From cultural policy stuff to cultural manager

Hi everyone,

My name is Raluca Iacob-Pop and I have been following your discussions here for some weeks now, but did not have the time to join in, though. The group seems very alive and I am very happy to see so many initiatives and people I did not know about :slight_smile:

I have been involved in the cultural world since 2007 and before that, as volunteer in social projects with a cultural edge. In 2012 I co-founded an NGO that is involved in cultural policy and cultural management-directed activities and with it I was involved in cultural planning for Timisoara (we did their cultural strategy for the next 10 years :slight_smile: ), but also, cultural governance for heritage management, advocacy for cultural initiatives, acces to contemporary art in rural areas and development through culture, citizens consultations for new cultural and creative public projects, all sort of research etc. You can read more about me here: and about CubicMetre - resources for culture NGO here

Last year I started to coordinate a new project, that aims to form a network of people interested to bring the arts in the education system in Romania and develop resources to better understand and train those that do arts in education. It is called Support culture in education, it is inspired by the Cultural Rucksack in Norway and we are now in the middle of its implementation. More about it here:

I think that forming or contributing to networks has always been my interest, I see its need everyone I look in Romania, but mostly in the cultural realm. I am part of several networks myself and would be happy to tell you more about them: The Coalition of the Independent Cultural Sector, Culture Action Europe (as organisations), and recently the Coalition of Open Educational Resources (very recently).

I am very curious to meet you in person, see what everyone is doing (some of you I know, some of you I don’t) and to start sharing ideas and resources for new and interesting activities and projects :slight_smile:


“Directed” networking

Hello Raluca, just a passing note. Networking is a wonderful thing, but it is quite hard to do. It implies an attitude towards sharing and some time and money spent maintaining the network links: blogging, conversing (like we are doing now), visiting each other etc. If networks do not carry an immediate, tangible value to its prospective members they will become “entropic”; people find themselves working on maintaining the network without the network paying back on the investment, and they end up deprioritizing it. At this point you have a network that exists formally, but it’s dark: it does not carry any information, it does not facilitate any collaboration. Of course, this is also a self-reinforcing behaviour; if you don’t think a network is useful you don’t invest in it, if you don’t invest in it it won’t be useful. Catch 22.

We find that this works a lot better when you build a network around a specific purpose, if possible small, specific, and achievable. This gives people a concrete goal to work towards; and if the goal is achieved, everybody learns that networks work and is more likely to keep investing. Is this your experience too? What is the small, specific and achievable goal of your network?

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Dear Alberto,

You just started a topic that is very dear to me. Yes, I think that what you say it’s true, but mostly for grass-roots networks, like you are developing here on Edgeryders and that I think is incredibly useful. There are also other types of networks, platforms, alliances, coalitions, some focus on advocacy, others on knowledge sharing, others on training and building resources. Ours is a network that builds on analysis, advocacy, trainings and meetings and the site does not yet reflect it that much, because we are only 30% from the start on the project but I think that your criticism would not be so harsh if you got to meet us and find out more about what we do…

Please, show some curiosity before judging us as being purely formal and having no facilitating potential…that really hurts. You don’t know me, our work, our project, you just saw the site… Also, not everything is online, we do not put some much emphasis on online networking yet. We are a small team, a lot of trainers, the project last one year and a half, why are you judging us by only looking at the site? I admit I did not expect such a first comment.


I haven’t checked the site in any detail yet…

… but I think Alberto was talking to the problems in general. Not specifically your site, or shortcomings it my have. I do agree with him on “small and precise is beautiful”. Yet that does not make anything that is general invaluable at all. These things can be complementary. I have spent most of my time as a “generalist” in a hyper-specialized field. Both things are necessary. It is just that for me it was also the case that I got “the foot in the door” on “small and directed” and used the resources I activated there over time to grow this into a more general (but most of the time still somewhat directed) network.

Now I did skim over some of the material

As time and language permits :wink:

I do find it intriguing, of course I don’t have a final verdict. I checked out the Norwegian initiative that yours seems to be based on to some extent. Sometimes it is hard to say if things are running more in “Médecins Sans Frontières” style, that goes into the trenches and does the nitty gritty in the places it hurts - or if it is more a “publicly financed booking agency” in a cosy office somewhere down town (I am not alluding anything here - just my perceptions* on varying impact of general organizations/networking*). Based on the intro vid to the Norwegian Cultural Rucksack I have to say there’s certainly no lack of work for you guys - but Norway is also in a, ahem, special financial situation. Most programs I know of have a hard time running for 12 years, and then decide to look what impact they may have had ( Of course these things are really difficult to nail down, and I would say money spent on cultural work is seldom money that is “burnt”.

*I recently did a longish comment on this and would appreciate feedback “from the other side”.

Huh… misunderstanding

@Raluca_Iacob_Pop, I was on the road and missed your comment. I had no intention to criticize your network in particular, which I know nothing of beyond the little I could find out through the website. @trythis is correct: I was referring to the problem in general, that we all struggle with. Networking is costly, and, like any costly activity, needs to carry benefits that are greater than its costs, or it won’t be sustainable. And there is an added complication: you can’t network alone. For networking to be useful to you, not only you, but other people too have to simultaneously decide to commit in it. In game theory, that would be called a coordination game; its payoffs are larger as more people get involved.

What gave you the impression mine was a criticism? By asking you about how you solved this particular problem I was showing curiosity. We certainly have not solved it, not completely anyway. There are fewer than 3,000 users on Edgeryders, and fewer than 1,000 have ever written anything!

No prb

Yes, I guess that I got defensive by the fact that the very first comment I received was a critical one, showing our weak spots and drawing some conclusions that I thought were not deserved. I am also not used to talking to people via a forum, this is the first time actually. It is different, everything open, I jave to adjust to it. I like the etiquette of email and face-to-face talks and forum are…well, different, people are more straight-forward it seems :slight_smile:

You are right in what you say, I definitely see your point. It is hard to grow and we struggle with it, I had a more or less failed attempt with another network that I was engaged it before, but, you know, my conclusion is a bit different. High number does not necessarily mean higher payoffs for everyone, it depends on what the network is focusing on and what type of communication method it uses. I think that that what is needed is to grow at a rate that allows the network to keep/develop also a certain ethos that it would like to uphold and also a form of responsibility and respect towards the different roles and capacities that each member has. Professional development of a network is serious work.

Our network is only developing now and it is exactly because we wanted to be more of a working-together network, and not a sharing-ideas-only type of network, it takes a lot of time and invisible work to see the number of members growing. Also, the very idea of what we would call the network to be formed of is changing. What it does not change is the mission and the type of interaction we want to have: content-based, doing things together, not only communication and sharing of ideas, because I have noticed that people tend to stick to one-another more if they have done something together, be it an event, a training, a press-conference or more complex work. Also, what I love to see is people starting to collaborate outside the network based on their shared experience that we facilitated. That is just amazing when it happens.

Some good projects of research into networks and coalitions are taking place in Romania these days and some large-scale NGOs are preparing a resource center for networks and coalitions, trainings for communication, advocacy, community engagement, management etc. We hope to join as well with our baby network and train people to be better at promoting culture in education practices and practitioners.

I will write here from time to time, if you are curious, to tell you how it goes.



Same thing here

Aha, I get it. You see, Edgeryders borrows a lot from hacker ethics: if you see a possible pitfall in what your friend is doing, just tell her! If you are wrong, she’ll just tell you, and nothing will happen. If you are right, you might save her from making a mistake. In that culture, everybody knows this, and so people typically do not get offended for straightforward, honest criticism, nor for statements like that in my original comment (“some networking activities have the problem X”), that might look like criticism.

I see in your comment three things that we could confirm from the Edgeryders experience:

  • "I think that that what is needed is to grow at a rate that allows the network to keep/develop also a certain ethos that it would like to uphold and also a form of responsibility and respect towards the different roles and capacities that each member has."
  • "It takes a lot of time and invisible work to see the number of members growing."
  • "People tend to stick to one-another more if they have done something together."

The point where we struggle most is the second one. Just ask @Noemi how hard she and @Alex_Stef work to get the wave of engagement we are now getting from Bucharest! And the worst is, this kind of work is extremely difficult to get recognition for. Clients simply don’t understand they have to pay for it.

While I am sure we can find much agreement I’ll try

to disagree where I can. :slight_smile:

  1. I think that that what is needed is to grow at a rate that allows the network to keep/develop also a certain ethos that it would like to uphold and also a form of responsibility and respect towards the different roles and capacities that each member has.

I assume when a critical threshold is reached - a lot of the development will be by landslide and there will not be time to integrate and consensually establish a comprehensive “culture”. For better or worse. Uniformity is not strength either…

  1. “It takes a lot of time and invisible work to see the number of members growing.” / “Professional development of a network is serious work.” Probably true, especially for the majority of the fights that are already lost (your work-in will never be repaid by work-out). Of course if you don’t fight those fights as well you’ll not find the critical ones that are necessary stepping stones. I used to make it a rule not to push too hard but rather invest in antennas. However, I am under no illusion that this would likely result in a broader change than (something temporary) in my immediate environment. So don’t read this as belittling your effort - more as an acknowledgement that a certain number of windmills need to be fought in practice. As frustrating as this often may seem. Failing often, failing early, failing better, and leaving the door open for serendipity.

I also think: the better you are the less it shows. If you are really good you just listen a lot, then say a few names and key words, make them have the idea they need, come back to nudge once or twice over a month and that’s it. In most people’s mental framework it is really hard to acknowledge your tiny interference as major contribution of missing puzzle pieces. Dunning Kruger + mental biases in effect (admittedly on both sides as always). :slight_smile:

so. well. said.

@Raluca_Iacob_Pop, @trythis and Alberto.

Wow, you really get it. I just wanted to fully acknowledge this conversation because this is the kind of masterclass benefiting most discussions we’ve been having with Futurespotters - particularly informal ones with different groups asking why don’t people just collaborate, or people saying they have to give up their time to be active in a network. In a network with no concrete goal of professionalization like ours, I can understand the reluctance… there is titanic work ahead. But in your network Raluca, I would have thought it’s easier, goals are immediately aligned because of the related fields you guys work in, and people would see the return on investment for them personally. Plus if it’s formalized it’s good for further projects’ funding. Ours is not. @Cosmin is also here on edgeryders and maybe can explain more.

I think Raluca’s presentation from the workshop would be useful to have because it was so honest, maybe share it here?

More details about our project

OK, because it is clear that my post did spark an interest, I will briefly present what we do and our arguments :slight_smile: Including the connection with the Cultural Rucksack, that is only briefly mentioned in our website and that is not obvious enough yet from what we posted online. We make it clearer when we present the project at conferences and meetings, but the info on the site is very synthetic, I know.

I worked for the last 9 years in the cultural field and met along the way different cultural operators, some involved in activities for children and youth as part as their core mission, some through their audience development goals. With time, I teamed up with people that knew how schools and teachers view the arts and their importance and we both realised their is potential for more quality and more activities here, and others that thought that there is room for more awareness of practices, more knowledge sharing, more debate, more quality. I graduated in cultural policy and had an interest in audience development and enlarging the audience for the arts and heritage among young people, buth as number and socio-economic profile.

When in 2013 we got some funding to go to Norway from the EEA grants and find out about their programme, we were very happy and when we returned we presented to Romanian cultural operators and some educational specialists their approach with the Cultural Rucksack. We compared with other internationl approaches from Austria, Norway, France, the UK. They were all interested and eager to develop the professional community of arts in education in Romania as well, but adapted to our country’s situation, not an imported model. That is how we grew the project idea, we discussed with practitioners and continued the discussion voluntarily for about a year with no funding, just because we say that networking was needed and appreciated.

We realised soon that what we need to do is not so much add to the pile of existing activities of arts in schools with some of our own, but connect, research, train, bring forward expertise of well trained and experienced arts in education professionals and start from there. Not do a Cultural Rucksack programme, but build the knowledge, sharing of practices and expertise among practicioners in Romania and explore how such a programme could work in Romania in the future. I believe that is the proper way to do policy transfer from one country to another, by analysis, debate and adaptation to the local national context. More so, the Cultural Rucksack in a government and county public authorities led-programme with lots of funding from the National Lottery, so a replica of it in Romania cannot work in the present or immediate future I would say.

Our overall goal for the project is to promote quality cultural experiences in the lives of more children in youth in Romania in a shared partnership between the arts professionals and schools.

Our main activities are:

  • a training component for aprox 200 teachers, artistic and cultural professionals (10 trainings for 2 different target groups that learn to collaborate: cultural professional and educational professionals)

  • monthly meetings on relevant topics relates to arts in education practices and philosophy

  • an arts in education archive (work in progress) documenting the most important and inspiring projects from the last 10 years in Romania & a book of interviews with their founders

  • several analysis and reports, one being a comparative one about arts in education programmes in Europe (we have a Nrowegian expert, that has managed the Cultural Rucksack for 10 years as part of the team that works on this report)

  • a contact sheet ans presentation of organisations that can be considered resources in Romania for NGOs and schools that want to do arts in education activities

  • an advocacy component, that is now in preparation

  • an international workshop and conference in April 2016

  • communication via the Facebook group and hopefully more sharing of info and experiences soon via the website and the forum.

In short, this is our project, these are our activities, we are 5 organisations partnering up to do the work, with 12 trainers coming from the arts and educational world and other 4 key experts from the museum world, arts world, theatre university and research in educational sciences.

I guess that the type of network we aim to develop is a community of professionals (people and organisations) with practices in the field. I do not claim that what we do is perfect, we started from some activities, we lack others, we would love better communication, but we have to prioritize, and we decided to communicate online a bit less and meet directly, train, analyse and document a bit more, at least in this phase. We are building up the project. It is hard, I am sure you know that from your own experiences :slight_smile: We are happy to have a grant from the NGO Fund (again, EEA grants). We worry what will happen when it ends, what will follow, what we will be able to do next. We do what we can for this purpose, any support is welcomed, do write to us at for more information, suggestions, ideas, proposals for collaboration.

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Culture in games?

I was writing a somewhat thought out comment, when it was wiped. :frowning:

So here is the very short version only, fortunately the clips below did not get lost - as they probably do the most effective talking. I’ve spent a little time on selecting them and not others to make some points.

Of your 12 trainers + 4 experts is there one dealing with computer games as a cultural phenomenon and important part of youth’s cultural exposure?

Here are a few examples that may illustrate opportunities lost, or perhaps potential for collaboration: (first couple of minutes will be enough) this channel has alone has approx 25% of the subscribers of the daily NYTimes circulation. these are episodes produced using a game developed “next door” by

There is also a fairly well developed aesthetic to these games which already allows for reliable communication and satire: /

Some more exemplary background can be found here:

If you are unsure what points I tried to make with them, we can perhaps discuss this here - because you’ll probably not be alone.


@Raluca_Iacob_Pop Did you have a chance to look at the above yet? I just ask because there were a couple of points implicit in the videos (which I will forget over time). I had written it down but that part unfortunately did not survive.


Hi, sorry for not getting back earlier. I was very busy and I opened the videos, but I think that I did not get your point about their potential educational input and how schools could be engaged. None of the trainers in our project is familiar with this type of creative work and its uses in an educational setting either, so I would appreciate if you could tell us what and how you think they could be integrated. I know children and teens and spending alot of time with them in Romania also, so it would be great if we would get some inspiration about their potential.

One more or less familiar experience I know related to computer games in education is the work of the creative center in Armenia Tumo, but they are more into empowering youth to develop their own games.

So, please let me know your points, I am curious!


In the first video the commenter mentions that he is doing this as a full time job and he is providing for a family (just became father). I think this is a sort of sign for the maturity of an industry/cultural sector. It has generated a secondary field of employment, complete with organizations representing various stakeholders, which should be capable of reasoning, reflection, and somewhat long term planning. The I gave some numbers to get across the enormous reach and impact these cultural phenomena have.

This is important because video games are of course not a unambiguous blessing. Established cultural institutions typically perceive them as competition or malign influence. Both is probably true. However this is not set in stone but can be influenced if one is willing to engage with important actors on eye-level. Making games is cool - but it is also very difficult, and compared to so called “mods”, much more frustrating.

A little after 4:20 he goes into the different incentives to play various games. In this one success is relatively strongly tied to coordination with other team members - so despite the superficial looks it promotes pro-social behavior, planning, and taking the other side’s perspective. Digital games are very well suited for experimenting with such dynamics and finding systems that can promote people into roles they would otherwise not likely get into in real life. And also training how to cope with “dark triad situations” without risk of bodily harm.

The next video is basically a record of an improvised (theatre) play that was performed by perhaps a dozen or two players. They each adhered to a certain given role and tried not to act “out of character”, while being entertaining of course. It will be a little bit hard to follow given all the slang and game-related dialogue. The game itself is a modification of one of the most realistic military simulations publicly available. I expect thousands of (unpayed) man-hours must have gone into changing the environment from a nondescript battlefield into a “lived in” vibrant place chock full of cultural artifacts and references. How often do you get a 27 minute improvised play with a dozen amateurs get viewed over two million times?

And if you look at bohemia interactive you’ll see that one doesn’t need to have a big budget to crash the party. There is a lot of passion in the gamer community that practically begs to be carefully and respectfully channeled.

In the Goatz video the modding community takes a stab at itself. A little background: due to various factors (perhaps including a broader range of information) a subgroup of the younger generation feels that large parts of society are either not conscious of what they are doing (popularity of zombie/apocalypse culture) or that there is a deep immoral parasitic streak in society (vampire culture). Accordingly many games are either modded to reflect that “flavor”, or somewhat amateurish but passionate and ambitious games of this genre are developed from scratch. Usually though both have certain unfixed problems (bugs) that the players have learned to live with. Goatz is basically an effort to capture much of these cultural currents and idiosyncrasies in the format of a satirical game, that will be extremely entertaining to a cultural insider. By the way: modding a game will usually leverage the considerable enthusiasm of the kids to make it possible for them to learn using highly complex design software - which is a very much transferable skill into many other cultural activities. Honestly, I would appreciate a detailed meta-level analysis of why this has not yet happened on a large scale.

The next video is a mod that is taking a stab at patronizing and unimaginative attempts to curb video game violence. Something the gaming community is all too familiar with. Again I think there is much sociological potential in this situation if one turns the tables on this.

The last video is hopefully self explanatory. I think the process illustrated in it is relatively representative. Also, it is not surprising that the commenter has a Swedish accent, if I may give in to generalization in this point. Although “gamification” as a term has started to be used, I think the criticism leveled at it is (already) in many respects fair. It seems to me that the creative potential digital gaming community, and many of the opportunities for genuinely constructive contributions to general has eluded mainstream cultural actors for more than a decade now. Sadly, by now my impression is that this is not by chance - but it has something to do with the center / edge dynamic often encountered on this platform. That is also why I raised the point, in hopes of finding a relatively open ear.

Personally, I don’t have a horse in the race on either side - but I know backgrounds and actors of both, which make me grit my teeth more than I want to. I’ll try to get some more clarity on the general issue in another thread. Comments and actions are of course welcome.

Perhaps TCT is interested

…and can provide his point of view. @TCT has a couple of links in his background that make me think he knows (someone in) the scene. And: Hello aboard!" by the way. :slight_smile:

Thanks, a bit confused

Thanks for the warm welcome, @trythis! I’m a bit confused at the moment; you invite me to share my point of view on this comment? Or on some other stuff?


The confusion is probably normal in the beginning. It took me a couple of days to get my bearings, and about two weeks to get comfortable. But since you already managed to react to a “mention” I’m sure you won’t need that long.

Regarding the comment - actually it is probably better if you also read this at least cursory. In a nutshell, my perception is that mainstream art and cultural institutions do not engage or (ideologically) support unfunded/amature artists/cultural agents like game modders, game developers, etc. even though they have a far greater reach in the population. I know that the situation is a bit more complicated than that (funding sources, art market, image) but it does not change the bottom line a whole lot.