ENCATC Interview with Lidia Varbanova during the 19th ENCATC Annual Conference, Helsinki, Finland (October 2011): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QfyYBkxiZ0&list=UU1uzMLf_wy1c9CM_y5eBChw&index=1&feature=plcp  

The first European networks: founded in the early 80s: they had lean structures and simple organizational models. The Manifesto of the European Cultural Networks (Adopted by the Forum of European Cultural Networks  in Brussels,  September 1997) confirmed the importance of the networks and their role in the overall economic and social development. Networks are facing now a new era of digitalization and globalization, as well as lack of funding and less options for fundraising. Many of them face difficulties of not knowing how to proceed in the future. They are pressed by the needs of their members, the requirements of their funders and stakeholders and the constantly changing world around. What is their future? Do they have strategic visions and strategic orientation? Do they operate within a strategic framework? One thing is certain: they need to become much more innovative and entrepreneurial if they want to not only survive,  but to be leaders in the cultural sector.

Networks are about:

  • Strategic collaborative approach
  • Synergy
  • Multiplying effects
  • “Laboratory/experimental” type of thinking and actions
  • Spontaneous innovation
  • Motivating “intrapreneurial” climate
  • Fin and friendship


Strengths of our networks:

  • Having a “common voice” in the sector
  • Diversity in membership
  • Cross-border experiences
  • Knowledge gain
  • Capacity building and professionalism
  • Flexibility
  • Dynamic behaviour
  • Inclusiveness and openness
  • New programs and services


Some weaknesses:

  • Managing diverse and growing membership
  • Keeping members motivated
  • Growing and losing the focus
  • Concerns about over-programming and limited staff
  • Difficulty to match services with constantly changing needs of members
  • Not sufficiently involving boards and members as “ambassadors” and “fundraisers”


Why having a strategy is important for networks:

  • Helps to see the “bigger picture” and look further: beyond the daily problems
  • Consider where to collaborate, with whom and how
  • Consider alternatives
  • Better use of membership fees and public money
  • Better management, organisation and financial performance
  • Predict (to a certain extend) unexpected circumstances and risk factors

 Why cultural networks avoid strategies?

  • Operate in a turbulent changing environment
  • Lack of understanding of the importance of a strategy
  • Formal strategic planning is time consuming
  • Overloaded by operational problems
  • Operate with limited resources and strategic planning can be costly
  • Do not have the necessary expertise in strategic planning
  • Fear  of failure when goals are set up


Possible “to do” list for cultural networks: strategic goals:

  • Elaborating strategic directions/plans
  • Find tools to inspire innovation
  • Invest in R&D: experimenting
  • Build up strategic alliances: in the arts and beyond
  • Explore alternative sources of financing, incl. self-generated revenues, business models in networking, better negotiation for group benefits for members
  • Initiate new dynamic and focused forms of online collaboration
  • Reflect to global issues (sustainability, global warming, climate change, etc.)


What will happen with our networks in the future?

  • Some of them will be maybe merging and growing
  • Others will dissolve in smaller satellite versions.
  • There will be networks which will simply disappear
  • Others will be transformed partially (or fully) in online platforms.
  • New networks will certainly appear.

The least possible is to stay unchanged.  Because initiating and managing changes is in the heart of networking.

Watch also ENCATC Youtube Channel:  inspiring interviews with my colleagues in the arts management and cultural policy field from different corners of Europe: http://www.youtube.com/user/CommunicationsENCATC/videos

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