Cultural entrepreneurship is a young phenomena for many countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The change from a fully state subsidized and controlled system in the arts and culture sector to new forms of cultural policy and management is a long process. It requires encouragement of private initiative in the arts, looking for new models for support of start-up companies in the sector, and new mechanism for financing of  innovative arts projects. It is not possible to summarize all issues related to this process, as the countries in this region are very different from one another, with diverse cultural policy mechanisms and arts practices. Based on my long-lasting experience working with cultural professionals an policy makers, below are some of the common issues and trends  that seems relevant for most of these countries:

1. Cultural policy level

There are still not relevant mechanisms to support entrepreneurship through legislative initiatives. The funding and financing for young entrepreneurs who use creativity and arts experiences to start their own business is either very limited or non-existing. Cultural policy documents and strategies in most of the countries do not include long-term goals and specific mechanisms for support of entrepreneurship in the sector, and for providing a good framework for public-private partnership and cooperation. Lobbying and advocacy groups in the cultural sector are still very weak to make a significant impact for further policy changes.

2. Sectoral level

Arts mobility in a specific country, as well as between countries and regions in Eastern Europe is considered by many emerging entrepreneurs as one of the ways to expand beyond their own country and seek markets for their creative products and services abroad. Networking, co-productions, collaborative projects between several partners from different countries are effective strategies for survival and growth. Still, the management of these initiatives are based on seeking funding and not on looking for opportunities for increasing revenues and alternative sources of financing. Creative clusters are considered more and more as a way to boost innovation in the arts on a regional level by combining efforts and experiences to look at utilization of local resources. Such kind of “regional laboratories” for creative business thinking could become a powerful way to change the way of thinking and actions in the cultural sector from subsidized to business-oriented.

3. Organizational level

The old and ineffective administrative structures in the cultural sector prevent the development of an intrapreneurial climate. Organizational entrepreneurship is still far away from cultural practices in Eastern Europe. Arts managers and artists look for innovation mainly in relation to creative programming, repertoire, new forms of artistic expression. There is still a lot to be done for motivating innovative thinking in diverse areas: more efficient utilization of resources, innovative dissemination of cultural products and services, better organization of internal processes. Innovations in the cultural sector are not just business innovations, but social innovation as well – brringing long-term benefits for the society, improving the life of the local communities, solving a societal problem with artistic means and expressions. Culture has a strong social and economic impact as it helps for the development of other sectors in the economy. This is still very little understood both by cultural practitioners and decision-makers in many Eastern European countries. There is a need to look at cultural entrepreneurship as an activity that not only transforms culture from money-seeking to money-making sector, but also – as a catalyst for social change, bringing also an added value to the audiences and external stakeholders.

4. Educational aspects

Cultural entrepreneurship enters the educational sector slowly, but with a growing interest by academia and students. Eastern European universities and training centers providing courses and programmes in cultural policy and arts management need to look at the best ways to implement entrepreneurship and innovation in their curricula. In the overall scarcity of funding worldwide, this is important for the future artists and cultural managers to open up their minds and increase their competences on how to manage a project, event, or an organization by looking at diverse sources of revenues – self generated and external.

5. Individual level

Many artists and cultural entrepreneurs start with a great idea, high level of enthusiasm and inspiration. Very few private businesses in the arts in the region survive. The reasons are various: lack of competences, dropping down of the initial enthusiasm, lack of understanding where the initial financing might come from, inability to manage the cash flow, lack of capacity to delegate and to grow the start-up venture, and many more. There is a strong need in many countries to increase competences and skills of cultural entrepreneurs in using online tools and new technologies for creation, promotion and dissemination of arts products and services. Foreign language literacy is another problem which prevents many emerging entrepreneurs to look for global markets and visibility. Digital entrepreneurship is becoming more and more important  nowadays more than ever as arts markets are not anymore local, but global. Young entrepreneurs in the cultural sector need to constantly follow up technical innovations and IT trends on an ongoing basis so that they are able to use the new technologies more effectively in managing events and projects.

6. Finally, what could be the steps forward?

There is a strong need to set up and develop business incubators and accelerators for creative projects and ideas in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. Such incubators should be initiated from the secondary school years through colleges and universities. Young people need to open up their minds to look for business solutions using creativity and arts.

Financing new entrepreneurial ideas in the arts and culture sector require combined efforts and attention from both public and private sector. Business angels and venture capitals are not very keen to support cultural initiatives and this is well known worldwide. They look at culture as money-spending but not money-making sector. There is a strong need to improve connections between the business world and the arts and find ways for an open dialogue around the benefits of social innovations in the arts and culture sector.

Policy mechanisms for support of culture in many countries need rethinking in the area of supporting young emerging initiatives. Portions of the government support for the arts should be spent for seed-funding, micro-financing or grants for emerging business initiatives in the sector. There is also a need to set up risk funds for support of cultural entrepreneurship and innovations in the arts where diverse partners should be involved: government authorities, businesses, private investors, commercial banks. The mechanisms for indirect government support for emerging art ventures should be reconsidered as well to provide effective tax benefits in the sector.

Cultural managers and entrepreneurs need to involve more the conventional media for spreading the word about projects and initiatives having innovative and entrepreneurial elements.

There is also a strong need to develop study materials and theoretical resources in the field of cultural entrepreneurship as the lack of articles, textbooks and case studies is spotted in almost every country from the region. Improving the connection between universities and cultural businesses would provide a good opportunity to connect the theory and the practice in the field.

Finally, cultural entrepreneurs need to consider the sustainability dimensions of their new projects and initiatives. This relates to three main aspects: financial sustainability, the global concern for environment and clean planet, and community sustainability (Read also: http://www.lidiavarbanova.ca/tag/sustainability/)

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Photos:

– Cultural experiences in Sofia’s theatres and clubs

– National Academy of Theatre and Film Studies, Sofia: Seminar on strategic management and entrepreneurship

(Sofia, Bulgaria, 2013)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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