The Challenge of Gaining the Title: European Capital of Culture
30th March 2016
The European Capital of Culture (ECoC) initiative was conceived in 1983 with the aim of highlighting Europes' common history and culture, and the richness of diversity in nations and languages. From the launch over 30 years ago things have changed when looking at the preparation of a project and the title itself. As time has passed and circumstances have changed, Europe looks different now than from the perspective back in 1983.
The initiative is fundamentally still a “cultural” project, where culture is seen as a platform for the different types of development, highlighting the fact that culture presents the sort of quality of life a place has.
The Capitals have always been an opportunity for Europeans to meet, to learn about their diversity, but at the same time to enjoy together their common history and values, to cooperate in new initiatives and projects: in other words, to experience the feeling of belonging to the same European community.
The potential of developing this project could be seen as an opportunity to transform the brand image of a city. Typically, the award has been given to medium to small cities with a low or outdated national and international profile, and therefore the focus is now about place branding development and emphasising the uniqueness of a city.
Nowadays Europe is facing a challenge – the main postulate of a modern Europe where there are no boundaries, no borders in markets or transfer of knowledge and culture – have been put under a question mark.
The challenge for today's candidate cities is to prevail political problems and stick to the European vision and promote their city culture through the European dimension where we are clearly united in diversity.
It is crucial to understand what are the specific problems that candidate cities are facing. By estimating the situation, we would get a clearer picture and approach in the project development. To be honest in recognising the problems in” our garden” and gaining knowledge about our neighbours is the right path for a successful strategy of a healthy future.
As times have changed in Europe, the project development also has a different angle. There is a common approach to how cities are thinking: to take an expert who will be prepared to answer all the risks and organise the process from the first stage. The management of the process anticipates a clear vision and a strategy that is a key factor to a strong team which is from the very beginning dedicated to hard work
Yes, it is about culture, but all cultural stakeholders don’t necessarily have the expertise in knowledge of cultural management. The fact is that people in the process must be aware of their abilities and competencies, to respect each other in the team and be aware of the team structure and tasks allocated. In theory this is something which is considered normal, however in reality this practice is not always observed. Flexibility, expertise, and dedication are driving forces to getting things done. Of course, each candidate city enters the ECoC process because it wants to win the title, however more importantly with this game, everyone is a winner by the overall benefit of being in the competition, even if the overall title is not secured.
Through our work we have had close experience to answering the enormous challenge of preparing a city for the ECoC candidacy. As it is for many other projects, it is all about motivating a wider community that should recognise the benefits that would come out of the process.
Mentality is something we must be aware of when approaching a city community because the mentality will form a road map for creating a healthy dialogue and a type of rhetoric.
This doesn't mean that we as experts should stick to the city's usual type of communication, but as a team coming from the outside (if that is the case) we should first understand the community if we want to offer them changes that would lead to a better of life. Consensus must be a result of communication with all types of stakeholders, and that would guarantee their acceptance of the overall project.