future”, by Alicja Brudło, artist, pedagogist and cultural manager, and Beata Kwiatkowska, local community development specialist
- Workshop D: “Gestión cultural para una nueva cultura ciudadana” (ESP), by Victoria Clemente Legaz, cultural mediator and consultant, Municipality of Murcia
16.30 - 17.00 Coffee break
17.15 - 19.00 Soundwalk in the Palmeral de Orihuela designed by Climaginaries, followed by a debriefing with the multidisciplinary research team
20.00 - 21.00 Concert of the Ensemble San Pablo offered by Casa Mediterráneo
21.15 - 23.00 Traditional Dinner

Friday 31 March
10.00 - 10.30 
Keynote speech “Imagining a more sustainable Europe: the cultural and creative sectors shaping the future in unprecedented times”, by Lisa Lang, Policy Director and EU Affairs Orchestrator, EIT Climate KIC
10.30 - 10.50 Coffee break
10.50 - 12.30 Roundtable “Culture and sustainability as transformative forces for community regeneration and the practice of different imaginaries, in Europe and beyond”, with:
- Alfonso Vegara Gómez, architect, economist, and sociologist specialised in city planning and innovation: “Intelligent territories, a global view”
- Marga Crespo, designer and project manager at Innovarte international consultancy: “The Mediterranean creative and cultural industries confronted to global challenges”
- Lisa Lang, policy director and EU affairs orchestrator, EIT Climate KIC: “How can the European creative and cultural sector contribute to systemic change?”
- Enrique Vargas, Coordinator of the Ibero-American Cultural Space of the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB): “Cooperative culture and creativity as
transformative forces of community regeneration: the Ibero-American perspective”

12.30 - 12.45 Final remarks and presentation of the 2024 annual meeting host
14.30 - 16.30 Visits to the Murals of San Isidro and the house of Miguel Hernandez


  • Panels and workshops: Auditorio La Lonja, C. Aragon, s/n, 03300 Orihuela, Spain

  • Soundwalk: el Palmeral de Orihuela

  • Concert: Auditorio La Lonja, C. Aragon, s/n, 03300 Orihuela, Spain

  • Hotel: for guests and members who requested it, the ENCC has made a group booking at the Sercotel Palacio de Tudemir, C. Alfonso XIII, 1, 03300 Orihuela, Spain (a 12-minute walk from the Miguel Hernández train station and an 8-minute walk from Auditorio La Lonja).

Download the programme in English here

Descarga el programa en español aquí

  • Jara Rocha carries out interdependent and para-academic research, from the starting point of trans*feminist techno-sciences and in conversation with other disciplines. Their practice takes different shapes such as writing, teaching, curating, crafting of online pieces, inventory, counselling, podcasts and more. They engage in disobedient action-research endeavours (Volumetric Regimes, The Cell for Digital Discomfort). They are an associate member of TITiPI (The Institute for Technology in the Public Interest) and hold the 2023 InfraMaintenance Fellowship at Hangar/La Virreina in Barcelona.

  • Lisa Lang is a technology consultant, policy advisor and entrepreneur. She is the director for Policy and EU Affairs Orchestrator at EIT Climate KIC, the EU’s climate innovation initiative, as well as an advocate and ambassador for the New European Bauhaus, the European Commission’s action for sustainable cities. Dedicated to establishing a European fashion tech network to support innovation and scale up sustainable products, Lisa has founded fashion tech agencies ElektroCouture, OFundamentO and ThePowerHouse. In 2018, her entrepreneurial experience has earned her the recognition as one of Forbes’ Top 50 Women in Tech.

  • Pierre Huyghebaert co-runs the Spec uloos graphic design studio in Brussels and is interested in the use of libre and open source software for the collaborative learning-by-doing of practices around graphic design. He teaches these practices at the master in typography of La Cambre art school in Brussels, participates in Open Source Publishing (OSP), is co-founder of the independent investigative magazine Médor, and develops collaborative and critical cartography platforms with Atelier Cartographique, in parallel with other urban and cultural projects in Brussels.

  • Femke Snelting develops projects at the intersection between design, feminism and free software. She explores how digital tools and practices might co-construct each other In various constellations. She is one of the founders of The Institute for Technology in the Public Interest (TITiPI) and a member of Constant, association for art and media based in Brussels. With Jara Rocha she activates Possible Bodies, a collective research project exploring bodies in the context of volumetric technologies. With the Underground Division (Helen Pritchard and Jara Rocha), she studies the computational imaginations of rock formations. Femke teaches at XPUB (experimental publishing master) in Rotterdam.

  • Vittorio Bianco is the co-coordinator of Hub Multiculturale Cecchi Point – Casa del Quartiere Aurora in Turin, and the responsible for European projects at Rete delle Case del Quartiere and other non-profit organisations. With a major in Natural Sciences, he started his career in Legambiente, the main environmental organisation in Italy, with a focus on urban ecology and sustainable development. He then expanded his field of activity to other aspects of sustainability in the urban context such as social inclusion, culture and health. Throughout his career he has been promoting cooperation between non-profit organisations and private and public bodies, giving birth to several local networks. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Bici-t, a start-up offering sustainable mobility services.

  • Heather O’ Donnell is a psychologist (M.Sc.), a meditation teacher, an Artistic Systems Therapist in-training (DGSF) and a former concert pianist. She is the founding director of TGR The Green Room, a non-profit centre founded in 2020 in Cologne, Germany, that offers essential support systems for performing artists (musicians, theatre workers and dancers). These services include residencies (mostly for refugee or dissident artists), psychological counselling, somatic courses and workshops, and career-development coaching.

  • Alicja Brudło is a theatre artist, a pedagogue and a cultural manager. She is the director of the Ochota Cultural Centre in Warsaw, where she has developed an open and inspiring space for the community of the Ochota district. As an artist, she works on stage and in public spaces, elaborating the specificities and history of a site through the prism of theatrical and contemporary art tools. Alicja is also a Board member of the Polish Theater Pedagogues Association.

  • Beata Kwiatkowska is a local community development specialist with extensive experience in project coordination and international cooperation. She works for the Ochota Cultural Centre in Warsaw and is the creator of MAL Grójecka 109, a neighbourhood-based community centre that promotes integration and citizens’ active participation in socio-culture. She has previously worked, among others, for the non-governmental organisation Polish Humanitarian Action, where she coordinated educational projects.

  • Marga Crespo is a partner at Madrid-based consultancy Innovarte, where she holds the position of Project Manager. She is in charge of the conception, financing and implementation of programs and projects aimed at improving the competitiveness of the creative and craft sectors and at safeguarding cultural heritage in the Mediterranean region, Maghreb and Latin America. Among other managerial positions, she collaborates with institutions such as UNESCO, the European Union, and the Spanish International Agency for Development Cooperation (AECID), forming part of the steering committee of the Ibero-American Craft Community.

  • Alfonso Vegara Gómez is the founder and honorary president of Fundación Metropoli, an international centre of excellence dedicated to the planning of sustainable urban ecosystems. PhD in city and regional planning, he has been lecturing Urbanism at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura in Madrid, at the Universidad de Navarra, and at the Universidad CEU San Pablo. His projects have been awarded prizes by the United Nations, the European Union, the European Council of Spatial Planners, as well as various architects associations, entrepreneurial associations, cities and national governments. Among other positions, he is also Honorary Consul General of Singapore in Madrid since 2005.

  • Mariachiara Esposito is a seconded National Expert at the Cultural Policy unit of the European Commission, DG EAC, where, among other tasks, she leads the Member States’ Open Method of Coordination (OMC) experts group on Culture and Sustainable Development. She has a background in European policies, social sciences and humanities, and extensive work experience on European cultural policies. She has previously worked as advisor on culture and research at the European level for the regional government of Tuscany, as scientific coordinator for humanities at Science Europe, and as the President’s spokesperson at the European Economic and Social Committee.

  • Victoria Clemente Legaz is a cultural mediator and consultant. She has been working for the Culture Service of the Murcia Municipality since 2002, and teaches art curatorship within the International Master in Cultural Projects of the Training Center of the Toledo Chamber of Commerce. She regularly collaborates in publications on culture and citizenship, and is a speaker at conferences on philosophy and culture. In the past, she has worked on a number of urban innovation initiatives between Spain and Latin America.

  • Enrique Vargas Flores coordinates the Ibero-American Cultural Space within the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), part of the Ibero-American Heads of State and Government Summit. Speaker and lecturer in international forums and specialist in diplomacy and cultural cooperation, cultural rights and development of cultural industries, he is a visiting professor in the Postgraduate Diploma in international cultural management and cooperation at the University of Barcelona. He has been an advisor on legislation and cultural policy in some Latin American countries and the promoter of a number state and federal laws in Mexico. In 2003 he was a consultant to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in a study on cultural rights in Mexico.

Joining the Dots has been three intense, inspiring days of exchange, discovery, and experimentation around new imaginaries and cultural practices. Despite outstanding transport strikes across Europe, the event gathered 60 participants from 16 EU countries plus Ukraine, Serbia, the UK, and Mexico.

Day one opened with a welcome by local authorities and the ENCC team. In the panel discussion that followed, speakers agreed on the need for a joint reflection and the creation of new narratives to move towards sustainable social systems. ENCC Board member and environmental sustainability expert Vittorio Bianco spoke of the need for a new approach to sustainability, introducing Daly’s triangle as a more suited framework (you can download his presentation here). Psychologist and director of The Green Room Heather O'Donnell introduced the systems thinking method as a possible holistic approach to addressing and making sense of the climate crisis; Mariachiara Esposito, policy officer at DG EAC of the European Commission, gave us an overview of the EU's cultural cooperation schemes and spoke about the recently-issued Stormy Times report. Graphic designer and teacher Pierre Huyghebaert and artist-researcher Jara Rocha stressed the importance for socio-cultural organisations of reclaiming ownership of their digital practices, highlighting that technology is culture.

The conversation on digital ecologies continues in our working group on ethical digitalisation: find out more and join us here

Day two was dedicated to hands-on experimentation, opening with an inspirational talk on digital ecologies by artist and researcher Femke Snelting, co-founder of the Institute for Technology in the Public Interest, who warned us against the ongoing trend that she describes as "digital depletion", which results in generalised cultural flattening and loss of plurality (you can find her full speech at the bottom of the page). The talk was followed by a plenary workshop by Jara Rocha and Pierre Huyghebaert, who encouraged participants to dare to imagine a collective mutation where socio-cultural centres become active creators of the digital spaces they inhabit. More workshops followed in the afternoon: “For an ecology of human resources and mental health in culture”, by Heather O'Donnell; “Possible worlds”, by Alicja Brudlo and Beata Kwiatkowska from the Ochota Cultural Centre in Warsaw; and “The environmental sustainability of socio-cultural centres”, by Vittorio Bianco.

The day ended at the Palmeral, a palm grove just outside town, where we took the much-awaited sound walk prepared by Climaginaries and introduced by researcher Ruben Ritzén from Lund University. It was an intense and purposefully unsettling experience aimed at raising awareness on the dangers of environmental collapse, underlining the importance of the choices we make now in shaping our future. You can download the sound walk here.

The last day opened with a keynote speech by Lisa Lang, policy director of EIC Climate KIC, who illustrated the think tank's mission and activities and spoke of the importance of an EU-wide, future-proof climate strategy (you can download her presentation here). In the panel that followed, Lang was joined by architect and urbanist Alfonso Vegara Gómez, founder and president of Fundación Metrópoli, Marga Crespo from Innovarte, and Enrique Vargas from Secretaría General Iberoamericana (SEGIB), for a multidisciplinary and multi-perspective exchange on the potential of culture to regenerate territories, empower and connect communities.

Orihuela, a little-known town in the Alicante province whose foundation dates back to the Visigoth age, welcomed us with its fascinating traditional music, beautiful baroque architecture, and blooming orange trees. There were walking visits to some of the town's historical sites, including the Colegio Diocesano Santo Domingo and the Cathedral in the Casco Antiguo, and at night we were lucky enough to witness the singing of cantos de la pasion in preparation for the upcoming Easter. On the evening of day two, we were delighted by a chamber concert by string quartet Ensemble San Pablo.

View more pictures from the event here and interviews of the speakers here

Joining The Dots was hosted in Auditorio La Lonja and organised in collaboration with the Municipality of OrihuelaCasa Mediterráneo, the Diputación de Alicante, and the Catedra Iberoamericana Alejandro Roemmers de las Industrias Culturales y Creativas of the Universitas Miguel Hernandez. It was endorsed by the New European Bauhaus and funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Commission in the framework of our 3-year project CUBE. We would like to thank the local events agency ATAMA for their invaluable support throughout.