The EUROCITIES Culture Forum in Tallinn attracted 129 representatives from 65 cities to discuss innovative forms of governance and partnerships for culture in cities.
Our take-aways include:
1. Developing innovative forms of governance and partnerships requires open mindsets.
‘Future-fit administrations’ are city administrations ready to try out new ways of working. Cities increasingly act as brokers and facilitators between key cultural stakeholders: local organisations, citizens, private partners, other city services, and other cities. This requires a clear political vision, a willingness to work in a different way (sometimes cross-sectoral), and sufficient human resources.
2. Citizens are experts: team up with them!
City administrations are key players in developing participatory governance models, such as citizens’ budgets or thematic participatory boards. Such models increase public support and understanding of local policies, allow citizens to discuss and prioritise public spending, and gives them the power to make real decisions. They also provide an overview of local trends and can influence future policy making. The challenge is to find the right balance between what locals want and need and what they do not yet know about.
3. Never compromise on the artistic quality of projects selected by citizens and co-financed by cities.
When asking citizens to identify projects they want to support (be it through citizens’ participatory budget or municipal crowdfunding programmes), make sure that the artistic quality is there. Such schemes should be used for new projects, not for those that did not qualify for public funding.
4. Inclusion is a major challenge in participatory governance.
A key issue is how to involve young and socially disadvantaged people. The recommendations are: provide a very transparent framework for the decision making process; clearly explain it at training sessions; and plan large-scale communication campaigns.
5. Use data to improve policy making.
Data are useful to rethink cultural policies, set clear goals, and monitor them. For example, they can be used to map participation in cultural and arts projects, and can be compared with the socio-economic profiles of the city districts. If used well, data can be used to improve the distribution of funds for culture, and to better inform policy makers.
Presentations shown in Tallinn are available on our members' websites.
The next EUROCITIES Culture Forum meeting is scheduled for 25-28 October in Ghent, and will focus on ‘Third places: living rooms for culture in cities’ (working title).