Documentation | unFailing European Capitals of Culture into platforms for participatory projects

Imported from the hackpad: Thanks to all note takers.

A deeply honest conversation with individuals in the trenches: Robert Palmer, Ilaria d’Auria, Niall O’Hara, Magda Bucur, Raluca Ciuta (context here).

The session began on Saturday and continued during the unConference on Sunday.

Introductions round

Ian - interested in soft power in changing things; Hannes - based in Estonia

Giovanni - “I believe culture can change everything”

Alex - it seems ECoC creates new institutions

Augusto - with Matteo ran Urban Games Basilicata for Matera 2019; interested in involving massive numbers of citizens in activities.

Matteo - interested in the politics of large events

Erin - works on risk measurement for cities e.g. risk of being a hacker and infrastructure geek

Tom Markam - interested in radical innovation and how it can be supported by the government

Theresa - is afraid culture is going to fade away

Natalia - has worked on project for a failed Polish candidate city

Niall: “When we say culture sometimes we mean culture, sometimes we mean ARTS”

Ilaria: explains how web platform worked for Matera 2019 to enagge citizens and quotes Alberto - “participation is not about everybody, it is about anybody”

Raluca, Magda: like to do their best while working within a public body that runs the Bucharest 2021 bid; sometimes it’s hard, but some successes keeps them going and hopeful.

Bob, Noemi: the elephant in the room: Ecoc is broken and very few cities have been successful in running good programmes; however, it can catalyze changes in a city.

How can communities help, if there is consensus that the space is broken from the inside? Bob: a lot of the times it is about finding allies inside, people who are open minded and who will open doors for you.

Edgeryders idea: Let’s build a Global Culture Team, a traveling squad!

  • committed group building partnerships in multiple cities to advance the agenda of grassroots movements
  • works on the ground helping connect local initiatives with partners in Edgeryders network
  • new team confirgurations deployed everywhere we go helps carry the knowledge from one local context to the other

Followup session on Sunday

Yesterday’s discussion started with presenting the cases of Matera 2019, Galway 2020 and Bucharest 2021. Failure has been recognised as pervasive in the ECOC space. The consensus is that an important part of it is political, and there is not much we can do as grassroots operators on the edge. A proposal was made to start an international network around ECOC.

Bob: There are many international movements doing great things. They tend not to be connected, so I would be very interested in knowing how that can be leveraged to transform larger communities – cities.

Alberto: however, coordination is expensive. We make an effort to coordinate, we should have a clear benefit for that effort.

The proposal of an international network around ECOC makes sense because:

  • ECOC processes are “attention machines”, where people with resources are more likely to be open to new proposals
  • International dimension is a requirement for winning.

Niall – I concur. Galway now needs projects to win the ECOC 2020 title. We are very open to ideas and proposals, and I think this development is very exciting.

Noemi – Cities do not understand grassroots networks. When I was working for Bucharest 2021, they did not get what we did. It would lower our coordination costs very significantly if we could say "Well, we bring to the table a planetary scale network of creatives with low barriers to collaboration – we speak Euro English, we are good at working over the Internet, we can really strengthen your bid.

Alex – How do you play out the situation where people in the community refer to cities in competition with each other?

Bob – Well, people like you tend to care about their projects, not about the competition. I don’t see a problem.

Alberto – We approached Cluj, also running for 2021. Noemi is from Cluj and cares about her city. But they would not play ball. So we went for Bucharest. Our loyalty goes to the community.

Niall – Galway is prepared to take the lead on this, in the next two-three weeks.

Thom: we risk looking at the finger, but not at the moon. We need place-making; describes some projects he is working on, focused on some smaller towns around Galway. They need physical sites and involve rituals (?).

Noemi: We can prototype it right away, using our work for Galway. We’ll reach out to the network, explain what’s going on, ping specific people, try to build matches.

Bob – Galway is not going out to call for ER projects, but it is prepared to host, to open up. This is a rare opportunity, and it should be reaped to its fullest.

Lady from Maastricht – Maastricht lost the bid. This ended up creating a lot of negativity, pessimism, and some great ideas were thrown away. Would it be possible to prevent this?

Niall – We should make a Losers Network (laughs)!

Natalia and Justyna – In Poland, the winning city (Wroclaw) built a coalition of all cities who had run. They meet every quarter, and have co-opted some of the projects there.

Noemi: We need to decide what this network is going to look like. The normal Edgeryders way (low risk) is: we keep doing what we’re doing and hope to involve more people. The second option is: we start from a division of Edgeryders. That gets a corporate entity, banking etc. If it takes off, we spin a separate office. It’s important to make it clearer what the services in culture are, and maybe also in development (having UNDP people in the room)

Discussion now drifts into connected area of what ER has to offer and how we pack projects.

Millie and Giulio: Edgeryders needs a one-liner, and needs projectification. In UNDP, if we hire McKinsey, we do not get fired. So they do not need one-liners, they can just say “we are consultants, we help you do stuff”. ER needs the brochure.

Bob: Large consultancies get hired because they have methodologies, and they own them. You may not like them, but they are there.

Alberto: (I like a methodology brochure better than a projects brochure).

John: Facilitate non-joiners and the co-discovery of ideas. When you have something that’s inherently vague as ER, there are a huge number of connections that came from it that need to be made visible

Giulio: The problem you solve for me is allowing me to work with the uncontractables: I don’t know who they are, I don’t know how good they are, and they would not work for me anyway. With CDP [a bank Edgeryders is talking to], you are solving a risk management problem.

Alberto: We are methodologists. We use collective intelligence to deliver expert advice.

Bob: I think your Unique Selling Proposition has to verticalize: delivering that in the field of X, for some value of X.

Tom: What about a definition around who the people in the community are? I propose “Hackers”, writ large.

Niall: For me it’s about the smart people who are constantly pushing the boundaries (agrees with Tom on the hackers idea).

Justyna: Here’s a problem: using our own vocabulary is failing our sales efforts.

  • You need to speak the language of the client, and pitch benefits, which doesn't necessarily mean you're dumbing it down!
  • You have to pitch benefits, not features
  • You have to first position yourself in the pool with competitiors, to be able to differentiate (even when the case is that "the customer defines the product" Niall)

Alberto: Yet, a lot of government talk is buzzword driven

Bob: You are selling… I’ll call it Edgethinking. Many more people are getting interested in Edgeryders. Also, be careful of your pricing! You can price higher as you get more established.

Noemi: Our offer on the table as Edgeryders: we are making a more structured culture team. Please help us figure out how to make it easier for you to come and work together. Also, Bob, Giulio, Millie, help us figure out how to make your work easier, and to develop further our relationship to the stars.