LECTURE 1. “It’s all about process”
Why do we need cultural strategies? The role of governments (whether on national, regional or local level) is not to create cultural content or tell creative people what to do, rather it is to create a favourable environment and conditions where culture can flourish and creative professionals can fulfil their potential. As funds for culture are always limited and politics are a game of choices, cultural strategy should set out clear priorities, ambitious goals, and ways to reach those goals. But what is also important, is that cultural strategy doesn’t only say “what” we need to do, but also “how” we need to do it – it defines the rules of the game, the governance model.

Who needs cultural strategies? Cultural strategies can exist on different level. Most commonly this is a tool for Government, Ministry of Culture and other ministries, regional authorities, and city governments. Their aim is to create favourable conditions for arts and culture to flourish and creativity to add value to other areas of life.

The cultural strategies can also be elaborated for cultural institutions – museums, theatres, music institutions, universities – and private cultural organisations to understand better how their work contributes to the overall national or local strategy.

Key aims for elaboration of national, regional or local culture strategy include, among others:

  • Bringing culture from the margins (only a matter for the ministry of culture and its departments) to the centre by showing the role that culture plays in many other areas of life and highlighting the need to get culture and creativity into the agenda of other ministries and stakeholders;
  • Formulating an agreement for the role of culture between different levels of government, including national, regional and local authorities;
  • Setting a long-term vision for culture and creativity that highlights the potential that culture plays in developing the economy, strengthening identity and enhancing social cohesion;
  • Agreeing on the rules of good cultural governance by establishing principles on how cultural policy decisions are being taken and formulated in transparent, inclusive and participatory manner;
  • Identifying the short-term priorities and key activities to revive the cultural and creative sectors and unleash the potential for rebuilding a coherent society by suggesting concrete and necessary cultural policy reforms.

As with many strategies, the process of elaborating cultural strategy is often more important than the result itself, which is why it is absolutely crucial to design a process which:

  • engages key stakeholders and partners;
  • is open and transparent;
  • provides opportunities to be consulted and share ideas;
  • raises awareness about culture and creativity;
  • reaches people from different backgrounds, different disciplines, and different regions.
  • People should feel ownership of the process and ultimately of the final result.

Good quality process is not easy, it is rather time consuming and it can be messy. But it is worth it. Therefore, it is important to have a clear management structure:

  • task force or working group of representatives from both public and private sectors,
  • cross-departmental consultative group to bring together ministries or departments of culture, education, economy, tourism, foreign affairs, and others,
  • consultation sessions with wider audience to introduce the mid-term results and provide space for public discussions.

To guarantee the transparency of the process and inclusion of key stakeholders, the strategy formulation process should have a dedicated communication strategy together with a webpage and social media page. It should contain up-to-date information on the overall process, working documents, key partners and possibility to send online contributions during the public consultation process.

Finally, who should be involved in cultural strategy process? It is often said, that two groups of people should definitely be involved in this process – those that need to be involved and those that want to be involved. The more people the process can involve, the more legitimacy this process has. And with strong stakeholder backing new governments and new administrations cannot simply throw the strategy away, which helps building sustainability and stability in the cultural and creative sectors. 

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