The Cross-Border Cooperation Congress Lublin 2020 (formerly known as Eastern Europe Initiatives Congress) focused on COVID-19 and the challenges faced by local communities across Europe during the pandemic. The Congress was held on 6-9 October 2020 and its predominant theme was ‘Local Government of Tomorrow. Between openness and responsibility’. Due to the current situation, the event was held in virtual space only, with simultaneous translation into Polish, English, and Russian.
The four days of the Cross-Border Cooperation Congress were filled with expert panel discussions and workshops with the participation of eminent European experts such as Charles Landry (Great Britain), Rasmus Wiinstedt Tscherning (Denmark), Marharyta Zhenchuk (Ukraine), Prof. Aleksander Sogomonov (Russia), Krzysztof Czyżewski (Poland). The opening debate was attended by European mayors and city officials and focused on local government’s priorities in the new, post-pandemic reality. In the next days, we paid attention to cultural sector and cultural tourism under new conditions and discussed how to build a city branding through tourism. Then, we switched to the possibilities of sustainable economic development, the limitations of traditionally understood growth, as well as structural changes in a labour market. We looked at the new ‘wave’ of innovation, companies and sectors that have done well in these difficult circumstances. We also analysed social self-organization in the pandemic times, taking into account the situation of migrant communities.
As in previous years, the Congress was accompanied by Partners’ Forum in order to facilitate more effective communication and exchange of experiences between organisations seeking international partners. City councillors were invited to a special on-line meeting, devoted to the functioning of local government during the pandemic, and cooperation prospects with partner cities in the future. Grants’ Fair, on the other hand, showcased the opportunities to obtain funds from the selected grant programmes. We also organised Best Practice Contest to promote the initiatives which worked best in local communities amid the pandemic.
The Cross-Border Cooperation Congress Lublin 2020 received a grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland under the programe ‘Public Diplomacy 2020 – New Dimension’. It was held under the honorary patronage of the European Commission Representation Office in Poland. We are also glad that many new partners joined us last year, i.e.: the Association of Ukrainian Cities, the Belarusian organization ‘Twin Towns’ and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. All Congress events were free of charge, after online registration.
The cultural events, which accompanied the event, were livestreamed on the Congress partners websites.
We invite you to read the summaries of the Cross-Border Cooperation Congress Lublin 2020, prepared by panelists and moderators.
Krzysztof Czyżewski – Director of the Centre "Borderland of Arts, Cultures, Nations" (Poland)
Robert Piaskowski – Plenipotentiary of the Mayor of Kraków for Culture (Poland)
Monika Grochowska – Deputy Director Adam Mickiewicz Institute (Poland)
Marharyta Zhenchuk – International Partners Manager "Teple Misto Platform" (Ukraine)
Maciej Hofman – Policy Officer at the European Commission's Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture (Poland)
Krzysztof Czyżewski – Director of the Centre "Borderland of Arts, Cultures and Nations" (Poland)
Justyna Jochym – CEO of Festivals Adelaide (Australia)
A talk with the international level institutions’ representatives such as the European Commission or the Adam Mickiewicz Institute (IAM); juxtaposed with ‘small centres of the world’ — the Borderland Centre and ‘Teple Miasto’ platform — future of festivals from ‘Adelaide Festivals’ CEO and experiences of Krakow city.
The starting point for this discussion is a tough one. Why? We stand indeed at the borderline of such often inseparable paradigms in culture as: cosmopolitanism, mobility, international cooperation, the European Commission’s political priorities, culture as a soft power for State and EU policies; or finally the cosmopolitan perception on festivals as social factories and tools for urban policies. All these themes have been present in a discussion with experienced practitioners, so that we could find a common denominator for the discussion on the time of the pandemic, and post-pandemic world design.
We started with Make eARTh Great Again — a film that portrays a street art project by Cezary Hunkiewicz and Anna Bakiera. The film was, on the one hand, a reporter's account from the pandemic-struck Lublin and, at the same time, an important piece, documenting artists’ efforts to revive the city. We owe partners at ‘CreArt. Network of Cities for Artistic Creation’ — a project implemented in the Culture Department of the City of Lublin within EU ‘Creative Europe’ programme — that this work, exposing a link between art and ecological sensitivity, was put together. The play on words in eARTh with capitalised middle ART was introductory to Krzysztof Czyżewski's speech — a practitioner of ideas, an essayist, a translator, an editor and a director. Co-founder of the Borderland Foundation and the ‘Borderland of Arts, Cultures and Nations’ Centre in Sejny. He and the Borderland team opened ‘International Centre for Dialogue’ in Krasnogruda. Such impactful publications as The Path of the Borderland (2001), Miłosz. Connective Tissue (2014), A small centre of the world. Notes of the Practitioner of Ideas (2017), Towards Xenopolis (2019), echoed in Czyżewski’s speech.
At the start, Krzysztof Czyżewski put a thesis forward that culture is at the forefront of civilisation paradigm shift. The pandemic only reinforced all this, that had been marginalised so far by 'market must-haves’ and 'political priorities’ — artists’ counter culture intuitions who work with art, for: social change; sustainable development; interdisciplinarity; and communal integration. ‘The dominance of nationalism and cosmopolitanism has past, now we are facing building a third way — solidarity’. Czyżewski said pointing out to burning problems and challenges singled out by activists, urban movements, circles cultivating the identity of small homelands, and equally important initiatives referring to the identity of deeply rooted communities. He then remarked on his own experiences when working on the European Capital of Culture bid, the Eastern Partnership Culture Congress, Culture Lab Europe and others. Krzysztof Czyżewski stressed that the pandemic fostered atomisation and disintegration, both of life and culture; ‘that culture became a space to express one’s individual freedom, and that individualisation — became a supreme value’. All of this has led to the neglect of a community’s 'connective tissue', that is such form of culture, that nurtures practices and content that significantly contributes to 'gluing' community together.
Czyżewski criticised many forms that culture adopts today. Culture that is superfluous, short-lived, one-off, the 'enslaving quality by quantity', lack of spirituality, the festivalisation of culture, and events far and wide. This is further served by a system of financing projects, grant competitions, as well as a marketing-centred approach to cultural content. In his speech, Czyżewski raised the EC and the EP Cultural Policy — that Europe itself is a project that favours federation of national cultures, rather than culture itself. This was subsequently elaborated in a discussion with Maciej Hofman — Policy Officer at European Commission Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport, and Culture.
Czyżewski named postulates like treating culture as a ‘connective tissue’ or as an art of building ‘invisible bridges’ as remedies for the current urgent challenges. Rather than project-and-grant-thinking approach to culture, he appealed for recovery of slow culture, cultivare and longue durée. For this to be possible, a new quality and dimension of fresh, mobile and sensitive to paradigm change institutions, are needed. Such institutions that will relate their agendas, to a large extent, to sustainable development, nurturing rootedness and community. New culture creators, animators, translators and educators are also crucial, jus as 'artists of the city and of the small homeland'. Culture must turn towards greater solidarity with issues that are instrumental to one’s immediate surroundings but, at the same time, to international perspective. Czyżewski also referred to the important thread of this year's Congress (crisis in tourism). He asked whether long-lasting, meaningful and solidarity-based tourism is possible?
A discussion followed his speech, about culture’s role and function, not only now, but in general, what is there for culture in building resilient societies or cities? A culture that heals and is itself immune to crises? Though fragile, like porcelain, culture gives meaning to individuals’ and groups’ environment, to this multidimensional living and breathing world, without which human existence turns purely biological or purely materialistic.
Following an imposed lockdown and, as it turns out, its severe aftermath, voices were raised in Poland, first and foremost, to unfreeze the economy. Culture has been pushed to the margins, although its share in Poland's GDP is almost 3.5%. It is more than mining and agriculture combined together (sic!). Hair salons and fitness centres were opened quicker than theatres and cinemas. And yet culture is part of the economy. The money it brings is significant.
We asked a question in the discussion: why do we not treat culture as a key space in the discussion about the crisis? What is it really that pushes culture to the margins of economic and political choices. Why is it treated as something extra in life? In recent statements made by politicians, we hear disturbing tones. People of culture are called the 'leisure class', their demands are akin to the 'mentality of a Soviet activist', culture is commonly understood as a kind of entertainment, an addition to life.
Meanwhile, culture is undoubtedly of paramount importance to building the resilience of societies and giving meaning to all other processes that strengthen social immunology. It is prerequisite for building a group understanding of reality, for triggering solidarity, for restoring trust, for arousing optimism, for leading society out of stagnation, out of the sense of threat, hopelessness, and the sense of hitting a dead end. That is why the concept of immunity may successfully be applied to the world of culture. It can be a reference point for many practices, including social communication practices, interpreting the world, making a sense of it, but also for urban planning, architecture, education of the open society, cohesion policy or nurturing diversity of cultural expression.
Marharyta Zhenchuk, outlined a post-industrial spaces regeneration project in Ivano-Frankivsk, (western Ukraine), where she engages in local development projects that facilitate operation of a centre for innovation, reflection on urban planning, art, a place of social education and personal development. All this is happening on premises of an old plant — Promprylad. Next to day-to-day work in the locality, struggling with financial shortages, Zhenchuk uses a specific language exposing 'warmth' as a starting point to describe a 'warm city', warm people, warm relations, local ethics, the language of neighbourly relations — that is natural and devoid of artificiality. ‘Warm’ means that something has an individual character, indicated Zhenchuk. ‘It is by no means an attempt to catch up with contemporary trends, it is about a search for one's own identity and about showing its most positive aspects. If it happens to be a competition matter, then people and businesses only compete against one another to generate more warmth’. This small city, comparable to Lublin, has an incredible energy. ‘Teple Misto’ is a living proof that even in a city without infrastructure, on a small budget, it is possible to create an environment conducive to creativity. This place is narrated by emotions, optimism, a ‘happy place’, and its managers are there to nurture ‘well-being’.
Working in the local area may also run the risk of being locked into provincialism. Loss of ties with the wider context. We asked all the participants of the debate about this.
Justyna Jochym works with a cluster of festivals that have, so far, been jointly branded as ‘The best festival experience in the world’, thus naming the Adelaide Festival in terms of an event-based tourist attraction. Adelaide, contrary to Melbourne, does not have that many stringent pandemic-related restrictions, and has not been so badly affected by Covid. The upcoming festival season will primarily focus on the local audience. The city runs open call for competitions to revive public spaces, parks and gardens, or for projects to decorate window displays for Christmas in local shops. The festivals are becoming a transforming and integrating force in the city to the social dimension, to the identity of southern Australians and to the traditional local businesses, as well as to creative businesses. Justyna Jochym highlighted the work of the festivals around city volunteers, around the responsibility of the festivals for the environment, and around maintaining contact with the world via new technologies.
Maciej Hofman emphasised the new face of European solidarity, communities’ cooperation, and of setting up the so-called shared places — places that are there for everybody to use in the local communities. He referred to the concept of resilience — that is learning your lessons from all the difficult situations in the past. In the face of a global pandemic, many of us feel that we are facing a new paradigm that has not yet been recognised. Although we try to apply proven methods and, after temporarily defrosting economy and culture, act as if it is business as usual. The world however, in the face of a second global wave, is slipping away, stays out of control. COVID-19 is nothing short of challenges like natural hazards, climatic disasters, wars, but also such challenges as the accumulation of social problems, like the refugee crisis, poverty, exclusion, starvation, unemployment, water shortages, high levels of violence in cities, and so forth. Faced with such challenges, cities and regions try to plan urban development in the spirit of resilient cities concept. And cities will also have to get a grip on this process, because the world is still urbanising at an incredible rate — 70% of the globe’s population will live in cities by 2050. Secondly, climate disaster related threats, and associated with them conflicts over resources, are serious, widespread and growing.
Monika Grochowska from the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, when asked how this important agenda for the promotion of Polish culture in the world, functions at the moment, stressed that at a time of mobility restrictions, cancelled festivals and premieres, it is key to manage the network of contacts, arrived at in the past, as the institution’s most important resource.
All panellists recognised that culture is fundamental to renewal, but also that the cultural sector is particularly fragile and full of inequalities. Therefore, so much attention must be paid to it. Even more so, because a pandemic, just as natural disasters, can, in extreme cases, also irretrievably destroy cultural ecosystems. Maintaining their current diversity is so essential. It has been pointed out that 'people employed in cultural sector do not enjoy, even in normal circumstances, the same level of social protection, and the same rights, as many workers in other sectors. Today, we are even more vulnerable because our professions are not seen as necessary'. Experts of the Cultural Alerts, written under the guidance of Professor Hausner, spoke in the same spirit. They have been quoted by Krzysztof Czyżewski. The issue of regulating the status of an artist is not only a challenge that the Polish society is faced with. Indeed, this unregulated status of artists (men and women) is one of the most difficult challenges that the culture sector needs to confront. The current crisis shows how non-resistant the whole creative community has been to a situation in which they cannot create, present, disseminate, and make a living out of their work — mostly in performing arts.
When asked how this crisis can be used in a positive way, all the panellists pointed out, inspired by the opening speech, that through creating common spaces, breaking up the culture of bubbles, through seeking common ground. That would be an answer. Social and ecological regeneration, as well as designing the city together, were indicated as a positive example. Just like in the case of Promprylad in Ivano-Frankivsk. ‘It is a place where we should build, in a very responsible and loyal manner, common spaces, invented and interpreted through culture, through micro-activities, through continuous linking and merging. Similarly, creativity and regeneration of abandoned places are defined by Charles Landry — the theoretician of creative cities, who had been recalled in the debate. Artistry and imagination — a resource for the cities.
‘The metaphor of warmth — in language and in doing — is very important today, at a time when we have to show at all costs the regenerating role of culture, its important community-and-connective-tissue-building function — but also optimism, so crucial in overcoming recession.’, stressed Czyżewski.
Referring to Czyżewski's speech, Hofman commented on the key European Commission's priorities, at a time when access to culture is restricted, outlining the EU Solidarity Fund, the principles of the European Green Deal, whereby Europe aims to become the first climate-neutral continent, and to become a modern, resource-efficient economy. He mentioned measures to adapt to the EU's digital strategy to strengthen Europe’s position thanks to next generation technologies. He pointed out that an economy that works for people must create a more attractive investment environment and economic growth that will foster creation of high-quality jobs, especially for the young and small businesses. He stressed the importance of social solidarity and the promotion of the European lifestyle. Among the proposals, there was an argument to 'give Europeans a greater voice and protect our democracy from external interference, such as disinformation and hate speech on the Internet'.
The discussion also touched on the issue of global communications. How, in a world with no mobility, can we maintain contacts, exchange knowledge, cultivate contacts with audiences? I asked Monika Grochowska, ‘Does this mean that we will travel less, share less, co-produce less, make more careful choices about the FB check-ins — here today, there tomorrow?’ While describing the most important IAM's projects in the world, she mentioned that the Polish voice is audible in many international Think Tanks, congresses and internationally-recognised reports.
Among the conclusions to focus on the locality, on the immediate surroundings, lurks the danger of praise for provincialism, a kind of closure in one's own bubble, 'it seems to me that in many situations we are still not sufficiently connected with the world idea circulation, with cooperation, understood as the transfer of ideas, as a policy of knowledge-sharing and learning. There is still a lot of marketing language in cultural communication strategies, more than deep reflection on reality.’, Jochym said.
Krzysztof Czyżewski pointed out that Europe is still an unfinished quest. We follow a little bit in the footsteps of Vincenz, Roth, Stempowski, Giedroyc, Venclova, and Miłosz, above all. Europe of national cultures, not the culture, a project still not finished.
Tourism was last to talk about in our debate. The pandemic has stopped tourism in its most dangerous, unbridled, quantitative dimension, i.e. billions of travelling people. Many people lost their jobs, hotels are empty, historic cities that relied on tourism for income, have become ghost cities before our eyes. How should tourism be reborn, and how should we use culture to create policies that are more balance oriented? Krzysztof calls this a long-lasting, profound, solidarity-based tourism. The interviewees stressed that in a modern and sustainable tourism strategy, customer relations and conflict management, will be an integral part of tourism policies. Residents themselves will turn out to be the most crucial resource in tourism.
In this part of the conversation, I presented Kate Raworth's ideas for Amsterdam, where she proposes doughnut economics — quality based tourism, tourism that feeds on frequent re-visits, on locality as a measure to develop, on meaningful resident – tourist relations, on the balance of all the elements, on ecology and global responsibility. But tourism is also about responsibility for local economy and about the value we attach to a sector that generates so much financial, promotional or employment assets, After all, so many people in our city, depend on tourism for livelihood, including culture.
Amsterdam has announced a doughnut model, i.e. to build a city that is immune to all shocks and crises the future might hold. 'We are on the eve of building important tools for relaunching our cities so that it is not this impossible gallop any more. The answer is our revival of the locality, a turn towards the natural cultural landscape of the city, reconstruction of ties, local patriotism, support for local businesses and book stores. Restaurants are good for tourists if they are also good for the residents’.
Justyna Jochym stressed the need to implement the UN Agenda 2030 and warned against the temptation of many institutions to return to bad habits. ‘A lot is being said that it is impossible to return to the pre-pandemic world, but when I watched, few days ago, a report from Wuhan by one the most popular vloggers, the world returned to its pre-pandemic rhythm there. China quickly recovered from the pandemic, closed itself off even further from the surroundings and, at the same time, made radical adjustments, including in its own policy on the use of renewable energy sources. ‘What do you think should be a lasting change in our approach to culture and how should the activities of our institutions and cultural leaders be redesigned?’ — this question was answered by the majority of panellists by referring to the organic work, work on micro-communities, they also evoked innovations in culture, in management, in financing methods, going beyond the horizon of ad hoc projects.
‘You never want a serious crisis to go to waste’ said Rahm Emanuel when referring to the 2008 Recession, and citing Sir Winston Churchill, who said ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’. Churchill uttered this in the mid-1940s, when World War II was raging at its best. Finally, lets ask what should not be wasted in this crisis? Most people answered — this calm reflection on the world, the ability to work together in the slow mode, with no growth, quantity, mass, and scale imperatives. It is important to calm down on a personal level and on the level of restructuring institutions so that they are more networked and environment friendly.
Among the questions being asked today, it is particularly important not only how to survive the current crisis, but also how to define ourselves in the aftermath of the crisis, how to maintain the level of the successes achieved in the past, the level of funding to date, how to put the pandemic experience to good use. The questions are all the more important because culture in the coming months will, to a large extent, be a space of great experimentation, not only at the level of content, but also as far as management models are concerned. Many institutions had to switch to remote management, project-based management, managing change or processes redesign overnight. Endorsing this course of action is extremely important.
The virtual world and hybrid forms of doing things are increasingly gaining value. We are becoming aware how non crisis-resistant are those institutions that have not yet invested in their on-line presence content-wise. This is a huge opportunity: new competences, digital repositories, digitisation of collections, in-house teams for audiovisual production, experiments with formats. The Internet up to day treated mainly as a space for marketing and information dissemination, can be an important source of innovation and can bring additional income for culture. And it needs to be given more credit. In Krakow, we are investing in our own PLAY Krakow platform for aggregating cultural content produced in the city. The platform is to be complemented by an audiovisual fund allowing institutions to plan the registration of worthwhile projects. It will be increasingly important to use the space creatively and to build a more resilient, hybrid infrastructure in the future. We can see on the example of almost every utility building how, in a situation of limitations, some buildings — built on a grand scale, but non-resistant to climate and pandemic crises — become useless. Spaces built with future crises in mind, which can be multifunctional and shared at the same time, will become increasingly important. A growing role of common spaces, neighbourhoods, parks and squares is a real eye-opener of this time. Paradoxically, the crisis is helping the deglomeration of culture and boosts culture's role at the micro-community level.
Since the structure of our world is so networked, the condition of the cultural sector may also depend on networked cooperation mainly. We need to be responsible for one another. This aspect has its international dimension, because it is good to share knowledge and to be in contact with the cities facing similar challenges. It also has a local dimension. In recent months, we have seen extraordinary things in Krakow: large institutions and small foundations giving up part of their resources to support smaller players. This is an important trend, when previously competitive circles, organise something together, postulate, act, and build platforms for joint selling their produce.
With the inefficiencies and limitations in current systems of culture financing (limitations in the acts of law), specialised agencies that work within a given area of culture, plus such informal cooperatives as mentioned above, will play an increasingly important role. The creation of networks, associations, consortia will be crucial to maintaining the connective tissue of the cultural sector. Innovation in this area should certainly be encouraged.
People of the culture sector have a huge role to play. We need their involvement in redesigning the world, in discussing how to overcome dependence from geopolitical and climate changes, how to deal with a world that has suddenly become less secure but perhaps more open than ever. It is easier for us to connect with an expert from Brussels and Adelaide festival CEO — thanks to the internet tools. More and more questions become significant: how to be locally responsible, yet globally connected. How to inscribe the potential that the technology can offer into the operation of institutions of culture, with the need to build live contact, at the same time; how to function in a competitive world, with the constant risk of future pandemics. How can we build the resilience of our cities and the openness of our societies through culture or finally, how can we preserve the diversity of culture forms in cities and, at the same time, use its enormous power in reconstruction processes? These are some of the challenges facing the cultural world and cities in the coming years.
Culture provides society with an operating system shaped by collective memory — the memory of all adopted strategies, and created on the basis of these strategies principles, including moral principles. Everything that we will work out now, will determine whether our city will be immune to all current, and all future crises. Healthy, resilient cities, have strong city authorities, who are able to respond to changes, as well as, culture, where people feel responsible for the common good, and for one another.
Therefore, culture is essential for resilience.
Lublin, October 2020
Culture spearheads civilisation paradigm shift. Covid-19 only reinforced all what had been marginalised so far by ‘market must-haves’ and ‘political priorities’ — artists’ counter culture intuitions, artists who create art for social change, sustainable development, interdisciplinarity and for consolidation of communities. The dominance of nationalism and cosmopolitanism has past. Now we are about to build a third way — solidarity.
Culture's problems and challenges (as identified by city activists, local homelands movements, ECOC, Eastern Partnership Culture Congress, Culture Lab Europe, etc.):
Answers to problems, challenges:
Culture versus Tourism:
Lublin, October 2020
Background of Teple Misto platform
The "Teple Misto" platform was founded in Ivano-Frankivsk in 2014 as a citizen-led initiative to develop the city and sustain social transformations. Since than we have two ongoing local grant programs. Overall, the platform has implemented over 400 initiatives of various formats and scale in different sectors.
What makes our efforts bold and ambitious is the fact that Ivano-Frankivsk is one of the smallest oblast center in the country (equivalent to stolica województwa) that according to Ukraine’s development trends shouldn’t have much promise to its residents. But by pulling together efforts of residents who care, take responsibility, we are proving the opposite that there are resources to implement projects that are acknowledged in the country and beyond.
One of the most famous projects is the Urban Space 100 public restaurant in Ivano-Frankivsk. It was funded through 100 donations of 1000 USD each.
80% of its profit is channeled into local development through grant program. We’ll celebrate its sixth anniversary in coming December.
Urban Space was selected, and its stand is presented at the Living the City Exhibition in the former Berlin-Tempelhof airport. The only project from Ukraine among other 20 countries.
And the very challenging task that Teple Misto has taken along with other non-governmental partners with zero state support is Promprylad.Renovation project.
In 2017 Charles Landry – a key-note speaker of another Congress’ panel discussion - visited the Promprylad site and made his comments that turning the remnants of big manufacturing facility in the city center into creative innovation center would boost local development and set an example for others. In 2018 we rented and renovated one floor, in 2019 bought out the controlling share of the facility by raising 5 mln USD from 400 social impact investors.
In a nutshell we anticipate to raise 30 mln USD to turn 38 000 m2 into the innovation center that would set 30% of its premises for public functions focusing on art, urbanism, informal education and new economy, as well as channel 30% of its profit – forecasted 1 mln USD - back into community, which includes sustaining operations of public functions where culture-related activities have the crucial share and value.
Consequences of the lockdown
From the perspective of the work done by Teple Misto civic platform, lockdown definitely put on hold the majority of the activities maintained by the organization. Witnessing the ambiguity of the situation and reluctant to stay aside of the events (or rather the absence of them), the team launched community support initiative – Anti-crisis Fund to combat COVID-19 consequences that entailed partnering with other groups and Ivano-Frankivsk City Council to raise funds and in-kind support to provide vulnerable (low-income) groups (families and elderlies) with first needed products, supplies for hospitals: protective wear, sanitizers, equipment; restaurant food to ambulance workers during their shifts, as well as educational online events. During the first few months of the lockdown it turned to be an inspiring venture that with time as the logistics of the lockdown settled and the lockdown restrictions got looser, the need for it faded away, though it was a best practice example of collaboration efforts that gave people hope and news project ideas.
Overall new circumstances caused by the restrictions forced to rethink the needs of the environment and consequently to assess the value of the activities of the organization for the urban community and set a ground to experiment with the formats of these activities. The horizon is both provoking and scary as there are no ready-to-go solutions. The new formats are being tested and the intrinsic human desire of unity, collaboration, solidarity have been brought into the spotlight of the discussion and may provide a genuine vector for our further development. And thus, caused by COVID-19 pandemic, new circumstances may be not that much intimidating. Time will show.
Lublin, October 2020
Charles Landry – The Creative City (United Kingdom)
Justyna Król – Consultant for the City Experiment Fund – UNDP (Poland)
Ewelina Iwanek Ph.D. – President of the Board, Polish Foundation of the Opportunities Industrialization Centers OIC (Poland)
Rasmus Wiinstedt Tscherning – Director of The Creative Business Network (Denmark)
Prof. Alexander Sogomonov – Russian Academy of Sciences (Russia)
Mariusz Sagan Ph.D. – Lublin Municipality / SGH Warsaw School of Economics (Poland)
For decades we’ve been measuring the standing of countries around the world by referring to their GDP or GDP per capita, if I’m not mistaken that’s been true since mid-1940’s. There have been attempts to design other indicators, like the Human Development Index by a Polish team co-lead by Piotr Arak, Head of the Polish Economic Institute. Today the key number we keep referring to is the number of people infected by coronavirus.
During the first segment, participants started with answering the title question of the debate - is development possible without growth imperative? And if so, why do we need growth? If we do at all. Professor Sogomonov spoke to the social need to development in the context of safety and cohesion. Mrs. Iwanek described in this context the needs of companies, discussing how sustainability and longevity of their current and future businesses in some ways needs to focus on economic growth, but does not have to dominate other aspects of business development. This was also echoed by Mr. Rasmus Tschering, who went as far as to say that during COVID19 crisis, in many ways focus has been way beyond individual economic survivial and focused more on mutual support and cooperation. Mr. Mariusz Sagan referred to the 2030 Strategy for Lublin answering a question whether there is an option that such a strategy rejects growth as an imperative. Finnaly, Mr. Charles Landry closed the first segment of discussion by referring to the Creative Bureaucracy conference that he has organised a few days prior together with the BMW Foundation.
In the second segment of the discussion, experts dove deeper into specific ways in which they see our approaches and behaviours changing during the pandemic.
They have touched upon:
New business models/Creative industries and creative bureaucracies:
• What becomes imperative when growth is no longer? How do we learn if a society has shifted its focus?
• When we look at creative industries in the times of pandemic, are there any learnings for other businesses in terms of new business models? Why should we now be watching this sector closely?
• If you were to use the ongoing pandemic as a leverage and strategize based on the changes we’ve discussed, what would you focus on? What changes should we amplify?
• Can you share examples of ways in which the idea of remote work and the need to manage distributed teams impacted the way entrepreneurs think about their industries, companies, team development and relationship/responsibilities to the host city?
• Is the shift towards remote work and education a chance for smaller cities to reverse brain drain?
• What would it mean for cities which used to develop based on the fact that they hosted universities and big corporations?
Final segment of the panel discussion focused on the longevity of change. Experts shared their opinions on whether the change they have been discussing is permanent. What does it take for a community or even a society to internalise change for good or at least until the next such shock to the system happens? Final words came from Mr. Sagan, who concluded by sharing what, from your perspective, should be the key takeaways from this discussion for the public administration in these transitional times.
Lublin, October, 2020
dr Ewelina Iwanek
Every crisis brings challenges and threats to entrepreneurs and their organizations, no matter if initiated by human behaviour, natural disasters or economic mechanisms1. In the face of the global pandemic, entrepreneurs have to face a new reality.
Currently, downturn in the global economy is the consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the USA, the numbers of unemployed or underemployed people have passed 40 million. France has recorded its biggest fall in GDP – 5.8% – since 1949 in the first quarter of this year. It is something sure that businesses suffer from the pandemic; it also depends on the type of business. The most COVID-impacted industries are restaurants, retail, entertainment or sports industries. These entrepreneurs who are operating in online shopping, food delivery, video gaming, on-line streaming or video conferencing industries, where business is currently booming is a completely different picture. For instance, Netflix increased its subscribers by 15.8 million, more than double than the 7.2 million that were expected — a growth of more than 22 percent year over year. Netflix has now 182 million subscribers worldwide. On the contrary, it has been calculated that entrepreneurs in COVID-impacted sectors should be ready to lose 50% to 80% of their turnover, as well as a major portion of their market value. The industries most impacted by COVID could take the opportunity to innovate, with more digitalization and disruption implemented in their business models in order to increase the touchpoints with their customers.
A bit different is the situation of start-ups in the pandemic. The most venture capital-backed startups stayed by entirely unscathed. More than half of startups have been positively impacted by the pandemic or seen no impact to speak of, according to a working paper from researchers at Harvard, Stanford, the University of Chicago, and the University of British Columbia. Startups based on digital trend were accelerated. The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged much of the world economy but on the other hand it has created favorable conditions for generation of innovative business ideas. Starting a business in a pandemic means all previous assumptions need to be re-assessed. There is a need to look for opportunities amidst the crisis, to think of more creative ways to innovate and pivot.
The pandemic impacted on working environment heavily. Even before the coronavirus, flexible working was starting to make headway, but mass adoption remained far off. Managers worried about visibility, collaborating virtually and self-discipline resisted taking their work virtual. The pandemic caused that all the above-mentioned changes have become real ones. Pre-pandemic remote working was the exception rather than the rule. Remote working promotes productivity, supports employee well-being but it also brings a lof of challenges. According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, the most common problem remote workers have is unplugging after work. Loneliness is the second most common problem (19%) while collaboration (17%), distractions at home (10%), time zones (8%) and staying motivated (8%) are all issues that affect remote workers and the companies they work for. When we analyse the remote working from the point of view of project teams, the biggest challenges include communication, scheduling, tracking performance and language/cultural barriers but also building and maintaining trust between remote team members.
How the business will look after the pandemic? There are few different scenarios. It is sure that the pandemic has impacted on daily life of the world and it is caused the world-wide crisis and not only economic crisis but also health and social crisis requiring changes that weren’t projected and which the society wasn’t ready.
1 Doern, R., Williams, N., and Vorley, T. (2019), "Special issue on entrepreneurship and crises: business as usual? An introduction and review of the literature", Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, Vol. 31 No. 5-6, pp. 400-412.
Lublin, October, 2020
Aldo Vargas-Tetmajer –National Contact Point URBACT II (Poland)
Justyna Domaszewicz – local coordinator of the "We call for meals" action (Poland)
Inese Vaivare – Stay home action and Chairman of the Board Latvia Civic Alliance (Latvia)
Siuzanna Zhukovska –Non Governmental Organization "Harmonia" (Ukraine)
Jacek Wnuk – Volunteer Centre in Lublin / Editor-in-Chief of Nowe Radio (Poland)
At the beginning of the panel, the Moderator compared Covid-19 to a Black Swan — something which is unlikely, but nevertheless does occur from time to time — so when the pandemic strikes, it has a tremendous impact on the reality. He mentioned the OECD report on the cities’ response to the pandemic, listing the actions by EU cities (including URBACT) undertaken to tackle the pandemic.
The floor was then taken by Justyna Domaszewicz — an originator of the local We call for meals (Poland) action. Domaszewicz detailed this spontaneous initiative to support the healthcare sector. Call for meals lasted from March to June 2020.
The next presentation was given by Inese Vaivare from Riga, Latvia — a leader of Stay home initiative. She showed how effective the initiative was by quoting precise figures.
Siuzanna Zhukovska from the social organisation Harmonia (Ukraine), talked about a grassroots movement for people with disabilities. The Disabled often turned out to be better prepared for these difficult times.
Jacek Wnuk from Volunteer Centre in Lublin and an Editor-in-Chief of Nowe Radio (Poland), was last to take the floor. He kick-started an on-line radio station that played an important part in facilitating volunteers in their daily work during the pandemic.
A discussion followed. Panellists debated over the effectiveness of measures undertaken and the necessity for further actions, given that the first freeze at the beginning of the year is only a prelude to the problems that will arise in the coming months and years. It was noted that a database detailing best practices is a concept worth taking up. The database would show what is feasible in similar situations in future.
Lublin, October 2020
Volunteers’ movement #Stayathome was established as an emergency response in the hackathon HackForce aimed at discovering solutions presented by the coronavirus crisis earlier in March.
It aimed at providing effective social assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic to the most vulnerable, those who had to isolate, sick- by bringing the communities together and tackling the inequalities exposed by this crisis. Nation wide volunteers' network offered deliveries of food and other goods and services free of charge.
#Stayathome targeted those without digital skills by running a hotline: 25661991. Call to action for volunteers was issued via www.paliec-majas.lv, taking into account the Covid-19 safety protocols, and operated through the mobile app. #Stayathome volunteer network grew to 800 volunteers in only two months.
The organisation created an pan-institutional working group and brought together the private sector, NGOs, social service providers and the local government representatives. Only effective partnerships provided a basis for fast development of the network.
Reacting on the needs #Stayathome was also helping medical workers with transport, on Mother’s day – with help of our volunteers and flower growers more than 350 women in care-houses received bouquets of flowers.
#Stayathome met huge support from the society, media, the private and public sectors, and NGOs. #Stayathome used social media and ran several online motivation campaigns to influence people’s behaviour and help them choose to stay at home. #Stayathome also was first volunteering experience for very many, also the ones who were without a job and depressed themselves. Its operations at community level also strenghtened the local level effect on crisis resilience.
Lublin, October 2020
Covid-19 pandemic has helped us understand how important it is for a society, for hromadas, to be united during crisis. Challenges that our communities face will only be overcome if we act together and help one another: communities should help local authorities, and local authorities should help social initiatives. In my work, I often find that social initiatives should complement or even precede mechanisms that are employed by the executive power, since, due to the bureaucracy, these mechanisms, are not fit for a rapid response, to the crisis that has occurred. The public, on the contrary, can act and do quickly all this, which in the case of the authorities, has to go through several bureaucratic stages.
We must take all our experience into consideration, in order to respond quickly to similar problems that may arise during a second wave of this pandemic or in other situations of this kind. This is very important, because the vulnerable groups we work with, may be left without the necessary help, which will further complicate their situations and will cause irreversible damage.
All of this cooperation — community organisations, local authorities, small initiatives, voluntary organisations — has become key to resolving critical moments. Once again, we have to ask ourselves, when did we get the best results from our ideas and initiatives? Is it not when we were all together? We are strong when we are together and when we have the courage to go out and take on the challenges that lie ahead. We are strong when we remember history and learn from each other, share experiences, and in a moment of crisis we can react 1-2 steps faster than before, or gather all the experience and come up with a good solution that no one had expected.
Courage to all of us! Courage that will help us stay strong, support each other in this difficult, ever changing day and age.
Lublin, October 2020
I shared the experiences of the Volunteer Centre Association in Lublin during Covid-19, pointing to volunteers’ contribution, and rolled out innovations by our organisation during the pandemic. All this was said during Social self-organisation in times of the pandemic panel within Cross-Border Cooperation Congress Lublin 2020. Undertaken actions included for instance sewing masks and protective clothing. More than 300 volunteers got involved in this initiative, just as tailors or wedding dress shops. During this period, we also provided food products worth approximately PLN 80 000, reaching over 500 families. The elderly and the poor were targeted in this project. Psychological aid for people in need was another initiative worth mentioning. Over 600 people have so far benefited from this kind of help.
During this pandemic, we did not cease helping refugees, prisoners, people released from custody and the homeless. We had recipients of our help on board.
They actively contributed to the project.
A brand new radio station, that broadcasts at www.noweradio.pl was another initiative on the agenda. New Radio is about a free flow of thoughts, information and music, with no frameworks or restrictions applied. Programmes are aired in 12 languages and are co-produced by foreigners living in Lublin. The radio broadcasts in Polish, Persian, Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Bengali, English, Spanish, Ukrainian and Turkish, as well as, in Swahili and Belarusian. The radio provides a new space for foreigners to speak in their native languages about the current pandemic situation in the city, region and in Poland.
The panel Social self-organisation in times of the pandemic at Cross-Border Cooperation Congress Lublin 2020, opened up new challenges to be faced during the pandemic, showed us the value of exchanging experiences with other partners, with local governments, and with community activists.
Lublin, October 2020
Main recommendations for municipalities during the pandemic from the participants of our workshop:
• showing solidarity, “deeper democracy”, also input of migrants themselves
• nothing about us without us, involving migrant communities in the City Hall actions,
• dialog as a basic element of social policy, including vertical dialog between Goverment and municipalities
• collaboration with NGOs
• dedicated help for different groups of migrants (students, eldery people etc). Do research about these groups to make this help effective
• decision-makers should increase their intercultural competence and learn constantly, learning should not be limited to municipality workers
• Thinking about the time after the pandemic and planning ahead
• Implementing clear safety protocols
• Counteracting student's absenteeism
• Intercultural mediators for parents,
• Contacting parents directly (eg. via phone) with up-to-date information
• Providing information in various languages
• Direct contact with migrants (eg. via multi-channel campaign)
• Give people an opportunity to ask questions (eg. via hot-line)
• Intercultural mediators working inside the communities, developing networks of mediators and supporting them in carrying out of their tasks
• Visiting migrants in their neighborhoods
• Giving migrants new ways to express themselves, use their voice
Motto of the workshop: use diversity as a strenght and opportunity!
Lublin, October 2020
Aleksandra Zińczuk – Member of Committee of Cross-Border Cooperation Congress (Lublin)
Alhierd Bacharevič – Belarusian writer and translator (Minsk)
Yulya Tsimafeyeva – Belarusian poet, editor, translator (Minsk)
Hubert Łaszkiewicz – Associate Professor at East European Studies (Warsaw University)
Tomasz Stępniewski – Assistant Professor at the Institute of East-Central Europe (Lublin)
Grzegorz Rzepecki – Director of the Cultural Institution "Workshops of Culture" (Lublin)
In August 2020, Alexander Lukashenko secured a win in the presidential election in Belarus. Lukashenko has been the incumbent President/Belarus’ Head of State for 26 years in a row. Above statement illustrates Belarus’ authorities — meaning Central Election Commission of the Republic of Belarus, the President and the likes — official state of affairs. Contrary to that, are citizens who took to the streets, and their belief that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in fact defeated Lukashenko. International community is in two minds — some have congratulated Lukashenko on his victory, while others, have some doubts. Lukashenko is trying to suppress Belarusians’ protests against him (people chant 'Lukashenka uchadi' (go away) through repressions. Europe and the world condemns this course of action. However, Lukashenko stays indifferent and does not engage in any form of dialogue with the opposition, i.e.: Coordination Council or its Presidium. Two months of unrest, and two months of tug-of-war have already past. Who will be victorious? Will it be a win for the incumbent President or for the opposition? What will the future hold for Belarus in political terms?
Apparently, the current crisis has been the most serious since Alexander Lukashenko, came to power in 1994. This crisis is fed by mass protests. Citizens of different ages and professions rally against Lukashenko not only in Minsk but also in other major cities. President Lukashenko himself is, most probably, angered and surprised by the sheer scale of the protests.
Questions about the future of the protests and, more broadly, about the future of Belarus, are fully justified. Will Lukashenko remain in power and what will economic, political and other relations between Belarus and its closest neighbours (Lithuania, Latvia, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Poland) look like? How has Belarus already been affected? And where is the country heading with these internal transformations? Being impartial, certain hypotheses need to be said here. Why? Because the unrest in Belarus is important to Poles for two reasons. Firstly, due to solidarity with all those seeking better political solutions, ensuring citizens involvement in decision making process. And, secondly, Belarus is a close neighbour of Poland. Poles and Belarusians have many, and very complex ties between each other.
Women's protests — as it happens women are protesting against Lukashenko and his government — often on their own or in large crowds. Women rally on streets, and are sometimes beaten, detained or humiliated. Hence, those in power lose their face and credibility. They are no longer perceived as a stern, but yet, just and caring guardian. The brutality of the Belarusian riot police towards mothers, wives, daughters and girlfriends, changes the situation in a moral sense. Lukashenko becomes the ‘face’ of this brutal terror. This wrongdoing will be hard for him to wipe out or account for. It is likely, that the more time passes, the better documented with horror stories collective memory will become, and they will stay to haunt Belarusian people. Even more so, since records of these police actions already live a life of their own. Not only as memories, but above all, as images (photos, videos, live streams) on social media.
Signs of culture as signs of protest. It all started with a portrait of a woman ‘Eva’, a canvass by Chaim Soutine. It was still ahead of elections, back in June/July. Leaving aside all the complex story behind the 20th century modern art exhibition in the Palace of Arts in Minsk, which was ‘arrested’ by a Lukashenko regime, it should be noted, that also aesthetic choices become signs of political protest. From the title of the canvass — ‘Eva’ — the term ‘Evalution’ in the meaning of ‘Revolution’ was coined. This is meaningful because the signs of culture, the signs of aesthetic identity in Belarus were formed mainly during the Soviet era. At least those that were in everyday use: visible on the streets in the cities, in villages, or in school curriculum. Those signs alluded — from the time of Belarusianisation in 1920s — to rural traditions — something that used to be a shared experience of all Belarusians. However, rural symbols and symbolism of the Soviet times (dear to Lukashenko) are now juxtaposed (not so much rejected, but enriched or differentiated) with new experiences of the state and of the nation. This new experience includes both distant past and the contemporary, new (perhaps sometimes very iconoclastic and critical) aesthetic explorations. To put it short: Alexander Lukashenko represents, in the artistic and aesthetic sense, ‘immobility’, a refusal to notice changes (their necessity, validity, and, above all, the right to make changes as such). If this observation is correct, then it seems possible that regardless of Lukashenko’s fate as a leader; it is Art (including visual arts like: alternative theatre, graphic signs disseminated on-line, songs, music and poems) that will become political statements. Art will become a way of saying ‘No’ to what is happening. More diverse forms in aesthetics, are by no way a political imperative that will kick in immediately, there and then — they are, more of a phenomenon that will change social consciousness gradually. And this is what is happening in Belarus right now. Or to be precise: these processes are being strengthened and autonomised during protests. While Belarusians united under white-red-white flags of the Belarusian People's Republic and the Pahonia coat of arms (symbols of Belarusian statehood referring to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) during the reburial of Kastuś Kalinoŭski, a hero of the 1863 uprising, last autumn in the streets of Vilnius; now these already known symbols, will be joined by new ones — artistic, less common, but also expressing opposition not only to political, but also to aesthetic and cultural enslavement.
Belarusian and Russian languages as a tool to communicate and self-express — Identity. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya swiftly switched between the two language codes: from Russian into Belarusian and back again, during her presidential campaign. The language issue in Belarus is not an easy one. But perhaps it will be solved differently than it has been thought of so far. Perhaps Russian (as spoken in Belarus — and this is not limited to Trasianka) will not be a sign of anti-Belarusianism, nor will it be a sign of consent to Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule. Using Russian will simply be regarded as yet another sign of the past legacy. It is from this past that Belarus has emerged, is emerging and will still be emerging. Of course, this is an open issue, and it can only be resolved by the Belarusians and the citizens of this country alone.
Emigration. Since 1994, there have been several waves of political emigration from Belarus. In 2020, economic emigration occurred, caused by political unrest: IT sector migrates their enterprises into neighbouring countries in fear of Lukashenko's regime. People leave for various countries: Lithuania, Ukraine, Germany, Poland or also Russia? This process may intensify if satisfactory changes in Belarus fail to take place. Growing Belarusian diaspora in Europe and in the world may (but not necessarily) become one of the jigsaw puzzles in the change-to-come in Belarus. Now we live in the web-connected world, hence, communication between Belarusian diaspora and those who stayed behind, is incomparably easier and more effective than it had been between former political emigrants from CEE and their respective countries of origin.
Concordia discordans or Discordia concordans? In place of a summary. Belarus is a technologically-advanced country with well-educated people. Will the growing diversity of opinions on political, economic, legal and aesthetic solutions concerning Belarus in the wake of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, be what unites the opposition (Discordia concordans); or vice versa: the growing consensus (Concordia discordans), which will be based on a sense of a moral rightness rather than on legal, political and economic solutions, will lead to a fatigue with change, and a return to authoritarianism of some sort. The authoritarianism that will offer stability at the price of freedom? I do not think that aforementioned alternatives exhaust any other possible scenarios for Belarus’ future. Looking from a distance, with kind heart and hope — I have the impression that one may paint possible scenarios for the Belarus’ future, but one needs to bear in mind, that only time will tell, if we were right or wrong. Indeed, only time will answer our questions and resolve doubts. Now let us wish the Belarusian people freedom, identity and best of luck in all the good things that shall fulfil their ideals, satisfy hopes and expectations.
Lublin, October 2020
The August 9th 2020 presidential election that took place in Belarus was followed by an unprecedented wave of social protests against the regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The spark that ignited these protests was the blatant falsification of the results of the election which declared Lukashenka the winner with nearly 80 per cent of the vote. In response to nationwide demonstrations and strikes, the regime responded with brute force, beatings and detaining thousands of protesters.
The West, represented by the European Union and the United States, was quick to denounce the violence. However, their response to the situation in Belarus lacks a coherent and consistent approach. Several courses of action may be proposed, which would aim at adding pressure on the Lukashenka regime to stop the violations of human rights and eventually lead to new elections and a transition of power. These actions include:
Sanctions. The EU and US have a wide range of options when it comes to implementing sanctions. This includes personal sanctions, imposed on both high members of the regime as well as on members of the riot police responsible for the beatings, high-ranking police officials, and judges and prosecutors who participated in the thousands of unlawful trials against peaceful protesters and activists. Economic sanctions should be targeted against large state enterprises with major export shares contributing largely to the Belarusian budget as well as those with assets abroad.
Supporting the Belarusian people. There should be no doubt that the immediate aim of the West’s actions towards Belarus should be an immediate release of all political prisoners and the end to the violent repressions. The EU and US have already firmly declared that they do not recognise the election results. This should also mean that when Lukashenka’s term officially expires in November, he should no longer be recognised as president of Belarus. In addition, the West should call for new, free elections to be organised with international observers on the ground to confirm its fairness. The West should also declare its support for Belarusians’ right to self-determination. This declaration is more than symbolic as it carries legal consequences for the international community.
Preparing for a delicate transition period. The West should be long term in its strategy towards Belarus. A special ‘Marshall Plan’ for the country should be offered for the transition period which would provide serious funding for restructuring the country’s economy and be a comprehensive stimulus plan consisting of grants and loans along with preferential access to foreign markets.
Lastly, the West should not ignore the role of Russia in this process. Any strategy of a transition period should take into consideration (and potentially involve) Russia as well. The West needs to recognise that the current protests are neither pro-western nor anti-Russian. At the same time, the West should understand the Kremlin’s intentions for Belarus and not allow for one brutal regime to be replaced with another.
 Extensive paper on the subject was published in: Adam Reichardt, Tomasz Stępniewski (eds.), Crisis in Belarus. How should the West respond?, „ IEŚ Policy Papers”, nr 8/2020, Instytut Europy Środkowej, Lublin 2020, https://ies.lublin.pl/aktualnosci/ies-policy-papers-82020-crisis-in-belarus-how-should-the-west-respond-27102020
Lublin, October 2020