THE GOAL: SUSTAINABLE PARTICIPATORY CULTURE POLICY
According to the actors’ notion of a transformation of cultural policy, a guideline for the transformation process of cultural politics will be presented in this final section. As has already been indicated, the key word is “participation”. The essential element of the congress was a call (if not a cry) towards a participatory cultural policy. The demand for participation in the design processes of cultural policy is provided by both the actors of the independent scene as well as actors of urban development policies and even from those of cultural policy. The city planners present at the congress wondered why such participation has not yet arrived in cultural policy, seeing as it has been an instrument of urban development for over 20 years. Cultural administrators like Daniela Rathe, former Cultural Affairs director of the city of Tübingen and Martin Schumacher, Head of the Department of Culture, Sports and Science of Bonn, emphasised the point: Participation is contemporary and in the cultural sector it is an aspect that should not be ignored. Klaus Hebborn, Assistant Secretary of the German Association of Cities, summarised quite poignantly: “Culture in the city is much more than culture from the city.” Only a participatory cultural policy can do justice to the claims of a democratic society. In the times of civil society, a culture of dialogue is of utmost necessity.
How can one craft a participatory cultural policy? What tools does it need for mediation? (1) Processes and procedures have been worked out intensively and concretely in the course of the congress, especially in the context of the workshops. An important aspect of such a participatory design is its sustainability. The introduction of instruments of mediation must be designed so that they can continue to operate even after certain actors have been replaced by other actors. How can an ever-changing permanence be designed? (2)
1. Providing instruments for mediation
The representation of the different instruments of mediation requires clarification. The basic result of the discussions, which can be considered simultaneously as a prerequisite and a goal, can be bundled up in one word: Attitude. As Jonas Büchel, urban planner and cultural manager, co-founder and managing director of the Urban Institute in Riga, brought it more than once to the point: The desired transformation of cultural policy depends largely on the question of attitude. In order for a dialogue to arise, the participating actors must mutually recognize the other actors as legitimate and equal (see the interview with Stefanie Raab). In this way, a space of negotiation may arise. Basically it comes to a transition from a so-called "Tretze situation" to an "arena situation". Tretze (also known as Neckball, "Piggy in the middle" or "Stupid Hans") is a simple ball game for at least three persons, in which the two (or more) outer players throw a ball to each other so that the internal player cannot catch it. As childlike as this metaphor may seem, it says quite a bit about the present conditions of the political game of cultural participation. The actors of the independent scene have repeatedly emphasised that they feel trapped in a supplicant position, from which they want to liberate themselves:
They call for a dialogue on equal footing with local decision-makers in the field of culture. They are specifically demanding to be decision makers on equal footing. Cultural policy is to be built in a dialogue:
Participatory process: Mutual development of cultural policy objectives
»Kulturbeiräte als Instrument konzeptbasierter und beteiligungsorientierter Kulturpolitik. Formen, Potenziale und Herausforderungen« by Dr. Patrick S. Föhl and Alexandra Künzel In the congress, different examples of participatory methods were presented in the context of urban development and cultural policy: Whether as a “round table”, “cultural council”, “cultural advisory council”, “Jour Fixe” or “think tank”, all of these terms refer to a regular meeting of different categories of actors to discuss a common theme at a table. These are arenas of negotiation. Their structure opens up several questions: Who participates in it? Who decides upon the composition? How often will it meet? Where do the encounters take place? By whom it is to be conducted and moderated? What results are sought and how shall they be implemented in real, municipal action?
Several models were highlighted in the context of the dialogue between the independent scene and local decision-makers in the cultural field. There are four methods, each differentiating itself from the others according to whether the call is limited to three actors (independent scene, cultural administration and cultural policy) or whether further actors in the cultural sector (including representatives of the public institutions) are to be included. In this context, the problem of the extant divisive system is revealed. Here four options are presented using examples from the congress.
• The first possible composition consists of all actors from the cultural sector with representatives of cultural administration and cultural policy, which would for example include the directorship of the opera as well spokespeople from the free dance scene and representatives of socio-cultural centres. This forms a model of a cultural parliament as it has been recently instantiated in Brno in the Czech Republic.
mehr zur personPavla Spurná, co-founder of Brno kulturni, an association of independent cultural operators and organisations in Brno, reported about the emergence of their Cultural Parliament. After the announcement of the closure of the local opera, a cultural-political movement in Brno came into existence. Thousands of people took to the streets to impede this decision. They then appealed to the public with six statements. The closing of the opera was carried out anyway, but via this development it became possible for the founding of the Cultural Parliament to take place. The Cultural Parliament is a meeting place, where every interested person can speak freely (Catalogue Best Practice). The Culture Forum in Leipzig is another one of the first such collaborations insofar as it brings together actors from culture, politics, science and the independent scene for current artistic and political discourse. The Culture Forum in Leipzig is an annual event that has been organised on behalf of the City Council since 2012 by the Department of Culture. The meetings act as a direct democratic place of discourse production. Together, the breadth of the themes and the composition of the group makes it unfortunately impossible to move on to concrete negotiations.
• The second possible composition consists of all representatives from a specific division of culture and the arts with representatives from the cultural administration and cultural policy: such as for example all actors from the field of theatre ranging from independent actors to independent theatres and even the director of the state theatre. Such round tables have been tested in several places such as in Bonn and in Tübingen. Martin Schumacher, Head of the Department of Culture, Sports and Science of the Federal City of Bonn has launched 10 round tables to which he has invited 15 active cultural producers - “those that have to live with this concept”. A thematic representative from the independent scene was represented at each table. Their job was to bring the discussion back to the independent scene. In Tübingen the concept took a similar course. Daniela Rathe, at the time head of Cultural Affairs City of Tübingen, organised sector-specific workshops (24 in total) to which she invited all the actors from one sector to come together. In both cases, the initiative came from the city administration. The selection of participants was also unilaterally decided upon by the administration. This second composition provided a unique meeting place of all active producers from a cultural sector that would otherwise not easily have met each other. The limited number of participants allowed the group to focus on a vision for the sector. However, it is clear that the composition should not be unilaterally decided upon by the cultural administration. In addition, as already mentioned, the divisional system of cultural “departments” excludes interdisciplinary art and similar cultural practices that increasingly play an integral role in the cultural sector.
• The third possible form of a composition consists of representatives from the entire independent scene with the cultural administration and culturally active politicians: This includes spokespeople from all of the sectors of the independent scene ranging from theatre, music, dance, literature, visual arts and socioculture. The round table of the independent scene in Leipzig is a striking example of this form. It brings all of the speakers from all cultural sectors of the independent scene together with cultural ministers, representatives of the parties and members of the expert committee of culture. This enables actors of the independent scene to explain and discuss their specific needs. Here, however, the independent scene is called an extra-section (if not extra-division) of the cultural landscape, which can be somewhat problematic because it pushes the independent scene into the corner and makes it a marginal player.
• The fourth possible composition consists of representatives of one sector of the independent scene, the cultural administration and possibly also members from cultural politics: For example it may include only the spokespeople for the sector of the independent scene of the fine arts. One example is the regular jour fixe in Berlin, which is held between the cultural administration and representatives of the Berlin network of independent project spaces and initiatives. They meet every two months. The advantage of such a composition is its very concentrated mode of working. The attention of cultural administrators or politicians is completely focussed on the topic at hand. Several such arenas for close dialogue exist in Berlin depending on sector, such as the Initiative for New Music, the LAFT or Tanzbüro. The downside, as put forward by Christophe Knoch, spokesman for the Coalition of the Independent Scene of the Arts in Berlin, is that such a process would be incredibly time consuming if it should represent all sectors of independent culture, and that the sectors could be pitted against each other. This would create a certain competition between the respective sectors.
In addition to these compositions, other formal elements of cooperation were discussed during the congress. The question of place was an important issue. Why should the round tables always take place in the offices of the administration?
Dr. Martin Schwegmann
Actors of Urban Change
mehr zur personMartin Schwegmann, director of the Robert Bosch Foundation programme “Actors of Urban Change” highlighted the importance of a neutral location. Such an approach promotes and retains a level playing field. In addition to the idea of a neutral location, there also appeared to be the need for a rotation of the meeting place. The meetings should take place in different production sites of the independent scene in order to allow insights into their respective modes of production. Furthermore, the role of presenters was raised. They should be external moderators who introduce the talks and moderate them so the discussions are not led as usual by the traditional decision-makers. The involvement of an external facilitator would also play a key role in that the negotiations can ultimately take place on an equal footing. For this purpose, several speakers expressed during the congress that the facilitator’s role could be described as the management of a point of intersection or intermediate space. As both Dr. Patrick Föhl, founder and director of the “Network for Cultural Consulting” from Berlin and Michal Hladký, Designer and Project Manager of the European Capital of Culture Košice 2013 emphasised: Such negotiations need people who are very familiar with this point of intersection. They can moderate between the actors and thus enable a consensus to be found. Regarding this proposal, there came the legitimate question on the part of the independent scene: Who should pay for such a mediatory function?
Support of communication
In addition to the formal framework of a round table, there was also a discussion about the manner in which the outputs of such negotiations should be conceived. According to Martin Schumacher, Head of the Department of Culture, Sports and Science of Bonn, a public report is published in Bonn after each round table. This raises the question of who wrote the report and whether it should be developed from the minutes.
In some cases, such negotiations have the initial goal of drafting a document. This has been the case not only in Bonn with its development of a participatory cultural development plan but also in Leipzig where the round tables of free culture have been geared toward the design of a cultural development plan for 2009 to 2015.
Whatever the form that a publication of the negotiations takes, it is necessary at any rate to reintroduce the debate to a broader social and political context. Hereby it is important that the content is communicated to the outside so that it can be accurately discussed. In these publications, it must be remembered that running processes (such as the development of new cultural policy objectives, funding procedures etc.) should not be disturbed by media publicity too early. The sensitivity of such topics requires that all participants communicate in a coordinated, responsible and reliable manner.
2. The issue of sustainability
A participatory cultural policy should aim at a sustainable culture of dialogue. Sustainability is an urgent aspect of the cooperation process, which must be considered from the outset. Instruments of mediation should be designed to be durable, so they can continue to function throughout the phases of constant change involved in the comings and goings of actors. How can durable flexibility be designed?
Both on the part of cultural politicians as well as on that of the spokespeople of the independent scene there exists the problem of the change of those involved; only on the level of cultural administration can a certain continuity be guaranteed. For this reason, some type of continuity for the actors must be created - but how?
Cultural politicians have a seat for 5 years in the Committee for Culture. They must quickly familiarise themselves with the cultural-political discourse of their city and understand the resulting challenges that they are required to solve. Getting to know the actors takes a long time, time which very quickly runs out. Annette Körner, cultural and economic policy spokeswoman for the Alliance 90 / The Greens in the City Council and Chairman of the Culture Committee in Leipzig, talked about how she is just getting to know the workings of such structures in order to make the right decisions. She said that the [the party] office brought her the old decisions, so that she can gain an overview of what has already been discussed. The conveyance of resolutions takes place within the party. In this sense, the archiving of the debates and decisions constitutes a voluntary task. It is not clear whether all parties participate in this regard. Furthermore, the question of the archive’s structure is important. Is it organised thematically or chronologically? How can members of the Committee for Culture gain a thorough insight of this material?
As Dr. Patrick Föhl, founder and director of the “Network Culture Consulting” from Berlin, mentioned, there is a need for a repository of negotiatory communication vessels where everything comes together. These are the cultural nodes. The continuity and archiving of negotiations result in a higher quality of cultural policy.
In addition to the objective of publishing the negotiations, there should also be an archiving system, in the sense of Liquid Democracy. Every decision and every transaction made with public funds should be published and accessible.
In addition to providing information, participatory cultural policy can only be sustainably maintained as long as the trust between the actors can be preserved. It may sound like a banality, but it is a part of the dialogue. Martin Schumacher, Head of the Department of Culture, Sports and Science of Bonn, has expressed the following: The phase of implementation is very important. As a cultural politician or administrator one should honestly implement that which has been discussed. Participatory cultural policy needs consistency. It should not just be made of “beautiful words” that have been jointly and participatively developed in order to be forgotten in a drawer.
In the case of Bonn, he reported that the round table continues to exist even though the Cultural Development Plan has now been developed. The implementation is being discussed and “supervised”. In addition, every 6 months a report is submitted by the Office of Cultural Affairs, which publicises the process of implementation.
Maintenance of reflexivity
According to many speakers at the congress, such cooperation can become more sustainable when accompanied by the sciences and knowledge transfer. The inclusion of science can enable the acquisition of a more thorough overview of the subject matter and provide further knowledge. Then it is about creating reflexivity regarding one’s own position, the position of others and the interactions between them. In addition to the sciences, a knowledge exchange should be encouraged with actors from other cities and countries. In this way, best practices can circulate and enrich their own context.
The Congress is a case in point in this regard. There was a discussion with more than 40 international experts, among others from France, England, Poland, Greece, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Latvia, as well as from all over Germany. They not only collected examples and elaborated upon recommendations for action, but also established a number of new interesting contacts. A very diverse know-how was brought to the discussion by more than 50 participants from science, the independent scene, administration and politics. Such events combine awareness and convey a certain enthusiasm for continuing to work toward this goal of sustainable and participatory cultural policy.