Methodologies developed for implementing the Digital Educational Network for cultural projects’ implementation and direction
DEN-CuPID is all about methodologies: we are not re-inventing the wheel in the field of Cultural Management; we are just thinking of new ways to make the so far acquired (and tested) knowledge in the field of cultural heritage management adaptable to those who don’t necessarily have the required expertise, yet they are asked to plan and implement such projects: municipal employees, members of cultural associations, owners/managers of historic buildings, directors of small, non-state controlled museums or archives… On a second level, we also target all those who are considered as “stakeholders” (in the academic sense) of cultural /heritage management: local agents, shop and hotel owners, entrepreneurs, civil society organizations, education authorities, state authorities and their exponents.
At the end of the project we aim to have:
- created links between Cultural Management theory and the practical, day-to-day aspect of Management that our target groups usually deal with. A major problem about Cultural/Heritage management as a discipline is that often the things which are taught on an academic level are difficult to be applied in practice. Legal boundaries, different and difficult social situations, unwillingness of stakeholders to cooperate, financial issues make often the most brilliant ideas fade out. Therefore we will try to pinpoint the most common problems which make projects fail or deviate from their initial target in the state members of DEN CuPID consortium as well as on a European level (i.e. by comparison to other EU countries). By investigating such cases we can establish some common denominators, try to figure out how things could have had a better outcome and maybe end up by proposing policy changes on a local, national or EU level, in order to guarantee better outcome for similar projects in the future.
- b) established a Digital Network where people and organizations from our target groups can find partners for projects, answers to their questions as well as best practices to follow in the implementation of their own projects. From experience we know that quite often small organizations, municipalities and local agents pursue their projects in an introvert way, trying to use only their own resources (possibly with some further state support). They don’t have an extrovert policy, either because their staff doesn’t feel safe to communicate in foreign languages or because they don’t see affinities between their plans and projects and that of other agents in foreign countries. Yet, if this initial inhibition is overcome, they could see that there are many things that can be achieved on a collaborative basis and many more which can be achieved through international networking and funding. In a period of financial crisis, particularly for the countries of the south, and increase of social pressure and mutation, due to immigration and poverty, cultural projects may seem superfluous to some, but they are really more needed than ever. Protecting what we own, solidifying identities and opening up to embrace the incoming elements in a fertile dialogue is a necessary step to maintain integrity, authenticity and social peace. Therefore, it is time we looked for new ways to promote ideas and make projects successful. Through strong partnerships and networks of local agents many of the problems may emerge and discussed openly and new ways of addressing them may be proposed. In some cases, change of policies or even legislation may be necessary, but pressure for this has to be exercised by a group of agents. It is a happy coincidence that the second year of implementation of DEN CuPID will coincide in part with the European Year of Cultural Heritage (2018) as this will be a fertile period of exchange of ideas, presentation of new projects and intensive networking throughout Europe. We are already planning multiplier events and dissemination activities based on this. All partners are asked to prepare for this ane try to establish a communication strategy with national and international agents and experts who can foster and mentor this effort.
- c) trained a number of people from our target groups through workshops/ case studies and mentored them through the process of planning their own successful cultural management project. The training methodology is elaborated and presented separately, but it suffices here to say that the training events will be used both as a way to impart some basic theoretical precepts to the trainees and as a way to listen to their own experience and problems and try to use these precepts to solve them. DEN CuPID’s training is not envisaged as a unilateral process, from teacher to student, but rather as a hands-on approach, where reality comes first and theory is used as the general background from where solutions may be retrieved. This is actually why we will work a lot based on personal mentoring towards our trainees. Furthermore, a training manual, comprising basic precepts and ideas about Cultural Management in a handbook form, will be elaborated within the first year of the implementation of the project and finalized through our contact with our trainees, in order to be used widely on an EU level by cultural agents.
- d) established an e-learning programme through the project platform, in order to facilitate more and more people all over Europe to profit from the knowledge produced throughout the project duration. The DEN CuPID educational programme will be based on the aforementioned training manual and on the experience accumulated through our contact with the trainees. It will contain theory classes (in the form of ppt presentations, short videos and questionnaires) as well as some practical problems that trainees will be asked to ponder upon, based on the experience of our group of trainees. Each participant at the e-learning course will be able to go through the Units and teaching modules at his/her own pace and proceed to evaluation by answering a multiple choice questionnaire. Successful completion of the course will lead to a certificate.
Four different methodologies transcend the activities of the project in order to fulfill the scope of the abovementioned general methodology.
- Research Methodology
Research, accomplished by DEN-CuPID partners, involves two main stages: academic research in the form of background reading and collection of material available on the internet or on open-source databases (not excluding, however, actual bibliographic references to printed material) and an international survey addressed to local agents in order to pinpoint the most crucial issues they face when planning and implementing cultural projects. In detai:
- The research will start with an extensive enquiry for similar research projects in EU countries (the ones at least that use some of the basic EU languages). The reason is to define the state-of-the-art of integrated Cultural Management and the levels and targets of training in the field. Particular emphasis will be given to the state-partners of DEN CuPID.
- At the same time partners, particularly those with an academic background such as the University of Patras, Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO and Time Heritage, will start working on building a collection of articles, books and references in general in order to prepare the training manual and to establish the reading material that trainees will be referred to. The material will be first gathered in categories within the consortium’s working space (Google Drive) and then a selection process will take place in order to chose the most useful references to be included in the training platform and the bibliography of the training manual. It has to be stressed that a special effort will be made to include not only academic work but also project reports, management plans and web-pages of projects which can be used for helping our trainees to evaluate projects and learn steps for projects’ implementation.
- The next step is the formation of a questionnaire which will be addressed (through Survey Monkey) to relevant stakeholders (organizations, municipalities, individual collectors etc). The questionnaire will help us better define the needs of our target groups as well as the points on which we should emphasize during the training. The questionnaire will be dispatched to a broad spectrum of recipients and supported by follow-up emails and calls until we receive a satisfactory number of responses. The University of Patras will be responsible for the design and handling of the questionnaires as well as for extracting the final outcome and conclusions. The results will be explained and presented in a short report with clear guidelines as to how to structure the educational material and what to emphasize upon during the case studies.
- The dispatch of the questionnaire will also serve as a first step for the expression of interest of potential participants in the training (both the presential case-studies and the e-learning course).
- Educational methodology
Through a specific call which will follow the answers to the questionnaire prospect trainees will be asked to send a brief outline of an idea on a Cultural Management project (preferably not fictitious, but one that they really want to implement). Based on he answers, two or four respective groups of trainees will be formed, which will be distributed to the four workshops (Spain, Greece, Italy and Bulgaria) in relevance to the affinity of the proposed projects to the workshop themes (namely Monument management, Cultural project/event, Storytelling and enhancement of cultural areas and Enhancement of historic towns/centers).
The educational material, structured as a manual, will cover the following units:
- Basic precepts of Cultural and Heritage Management: Based on international bibliography, the basic precepts, philosophy and aims of Cultural and Heritage management will be presented in a short and simplified manner. This manual (or part of the manual) will include: a) the basic precepts of cultural heritage management;
- b) the basic legal documents and acts resulting in the protection and enhancement of cultural heritage (national and international) [including introduction of the main organizations and authorities worldwide, such as the UNESCO, working on these issues];
- c) basic precepts of cultural property rights’ protection (copyrights etc) [introducing the national and international authorities such as the World Intellectual Property Organization dealing with these issues]
- d) methods of evaluating the state/condition/needs of monuments, sites and assets of cultural importance which need restoration, change of use and valorisation. The educational material will include specific lists that will be used by trainees and kept as further reference.
- e) Swot/pestel analysis and other methods of building a management and business plan.
- f) The role of the managing authorities and the role of stakeholders. Creating sense of ownership.
- g) Drawing up the basic lines of cultural policies for regions and points of interest (including intangible cultural heritage). Trying to find a balance between maintenance of values and financial viability and sustainability.
- h) Designing and implementing cultural activities related to heritage assets. Establishing quality, achieving and maintaining social consensus, mobilizing volunteers, creating a sense of ownership.
- i) Cultural routes: joining forces, maintaining authenticity
- j) Enhancing and advertising cultural heritage assets. The connection to tourism. The role of the internet, social media and modern technologies. Branding of areas, products, events.
- k) Funding cultural and heritage management projects. From crowdfunding to EU-funded programmes. Writing proposals and addressing sponsors and donors.
- l) Local, national and international networking: seeking the right partners, making the project move forward.
[The exact outline of the teaching manual is available in the relevant section of the report]
The trainees will be asked to cover the material provided by the training manual and try to connect part of it to their own experiences. Through discussions with mentors and among themselves issues raised in the manual will be evaluated and further elaborated and will trigger a critical approach to theory as well as a link-building process between theory and everyday practice.
- Workshops’/ Case Studies’ methodology
Although the Workshop and Case Studies are part of the educational process, we examine them here separately as they are envisaged as a dynamic educational tool with potential for the continuation of DEN CuPID even beyond the two years’ implementation period. Therefore we have pondered considerably over what the critical factors for the success of the workshops will be. The four workshops of DEN-CUPID will be centred around four case studies, selected and developed by DEN-CuPID partners, one in each participant country. The topics were discussed during SKYPE meeting and were finalized during the Kick-off meeting. The aim was to cover broad categories of cultural management with a hands-on approach, so that trainees could see some examples of successful management while following theoretical courses and developing their own ideas on a collaborative basis.
The topics/partners selected were the following:
- The Palace of Aljaveria, Zaragoza, Spain. Zaragoza is the city where the Spanish partner of DEN CuPID, namely VEA Global, is based. Therefore, they selected the UNESCO World Heritage Monument of the Palace of Aljaferia, built in the 11th century, where currently the Cortes (Regional Government) of Andalus has its see. Part of the building is also functioning as a museum and organized tours are offered by specialists and museum educators. The workshop will therefore be based around the following issues: (a) preservation of built heritage (with a special mention of the notion of “alien” heritage); (b) re-use of built heritage for non-commercial purposes; (c) UNESCO’s World Heritage List: values, criteria, the process of submitting a file and the formation of management plans according to UNESCO’s precepts; d) Budgeting, planning and SWOT analysis
- The Mill of the Elves, Trikala, Greece. Trikala is a city in the centre of the Greek mainland, on the vast plain of Thessaly. It is one of the first smart cities in Greece. Although located very close to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Meteora, Trikala was not actually on the touristic map of Greece until the Christmas cultural event “The Mill of the Elves” was inaugurated. Now more than 400,000 peope visit the city around Christmas time in order to enjoy the fair, recreation park and cultural events hosted at the Moutsopoulos’ old mill. Centered around the Mill of the Elves the second training event of DEN CuPID will be an opportunity to explain: a) the relation between culture and tourism; b) financial sustainability and management planning of events; c) “soft” interventions for cultural enhancement; d) the role of local agents and stakeholders and the way to achieve consensus; e) the importance of volunteering; f) branding and creating added value for a cultural and touristic event.
- Out of Rome, Italy: The third workshop will also focus on “soft” interventions of cultural enhancement and particularly on creating and promoting cultural routes. Digital media, storytelling and digital storytelling, signposting, GIS and mapping are all useful tools for linking tourism and culture/heritage and at increasing visitors numbers as well as deepening the visitors’ experience. Issues that will be raised in particular are: a) tracing cultural routes and its meaning; b) creating networks of local stakeholders and means of involving them and making them part of the route; c) tangible and intangible heritage; d) experiential tourism and its advantages; e) using the internet for promoting cultural information and branding; f) storytelling and digital storytelling
- Varna historic centre, Bulgaria: Our last workshop will be focusing again on heritage assets and their management, yet putting together some elements taught in the other workshops. Namely, it will focus on the historic centre of the Bulgarian city of Varna. It is the second largest city of Bulgaria, one of the ten largest cities in the Balkans and a civic centre since antiquity. Varna has become famous for its gold archaeological finds dating from the Chalcolithic period; it was colonized by Greeks in the archaic period, acquiring the name Odessus. Its importance, due mainly to its location, continued throughout the Byzantine period. The city flourished in the Ottoman period and was liberated in 1878. Throughout the 20th century it developed into a major touristic centre, particularly for Russians and Balkan tourists. Testimonies of some of these historic phases are the monuments, buildings and museums situated within walking distance in the historic centre of the city. The way of linking one to another, of creating itineraries and thematic paths, of signposting, branding and creating incentive for visitors to follow them.
The steps taken for the finalization of the content of each workshop are the following:
- Discussion of the educational aspect of each workshop and the balance between theory and discussions/exercises/hands-on approach.
- Preparing a call for participants which to be dispatched to cultural associations, municipalities, organizations in general where our target groups could be found. The call requests from prospect participants to send a brief CV of themselves as well as a project idea on which they would like to work on during their training period. A selection process will take place in each country (other partners are encouraged also to read the CVs and project concepts and express their opinion). It is envisaged that, in order to facilitate more people to attend the workshop as well as in order to allow them time to work on their own projects, each participant will attend two workshops, as relevant to his/her proposed project as possible. Trainees will, in any case, express their interest as to which workshops they would like to attend.
- Finalization of the selection process and notification of the prospect trainees. Personal discussions with each trainee in order to clarify issues and possible suggestions of modification to their proposals.
- Initiation of the mentoring process. Golden paragraphs of members of the consortium or external experts who are interested in undertaking the role of mentors will be uploaded on the internet site of DEN CuPID for the trainees to select their mentors. Mentors will coach trainees from their own country, in order to facilitate them also with language barriers etc. However, mentors will be available also for advice etc even for participants from other countries. Efforts will be made to create also a large panel of experts supporting the project, who could offer advice to trainees according to their expertise.
- Collaboration between trainees: DEN CuPID is envisaged as a network, therefore collaboration is a crucial issue. Trainees will collaborate among themselves according to the nature of their project proposals and will do so both in “national” teams and in “international” teams, as one of the prerogatives of the project is extrovert communication and establishing EU networks. An initial sorting out of possible teams will be done by mentors and members of the consortium. However, finalization will take place during the first two workshops.
- Implementation of the project proposals: Although some of the proposals will not be easy to accomplish within the time span of the project (and this was the reason why we had originally planned for a 3-years’ project), an effort will be made to advance them as much as possible and also to help participants out with the major part of the planning and the preparation of the different stages each project will have to go through. Based on their own experiences and needs, the trainees will learn to:
- Develop a concept into a concrete project with specific deliverables.
- Create a management plan.
- Create a SWOT analysis for estimating the final outcome of their project.
- Budget the different activities and phases of their project individually and in total.
- Address different sources of funding.
- Engage various stakeholders in order to guarantee sustainability of the project.
- Address issues that might jeopardize the entire project.
- Learn to disseminate their project and use techniques and technologies for successfully promoting it.
III. E-training and digital platform methodology
In order to facilitate the trainees and, most important, to make knowledge acquire throughout the implementation period available to other individuals and organizations all over the EU, our aim is to create a digital platform which will function both as a collaborative space and as an e-training programme. The stages for the implementation of this endeavour are the following:
- Designing the e-training functions, in order to create a modular content, which the participants/ trainees of the distant learning system will be able to use also as separate units. The basic units will follow the training manual and will have the form of a combination of ppt presentations with short videos, links to external pages and embedded bibliography (links to specific articles/ebooks etc). Each unit will offer a theoretical background, in concise form, some practical tips, several examples and a final evaluation sheet in the form of a questionnaire with multiple choice answer. The results will be immediately calculated on a 100 basis (e.g. 69/100, 93/100 etc).
- Issuing certificates: An effort will be made to issue certificates according to an accredited system used also in other Erasmus+ projects.
- Collaborative space: efforts will be made to develop the e-platform into a collaborative space, both for the existing consortium and trainees and for future trainees of the e-training system. Either by incorporating ready-made collaborative systems (such as slack, google drive etc) or by devising a new functionality, users of the platform will have to be able to:
- Create and follow timetables.
- Upload project proposals or part of their work for the implementation of these proposals (i.e. drafts of management plans, budgets etc) where others will be able to comment.
- Upload further bibliography, references, information about projects undertaken elsewhere in order to facilitate research.
- Upload calls for proposals, calls for partners for other EU projects, serch for experts, even procurements for culture-related projects issued by their organizations.
Our aim is to make the platform of DEN-CuPID a reference tool for cultural management that will be sustained also after the implementation phase and will enable exchange of ideas and expertise.
Throughout the implementation of the project we have to bear in mind that we build a Digital Educational Network and therefore we offer mentoring and support to people and organizations. Furthermore it would be good to try and get endorsement for the project from as many authorities and organizations as possible and that we should aim at establishing a focus group which, through a separate funding tool, would be able to continue meeting and producing intellectual outputs even after the end of the projects’ duration.