Participatory Governance of Culture, beyond rhetoric


Co-creation, cooperation, participatory governance, cross-fertilization, audience development, etc. are key issues on the current debate on cultural policy and management. In this field, participation can take many forms at different levels, such as policy formulation and implementation, management, production and artistic creation. A wide range of projects, documents and practices illustrate an important shift in the role of citizens, consumers, communities and spectators in this field.


Ecology of culture: community engagement, co-creation and cross-fertilization was the title of the 23rd annual conference of ENCATC-European network of cultural administration training centres, which took place in Lecce on 21-23 October 2015. The keynote speaker John Holden, Visiting Professor at City University of London and Honorary Professor, University of Hong Kong, presented his report on the ecology of culture, entitled “the complex interdependencies that shape the demand for and production of arts and cultural offerings” (Markussen, 2011). According to him, culture should be analysed from an ecological point of view, as an eco-system rather than a simple economic sector. Discussions, exchanges and papers of young researchers from 34 different countries clearly show how participation is becoming a crucial issue in many ongoing practices in the cultural sector, and indicates that this requires further analysis.


At the European level, some key documents and projects point out this new participatory trend.

The Council conclusions on the participatory governance of cultural heritage (2014) constitute an important recognition of cultural heritage as a “shared resource” and of participatory governance as an opportunity “to foster democratic participation, sustainability and social cohesion and to face the social, political and demographic challenges of today”.

An interesting Mapping of practices in the EU Member States on Participatory governance of cultural heritage has also been conducted and published in June 2015 by the EENC-European Expert Network on Culture, in the context of the OMC Working groups on cultural heritage established by the Work Plan for culture 2015-2018. A variety of case studies concerning participatory practices from different European countries has been analyzed, including both top-down and bottom-up projects. Among these are the Italian project of CO-Bologna, Cities as common goods by LabGov, and the Italian case of La Paranza, an experience of participatory governance of the Paleochristian Catacombs in the city of Naples, by a group of young people from Rione Sanità, a disadvantaged neighbourhood in the city centre.


At the same time, many European projects are experimenting with news forms of participation. For example, ADESTE– Audience DEveloper: Skills and Training in Europe aims to develop new kinds of relationships with citizens, through the new profile of “Audience developer” in the fields of arts and culture. Or the project BeSpectACTive! promotes the active involvement of spectators in the contemporary performing arts. Two other interesting projects focus on the communities in the field of archaeology (NEARCH project) or museums (Creative museum).

In Italy, an interesting discussion on the topic of participatory governance of cultural heritage took place during ArtLab, Fondazione Fitzcarraldo’s annual meeting on cultural management (Lecce, 23-26 September 2015) in a dedicated session, where prof. Christian Iaione, LabGov coordinator, focused on the fundamental requirements for participatory governance.


Beyond rhetoric, real challenges are linked to the effectiveness of participation practices in the cultural field in terms of democratization, empowerment, capabilities development and, of course, sustainability. Experiment in progress, stay tuned!



Il 21-23 Ottobre si è tenuta a Lecce la 23° conferenza dell’ENCATC “European network of cultural administration training centers. Il titolo della conferenza “Ecology of culture: community engagement, co-creation and cross-fertilzation” è in linea che con i nuovi progetti di politiche pubbliche che comprendono e considerano il cittadino parte attiva della società.

A livello Europeo sono tanti i progetti che si stanno sviluppando in questa direzione come Co-Bologna di Labgov, il progetto BeSpectACTive, and ADESTE.