Why culture counts?

Krzysztof Dudek, Director of the National Centre for Culture (Poland), shares his thoughts on the relations between culture and business

Professor Giovanni Schiuma*, recently visiting Warsaw, compared the relations between culture and business to a romance, from which, at best, only one of the parties benefit. As it often happens in relationships, this situation is caused by difficulties arising from the lack of a common language and the failure to define needs by each of the parties. As rightly pointed out by the professor, in such a situation it is necessary to involve an organization which has experience in relations with both business and culture and will be a kind of bridge between these two worlds. This idea is in no way revolutionary. One of the first attempts in this area was taken already in the mid-sixties of the last century in Great Britain by the Artist Placement Group. Their effort, although initially focused on an artist going outside the studio space and the creation of works of art in the business or public administration environment, constituted an unprecedented action in its scale. Another example showing how much attention the British give to bringing these areas closer is the Arts&Business organization, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. Its main tasks include support, both financial and substantive, for artists, cultural organizations and business in order to initiate joint projects. A slightly different action model, however, also set to initiate cross-sectoral cooperation, is the French Admical. The organization founded in 1979, for over 35 years has been organising training for both sectors.

There are many examples of such initiatives in Europe. Research conducted by the KEA European Affairs, within the project Connecting Arts and Business, indicates that there are more than a hundred organizations like this in thirteen European countries selected by the researchers. The need to bring culture and business closer was also the starting point of a campaign “Culture Counts” of the National Centre for Culture initiated in 2010. The conviction of its organizers about the need to draw attention of communities connected with culture and business communities to the pro-development potential of culture, which is difficult to overestimate, increasing together with economic development of Poland.

The impulse to act was provided by discussions conducted during the Congress of Culture in Krakow in 2009, which, pointing at the growing awareness of the social and economic consequences and conditions of development of culture, painfully revealed another phenomenon – the lack of reliable knowledge and information about this topic.

Therefore, it was concluded that that was the right moment to introduce this topic, present at least since the sixties of the 20th century in debates of researchers and practitioners in Western Europe, in Poland to a wider public discourse and attempt to apply conclusions drawn from these discussions in the Polish practice. The campaign was conducted on a number of tracks.

The National Centre for Culture initiated and organized numerous debates and conferences with the representatives of public administration of various levels, representatives of business, cultural institutions and science. Among the invited guests who took part in the discussions, there were, among others, David Throsby, Professor of Economics of the Macquarie University in Sydney, Philippe Kern of the KEA European Affairs, Prof. Bohdan Jung from the Warsaw School of Economics, Prof. Jerzy Hausner from the Cracow Academy of Economics, Marc Sands, Director of Media and Audiences at the Tate gallery, Michael Pyner of Shoreditch Trust, a London-based organization aiming to solve the problems of inequality and exclusion in the poorest and most deprived regions, Henryka Bochniarz of the Confederation of Polish Private Employers Lewiatan, Michał Dembiński of the British-Polish Chamber of Commerce, Michael Hutter, Professor at the Technical University of Berlin and research director of the Social Science Research Centre in Berlin (WZB).

So far, the events organized as a part of the campaign “Culture Counts” have included, among others, debate “For whom financing culture pays off?” (May 2010); international conference “Economy of Culture – from theory to practice” (November 2010); debate “Partner or Customer? A new look at the relationship of culture and business” (October 2011).

In March 2010, in cooperation with the Collegium Civitas, the organization of a series of seminars “Culture and Development”, conducted by Edwin Bendyk began. Their aim was to present current research and issues discussed in Poland and internationally related to the management of culture, economy of culture and social capital, as well as attempt to formulate recommendations for the state's cultural policy. By 2014, four editions of these seminars have taken place.

As a part of educational, informational and promotional activities, the National Centre for Culture has also initiated a series of publications “Culture Counts!”, as a part of which the first Polish translations of widely discussed books, analysing contemporary relations between culture, economy and creativity, are published. To this day, nine items have appeared as a part of this series. Their authors include outstanding Polish and foreign economists, culture experts and sociologists. The following publications came out within the series: Economics and Culture – David Throsby, The Rise of the Creative Class – Richard Florida, Od przemysłów kultury do kreatywnej gospodarki (From Cultural Industries to Creative Economy) ed. by Andrzej Gwóźdź, Culture: management, animation, marketing – Milena Dragićević-Šešić and Branimir Stojković, A Handbook of Cultural Economics – Ruth Towse, The Economy of Prestige – James F. English, The Creative City – Charles Landry, and Kultura a rozwój (Culture and Development) – ed. by Jerzy Hausner, Anna Karwińska and Jacek Purchla.

Under the influence of the campaign “Culture Counts!”, the communities related to culture have recognized and appreciated the economic and pro-development impact of their activities, they have also begun to effectively use appropriate arguments in negotiations with public authorities at different levels on the principles, directions and the size of investments in culture for public resources. Talks carried out with business are more difficult, though not without some successes.

In 2011, the team “Culture and Business”, appointed jointly with the Lewiatan, developed the Culture Sponsorship Code. Its preparation was preceded by research, ordered by the NCC, conducted in business communities and cultural institutions, whose aim was to evaluate the ratio of the phenomenon of sponsorship and the scale of its occurrence among the entrepreneurs operating in Poland. The provisions of the Code developed by the team serve to reconcile, often dissimilar, interests of companies and cultural institutions in this area, and build and promote good practices. Bogdan Zdrojewski, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, and representatives of the business world signed the Culture Sponsorship Code in December 2011 during the conference Creative partnerships. Culture in business and business in culture, held at the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

The idea of combining culture and business and the knowledge of the benefits of this type alliance to both parties, is passed on by the National Centre for Culture also to business communities by participation in conferences and meetings organized by them. We are present at such events as the Economic Forum in Krynica, both by initiating discussions on culture and its importance to the economy, and by bringing artists presenting their latest works. We also organized debates during the Congress of Regions in Świdnica or the European Economic Forum in Katowice.

However, it is time for the next step. Following the example of our western neighbours, the National Centre for Culture, along with the PZU, initiated the creation of the club Culture – Business – Media, whose objective is to organize a series of workshops, which will be prepared and conducted by the business communities for people from the cultural sector, and by the culture communities for business. The idea is to understand each other, to find a common language and eliminate the prejudices and misunderstandings about mutual intentions still existing in both communities. For this to happen, in addition to the continuation of actions taken so far, it is necessary to conduct constant monitoring of the phenomenon and observation whether and how the practices of cooperation between the two communities are changing, what are the effects of such cooperation and the obstacles to its development.

* Professor Giovanni Schiuma is Director of Innovation Insights Hub at the University of Arts in London. He became famous around the world as one of the most important experts who promotes combining art with business and strategic knowledge management. He conducts research on the processes associated with management, methods of coordination of projects and supervising research teams.

Check out the main activities in the cultural and creative sector in Poland by the National Centre for Culture 

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