The political upheaval at the end of the 1980s introduced a period of liberal cultural policy in Southeastern Europe, which picked up again in those countries after the wars and the collapse of Yugoslavia. The independent cultural scene, which had just begun to develop, was also supported in the1990s by foreign funders. The current multifaceted field of support initiatives in Southeastern Europebelies the clichés of a monolithic cultural production.

Though foreign support for cultural activities has greatly influenced the local cultural scene in theWestern Balkan countries in the last ten years, it appears that the time for influential foreign support isnow over. Since the year 2000 some of the most important funders have either entirely pulled out of Southeastern Europe or have rethought their own priorities, closed programs or restructured their cooperative cultural programs. But new funders have also joined in the last years and some existingones have focused on new areas.

Through the current EU integration process new opportunities have arisen in the Southeastern European cultural area, and this has also brought new challenges for EU member states.

The expert talk concept

Over the past years, the Robert Bosch Stiftung has placed an emphasis on cultural exchanges with the Western Balkan countries through its scholarship programs for cultural managers in and from Centraland Eastern Europe (www.kulturmanager.net; www.moe-kulturmanager.de) and remains interested inexchanging experiences with other funders and supported individuals and organizations in the region.

The expert talk was initiated and organized by the cultural manager programs of the Robert BoschStiftung (Robert Bosch Ku lturmanager in Mittel- und Osteuropa, Kulturmanager aus Mittel- undOsteuropa) and was held at the House of World culture (Haus der Kulturen der Welt) in Berlin on 7-8 December 2009. The first day was an expert meeting, and the second day panel was open to the generalpublic.

The event focused on the countries that belong to the geographical area called the Western Balkans: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. This key eventgathered around 50 participants – representatives of key foundations in Europe targeting the WesternBalkans: cultural operators, mediators and project managers from the Western Balkans; researchers andacademics, cultural policy experts and consultants engaged in the cultural sector. The expert talk was anopportunity for funders, cultural operators and foundations’ grantees to openly and honestly exchange about culture.

The expert talk’s main goals were:

  • to identify existing mechanisms, structures and instruments which support and promote culture in the countries of the Western Balkans, including: funding projects, cooperative and coproduction programs, building up capacities, supporting networks, supporting individuals through further training, as well as funding institutions;
  • to map the best practices in different countries;
  • to intensify the exchanges between funders primarily from German-speaking areas and culturallyactive individuals and organizations from Southeastern Europe;
  • to reflect upon and discuss possible models for funding and promoting culture in the future.

The report is prepared by Prof. Dr Milena Dragićević Šešić and Dr. Lidia Varbanova.

General recommendations

  • New intersectorial policy schemes, programs and projects need to be established. This also means ongoing cooperation among different funders, including those who are more oriented toward issues outside of culture (such as public health, the economy, social issues, theenvironment, education, science, etc.) as well as creating programs that will stimulateintersectorial cooperation.
  • The regional schemes for regional collaborative projects have to be created locally – by thegovernments within region. Active advocacy can stimulate governments to action, but so canseed money from international donors when it is conditioned on initial support to be providedby local governments.
  • Cultural management development requires regional training programs and regional internshipsthat connect cultural operators from the region and raise the quality of internship coaching inthe region.
  • Supporting European networking and local (regional) networks is crucial. To stimulatenetworking it would be necessary to set up a specific fund for cultural organizations which mightcover the following costs: the network “fees” for newcomers, the expense of attending the annual general assembly and initiating and realizing a project idea within the network.
  • An important trend for further development to fund for networks within a country, and notonly for civil society organizations, but also for private and public cultural institutions and artists (an example is Vojvodina, where several networks have recently been created – privatemuseums, municipal cultural centers, etc.).

Concrete recommendations for the Robert Bosch Stiftung and other founders

  • To support the organization of the 2nd regional Sarajevo conference – 10 years after, regroupingart managers, artists and cultural policy researchers and policy makers. The aim would be toassess the effects of changes and to plan further joint actions.
  • To foster European competences and intercultural sensitivity by providing German languageeducation at art management at undergraduate and graduate programs in the region (at themoment there is only English and French language teaching) – which would later enable younggraduates to go on to internships or further education in German speaking countries.
  • Considering the current predominance of Anglo-American literature and approaches in the field: helping to translate relevant literature in the field of cultural policy and management (from the languages of the region into German, or from German into the local languages).
  • To support a Regional Meeting of Cultural Management students and Robert Bosch Stiftung’sgrantees in Belgrade in conjunction with celebrating 50 years of Cultural Management education in the Region in 2011 (students from: Tuzla, Zagreb, Cetinje (Montenegro), Skopje, Novi Sad, Timişoara and Sofia) with students from corresponding departments from Potsdam,Hildesheim, Munich, Hamburg, Ludwigsburg, etc.
  • To encourage German art managers to be involved in European networks, such as ENCATC, ORACLE, etc., where only few German institutions and individuals are represented.

Read the blog post also on LabforCulture.

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