Looking back at the NPDC panel discussion “Sustainability and new cooperation formats”

On 11 November 2021, the 8th International NDPC Cultural Forum was held online and onsite in Saint Petersburg. The topic of this year’s Forum was “The COVID-19 Era Breakthroughs and Possibilities of Creative Industries” and it invited participants to reflect on new ways of collaboration, professional competencies, and the creative and culture industries (CCI) potentials in the era of Covid-19 and in the sustainability shift. The extract of the NDPC panel discussion is available now.

The NDPC panel discussion “Sustainability and new cooperation formats'' considered the CCI in relation to the issues of sustainability: what is the role and contribution of the creatives to sustainable development? The discussion gathered experts in the cultural and creative industries and museum field: Inga Surgunte (Head of the Sustainable Development Projects at the Latvian Museum Association, Latvia), Ugis Zanders (Priority Area Officer at the Council of the Baltic Sea States, Sweden), Prof. Marina Matetskaya (Researcher at National Research University, Higher School of Economics, Russia), Anna Porse Nielsen (CCI expert, CIO Seismonaut, Denmark), Živile Diawara (Chair of the Board, National Association of Creative and Cultural Industries, Strategy Manager at the Art Factory  “Loftas”) and Anna Yalova (Deputy Director for Development, Manege Central Exhibition Hall, Russia). The discussion online was moderated by Dace Resele (Head of Secretariat, Northern Dimension Partnership on Culture) and on-site by Ekaterina Sachkova (Director of Creative Industries Agency, Russia). The panellists shared their insights on topical changes in the CCI field, emerging trends and found new insights to synergies between different stakeholders. We looked at concrete examples about inspiring initiatives and innovative cross-sectoral projects, which enhances the understanding regarding CCIs relation to sustainable development. 

Inga Surgunte pointed out that sustainable development goals (SDG) give the CCI sector a very clear plan of interconnectedness with the world on all major levels. They are also a good base of tools to monitor, to measure and to develop CII activities. She also underlined three layers of operative thinking about memory institutions (and their partners) in relation to sustainability:

First level - the awareness that we (memory institutions) are physical organisations with a real, considerable environmental impact and there is a real need to think about sustainability in relation to the basic impact of practical things (heating, gender balance in recruitment strategies, etc.) 

The second level - content and the whole philosophy of sustainable development. Ability to see the content of culture, design and creative industries from different perspectives. What kind of consumption patterns do we promote? What kind of behaviours and attitudes do we nurture?  Who do we represent? Who do we serve, who is included, and who is excluded? These questions are very overarching and can be asked by any actor in this field and they provide a different base for future projects. 

Nevertheless, when talking about the third level, Surgunte also highlighted the danger of instrumentalising arts and culture by telling CCI to operate within the SDG's framework. She emphasised that losing art's intrinsic values should not be risked: “Art should transform us, it should keep us awake; it should keep us critical. Not only within this framework, but we should be able to think through, question things and perceptions we encounter every day, including the concept of sustainable development. It's also arts and culture that should keep questioning: Is this concept still relevant? Is this our duty to boost this development and growth constantly? Is this still relevant? Is this really the framework we all want to be in?”

Ugis Zanders pointed out that the CCIs can operate as a language which communicates SDGs to the general public and address to other industries, so that they also could integrate the SDGs in their daily lives. At the same time CCIs have to recognise where they stand and access what they are doing, because they already are doing a lot of things that help facilitate attainment of SDGs, but those actions have not been recognised.  In addition, when thinking about sustainability the younger generation's perspective needs to be taken into consideration and CCIs are a very good point and platform where engagement with youth could be developed.

Prof. Marina Matetskaya emphasised that creative leaders are influencers who set the rules of business communication, because cultural projects involve communication on different levels - horizontal communication, intersectional communication and so on. “I think creative leaders are leaders of change. And huge work done by cultural institutions and everyone who represents the creative sector - NGOs, individual entrepreneurs, they demonstrate new technologies, formats of working, of perception, of translating meanings and preserving important models of behaviour, formats of communications. I think that when we talk about research, this two-year period of pandemics will yield huge results, it will yield new technologies, new models and new behaviours that will be mastered or created by creative industries. I would like to emphasise that creative leaders remain innovators and changemakers in the contextual sense and in the sense of implementing projects,” she asserted in conclusion.

Anna Porse Nielsen emphasised that it is particularly important that we understand the interconnectivity between art, culture, and creativity as drivers for innovation and business development: "Those two things go together, so you cannot sort of separate them and say: now we want to invest in creativity, because we have to innovate. You have to do both: invest and to recognise the huge potential there is in creativity, culture and art as drivers for innovation. And not just financial innovation, but also societal innovation, because I think that we need culture and creativity much more than we ever did before to understand ourselves and the world around us. And because we live in a time where we have climate crisis, which is enormous, we have movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter and so on. The problems that we are facing right now as a global society are just so complex. So, we can't just solve them in our countries, we can't solve them with our normal toolbox, we really have to address them at a cross-sectoral level."

Anna Yalova adds that modern museums are becoming multifunctional centres and do a lot of work also in multicultural and interdisciplinary contexts. She also pointed out that, “They (SDGs) relate to the social sphere, environment protection, governance, and state interests, but I'm deeply convinced that it is the cultural relations, cultural leaders, creative industries that can be intermediaries who will provide smooth introduction of those SDGs into our lives. A lot of those SDGs will change our mentality, our habits, our way of life, but it is culture that can explain why this will be done and what steps, what decisions should be made to introduce those technologies. We already see shifts in this sphere, we see how the world is changing and how we are becoming part of these changes.”

Živile Diawara pointed out that it is extremely important to accept that CCIs are an important part of economics that distribute a lot of value not only directly, but also through collaborations with different sectors. For example: design. It is present in all projects and creates added value to all products and services and moreover - design contributes for the access to other sectors. Moreover, in her view, culture is a powerful key to social problems, because in different circumstances we must be even more creative and innovative. Thus, in Diawara's opinion, there should be funding and programmes for creativity in quite diverse ways. Besides all these collaborations one of main focuses should be culture-goes-digital. Because of all pandemic restrictions and how currently it is possible to access culture, CCIs must prepare for these circumstances. Furthermore, she points out, “All this digitalisation is not only for the pandemic, but also for broadening the audience, because it is possible to reach people from all regions and other countries, etc.”

Our sincere gratitude to all the amazing panellists, participants. 

The Annual Forum was organised jointly with the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.