Thursday, 04 March 2021 08:45

Urban innovations through culture

Written by  Let's communicate! & Emīls Rode & Mārtiņš Eņģelis, Danish Cultural Institute of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

Can we make an impact on urban regeneration with something as seemingly intangible as culture? The fourteen partners of EUSBSR Flagship UrbCulturalPlanning in nine partner countries certainly think so.

 

- UrbCulturalPlanning is focused on strengthening the capacity of municipal and regional administrations to enable urban social innovation through the use of culture – art, design, and other forms of creativity, tells Emīls Rode, Project expert at Danish Cultural Institute.

 

Culture is a unifying force for the inhabitants of neighbourhoods

 The method of cultural planning has become an integral part of the development of communities in Europe and elsewhere, where culture is a unifying force for the inhabitants of neighbourhoods, promoting their involvement in the regeneration of their district and improving the quality of life.

This method is based on the cooperation of three forces – city administrations, residents, and culture/creative industry domain. The cultural planning process takes place in five distinct stages: Cultural Mapping, Community Visioning, Joint Project Development (often in a public space), Project Implementation, and Anchoring.

 

Challenges in the region include shrinking cities, social inclusion, gentrification, lack of community life

To adapt cultural planning methods for wider use in the Baltic Sea Region, multiple urban labs have been organized, e.g., in Copenhagen (Denmark), Kiel (Germany), Riga (Latvia), Vilnius (Lithuania). Nine Demonstrator projects in urban neighbourhoods also address challenges relevant to the EUSBSR such as shrinking cities, social inclusion, gentrification, lack of community life, and others.

The activities include short-term artists’ residencies designed to produce a fresh view on the potentials of the neighbourhoods; also, games and gamification are used to involve children and young people to empower their creativity in finding the best solutions for local challenges as well as finding new opportunities.

 

 

It is quite a challenge to work in cities, which are suddenly emptied of everyday movement due to Covid-19

During pandemic maintaining and developing a common vision of the project throughout its course raised some challenges. In-person meetings and interactions with project partners at the project Conferences and Urban Labs were envisaged as the key points to trade experiences, insights and knowledge. For a project focused on urban social innovation, it is quite a challenge to work in cities, which are suddenly emptied of everyday movement, casual socialising and serendipitous encounters – of what makes cities alive.

- We are doing what we can to keep the project’s spirit by hosting events online, having partners meetings and one-on-one online chats with each of them – and it’s not easy. The time of the pandemic helps us appreciate the 90% of communication that is non-verbal: the sense of being there, sharing life, taking inspiration from each other and our cities. What we can learn is not taking these moments of togetherness for granted and making the most of them as we move forward, says Emīls Rode.

 

UrbCulturalPlanning is an EUSBSR Flagship project, funded by Interreg Baltic Sea Programme, is a cross border partnership of 14 partners and 36 associated organizations in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and Norway. The project started in January 2019 and will end in the second half of 2021, with the Danish Cultural Institute as Lead Partner.

 

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