Experience Europe is our programme cluster geared towards providing citizens and cultural professionals from different European countries and beyond with direct people-to-people contacts. It aims to encourage a European sense of belonging and to build on long-term cultural and educational exchanges of people and common practices. Whilst still keenly feeling the travel restrictions, we continued to build on the basic value of our work around people-to-people contacts and exchanges.
Under the strand ‘citizens experiences’, we continued working with libraries from across Europe and further consolidated our cooperation with the OBA, Amsterdam Public Libraries. Under the strand ‘professional cultural experiences’, we continued our work on Tandem – the cross-border collaboration programme, and co-developed ongoing activities of the EU Cultural Relations Platform. This year we have started implementing i-Portunus Houses, a pilot programme that leads towards the EU’s future large-scale travel support scheme for artists, cultural workers and art residencies.
Our work in this programmatic area has again been heavily affected by the coronavirus crisis as physical cross-border mobility and cultural exchange has remained almost impossible to plan. Providing physical people-to-people contacts and digital networking encounters could only partially replace making real-life European experiences elsewhere.
ECF supports citizens’ exchanges across borders, through experiences in safe and cultural environments in order to promote understanding and learning beyond national, regional and sectoral borders.
1. Libraries for Europe
If we are to find solidarity, there must be safe spaces where people can come together and build understanding. Libraries, with their connections to communities and to municipalities and local governments, are such spaces. Recognisable to all, they provide access to trusted information and knowledge that is needed now more than ever.
Amsterdam Public Libraries (OBA)
As of 2020, driven by the common interest in the contemporary and future meaning of a public space, ECF and the Amsterdam Public Libraries (OBA) committed to work together to further consolidate and strengthen Amsterdam’s position as a European cultural and learning hub (both offline and digital).
In February 2021, together with the OBA, and in collaboration with Public Libraries 2030 and Democratic Society, we kicked off the pilot edition of The Europe Challenge – an annual programme that offers funding and support to libraries and communities to explore how we can meet, live together and work in the Europe of today. The 2021 pilot invited seven libraries from across Europe to address the question: How do different communities around Europe contribute to the building of public spaces and engage in democratic conversations.
Together with Stiftung Mercator, ECF has started to support the scaling of a successful European educational youth engagement network that has been developed by the Internationales Bildungs- und Begegnungswerk (IBB) in Dortmund (IBB). Generation Europe – The Academy is the continuation and multiplication of a previous multi-annual programme that offers young Europeans (aged 15-25) without any previous European experience a new impulse for public engagement. Alongside some start-up co-financing of this large-scale project, ECF also provided methodological advice for workshop design, regional European network contacts and advocacy expertise at the EU policy level.
Cultural Professional Experience
ECF also supports a variety of exchanges and learning experiences for cultural professionals who act as local initiators and multipliers in European cultural relations.
2. Tandem Regions of Solidarity
Tandem is a cultural collaboration programme that strengthens civil society in Europe and its neighbouring regions. Throughout the year, a number of online gatherings and communication actions celebrated the ten-year anniversary of Tandem. Since its inception in 2011, Tandem has supported long-term collaborations, knowledge development and networking opportunities for more than 500 cultural managers from over 200 cities across three continents. Tandem is an initiative of the European Cultural Foundation and MitOst e.V and is carried out together with many local collaboration partners as it is based on the power of inter-connecting deeply rooted local practices across Europe.
Tandem Regions of Solidarity is the newest addition to the programme family this year. Since the pandemic, many local arts and cultural organisations in the regions of Europe have struggled with a complex new set of demands and expectations from their communities, while they have to renew and adapt to secure their own organisational and financial survival. In particular, artists and cultural professionals who work in the more ‘peripheral’ regions of Europe need to revitalise ‘sustain-abilities’ and the resilience of their local working environments.
Tandem Regions of Solidarity supports them in (re)joining forces, exchanging knowledge across borders, innovating their capacities ‘inter-regionally’ and reconnecting them in a spirit of local, regional and pan-European solidarity. The two-year programme reinforces collaboration capacities for responding to the enormous post-Coronavirus community challenges in eight European regions. It strongly builds on the alumni network and experiences from three successful rounds of the previous Tandem Europe Social Innovation programmes but has been substantially updated and methodologically redesigned.
Until 2022, three professionals from local community organisations from each of the regions of Lombardy (IT), Southern Athens (GR), Friesland (NL), West Yorkshire (UK), Thürgau (CH), several regions in rural Bulgaria as well as Northern and Central Portugal will follow the Tandem Regions learning and exchange experience. This will result in a prototype that can be applied in multiple European regions facing many societal and economical challenges.
3. EU Cultural Relations Platform
ECF has long been advocating for more culture in EU external relations. Together with a partner consortium of European cultural institutes, networks and universities, we continue to contribute to the EU Cultural Relations Platform (CRP), a hybrid EU exchange and learning platform that supports cultural professionals from around Europe and the world to re-engage in global cultural relations during and after the pandemic.
Until 2023, ECF will continue to provide advice for this EU Platform, especially for the design of a series of annual exchange and learning experiences for leading cultural professionals from around the world and Europe. ECF’s input of expertise and professional connections supports the Platform in its aims to promote and facilitate sustainable cultural exchanges between Europeans and citizens from countries around the world.
4. i-Portunus Houses
i-Portunus Houses has been designed for the third phase of the i-Portunus pilot scheme of the European Union that will lead towards a future Erasmus-style programme for cultural professionals in the 41 Creative Europe programme countries. Co-funded by the European Commission, i-Portunus was dedicated to testing diverse mobility models for artists, creators and cultural professionals in these countries.
i-Portunus Houses has been developed and co-financed together with MitOst (Berlin) and the Kultura Nova Foundation (Zagreb), ECF’s long term partners in European cultural mobility programming. The pilot puts focus on host organisations of mobilities, underlining their crucial role in providing efficient residencies and working environments for creative individuals who visit them for short and long-term residencies.
The pandemic has delayed the travel and arts residency related elements of this project once more. A series of online programme information sessions and so-called market square events nevertheless managed to bring together almost 80 host organisations with almost 400 artists and creative professionals to realise their physical travels and residencies after the lockdowns lift in 2022. As a preliminary answer to the lockdowns i-Portunus Houses also developed new digital exchange and networking formats that allowed selected artists and creatives to engage in new hybrid forms of cultural mobilities and collaborations.
ECF partner MitOst acted as coordination office for programme applicants and participants, while the i-Portunus team at the Kultura Nova Foundation was responsible for developing a critical study on the future of cultural mobility in Europe. This will accompany the supported mobilities and will provide policy proposals for a new permanent cultural mobility scheme that will be included in the EU’s Creative Europe programme 2022-2027.