I am Italian and here, at least in my area, volunteers and non-profits often are used to “fill the gaps”, offering social and cultural services that the public administration cannot guarantee or at a fraction of the costs.
Now in many communities public resources are being cut, especially those for cultural activities, and programs either run by the local administration or funded by it are on the way to a similar destiny. On the other hand, many resource-constrained communities are very rich in terms of volunteers that put those programs together and worked hard to make them feasible with the already scarce economic resources. In this scenario the municipality used to do some screening and allocate resource. I think this new environment leaves us with two central questions
- Now that local administrations are not longer able to do the latter, what should be their role?
- How can communities keep their cultural programs alive?
I think that the scarcity of resources could at least lead to more cooperation even in communities, like mine, where actors were very unwilling in the past. In any case, I think that protecting cultural programs from extinction is up to us: in a climate in which it’s politically very hard to justify any expense in this domain, citizens need to take an active role, both volunteering and voicing their support for such programs.
I would love to know how public institutions and non-profit actors interact in other european countries. Are your communities facing similar challenges?