Archive för Tackling poverty

Culture as a tool for democracy building!?

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) used to be an organization seeing art and culture as a tool within international development. It was so important that a Department for Culture and Media was created with its own responsible officer.

Now winds are blowing differently.

The department is closed down since several years and to find art and culture, you have to look under the department responsible for questions such as freedom of speech, democracy, equality, environment and climate.

Between 2007 and 2011, the Sida budget for culture declined from 180 million SEK to 40 million SEK, Swedish Televion’s Kulturnyheterna (Culture News) reported on the 18th of January. With a fourth of the originial budget, many international cultural projects have lost their funding, among them now Selam, an established world music festival and organizer of education, development, inspiration, exchanges for artists in Sweden and East Africa.

Where art and culture used to be seen as a tool for grassroot development and democracy building, Minister for International Development Cooperation, Gunilla Carlsson, is instead talking of efficiency, results agenda, more distinctiveness. Sida is saying that the changes are due to orders from the government. The Minister says, in the tv interview, that this is a complete misunderstanding.

The fact is that the decline in money to culture projects at Sida coincides with the Conservative government in power since 2007.

It also coincides with the years when the Ministry of Culture published the report from the work of Kulturutredningen (Committe of Inquiry of Culture Policy) in February 2009, an inquiry proposing that culture should mainstream all policy. Sida’s decline in culture projects is exactly on the contrary of this.

It’s also during the years when Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications decided to release a plan for supporting Swedish development of cultural and creative industries. Small money has been invested, it’s true, but it’s at the same time the first time Ministry of Enterprise is discussing culture. Where this discussion goes, we will see.

Gunilla Carlsson seems to have missed all this.

Read post here and here on the proposal from Kulturutredningen.

19 januari, 2012

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More traces of Chicago

Little Black Pearl, situated in Bronzeville south of Chicago, is a nonprofit organisation with ambition to create opportunities for young adults through Artistic and cultural work. In the Centre they can work in one of the many studios with wood, glass, painting, ceramics, run workshops or put up shows. Gwendolyn Pruitt, Director of Product Design, shows us around and tells us the story of this community based organisation with enthusiasm and passion. It’s both about what they achieve with the students, she shows an example of tables they did with beautiful mosiac cover on top, which they sell to customers. It can be anything. Their mission is to deepen the creative involvement through Arts, and learn how to run things. It’s also about the struggle of getting the budget to sum up in the end and the constant search for funding bodies, she tells us with a sigh. ”I found that I don’t have the time to teach them that personal component”, she tells us with referral to the young students. She finds it’s a great need to also teach teachers ”It’s a gap between the structure and the student”.

In 1974 a group of classmates at high school got together to set up a theatre play by Paul Zindel. Since they only had one semester left, it was not until they came to Illionis State University that the idea formed and they looked for a place to set it up. Their first production was played in a Church in Chicago, and since they at the time was reading the book ”Steppenwolf” by Herman Hesse, they named the theatre the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Today the theatre is a prestigous one on Halsted Street, with the ambition of advancing the vitality and diversity of American Theatre .

We see the play ”Up” by Bridget Carpenter of the man who once reached the sky, the clouds, in a chair with balloons, and could not let go of the idea of doing it again. In another machine he would build. His vision held him alive, this was his passion, while everyday life and the reality of having to pay bills at the end of the month was taken care of by his wife. Until the situation changed and the pressure of supporting the family came closer.  After the play there was an interesting discussion with the audience, reflections  showing how differently we interpreted the play. The discussions at the conference of Artists and entrepreneurship become very real in this beautiful and sad play of having dreams and struggling with reality.

The Art Institute in Chicago is impressive in many ways, but mainly and mostly of two things. The collection of Art they have is impressive, to say the least. In this institute you can see everything from American contemporary Art to the Impressionists, African to Asian Art, photography and industrial design. You can stay days in there. Secondly it’s free for the public after five pm Thursdays and Fridays. The Institute and its collections are open and accessible for the public, something that seems in line with the attitude of giving Art and culture a central role in Chicago.

The study to  Chicago is part of the conference ”Creative Entrepreneurship and Education in Cultural Life”, held in Chicago on July 16–18 2009, organized by Columbia College Chicago and Encatc.


19 juli, 2009

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PV-FV=NPV • Project work in Kenya

An article in Kenyan paper the Nation (June 27, 2009), written by journalist Gitau Gikonyo puts forward a new tendency he sees. As the middle class is growing in Kenya, the engagement for social issues is declining. The middle class seem to be happy with their lives, driving the car back-and-forth to their jobs, living in houses, children going to good schools, and as the number within this class grows, the interest for politics and to work for a better society for all diminishes. The only ones left to lift these issues are either the elite or the very poor, the article states. In India the middle class accounts for around 200 million and is the economically most dynamic group on this planet. But overall they don’t care about politics or social reforms, Gikonyo states. They are well as it is.

People we meet in Nairobi are very committed. They want to see change, take the opportunity. But for the Arts in Kenya one major question is: Is the Art sector ready for change? In Kenya Art and culture is not described in economic terms, as it is in Europe. And to reach changes, basic needs like img_9212food, electricity, sanity and infrastructure have to be in place. Working with culture without a conscious mindset also on social and societal issues just does not work. ”Freedom of Speach is not recognized in this country since Art is not recognized” one person tells us.

Culture have a mindset towards society. How does this fit with private investors’ interest? The complexity rises. Investors have another rationale and value system than the Arts. The market value chain also looks different. The traditional industry is a linear process from origination to consumption, in creative industries it’s a disruptive process. It doesn’t follow linear expectations, rather you need to in every step from origination to distribution and consumption think in several different options (for more, have a look at Donna Ghelfi’s report below). Time value of money, opportunity cost, as well as net present value counted in the figure: PV-FV=NPV is all investors talk, which has to be layered with cultural production and entrepreneurship if you want these to different fields to meet. Without loosing the value of the Art, the Artistic integrity and the social aspect so closely linked to Artistic work. How should this be done?

The project is a project funded by the Swedish Institute and Strömme Foundation and run by Pratik Vithlani at Mangowalla Ventures in cooperation with Godown and Nätverkstan. Below you can find some of the reports used in the environmental scan for the project.

Read the much debated report on the post-election violence in 2007 written by the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence, the Waki Report: wakirep.

For information about culture in Africa, have a look at Obervatory of Cultural Policy in Africa. Another interesting initiative is the Arterial network, which started with a conference in Senegal in 2007. The report can be downloaded here: arterialconferencereport.

Read also the reports by Dominic Power, at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, on creative industries, intellectual property and so forth, download here one: dominic-power_-revisied-cluster-theory-for-cultural-industries. Download Donna Ghelfi’s, Programme Officer at Creative Industries Division, interview with John Howkins, a leading thinker on creativity and intellectual property, here: cr_interview_howkins. For an economic perspective on Eastern Africa, look at the report prepared for the investment company Swedfund in 2009 by Peter Stein: reporteastafrica-publ

Check out this fantastic presentation by Hans Rosling, Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm at (or below) where he gives perspective of global development.

30 juni, 2009

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Democracy + Aid?

The relationship between aid policies and democracy is being debated at the moment among activists, donors, scholars and policy-makers. Africa is especially put forward in the discussion. Is it the political landscape in Africa that is the main reason for poor development or is it perhaps external donors that help sustain a status quo of political conditions?

At the website of the network OpenDemocracy, you can find articles on this burning topic, among them Democracy and aid: the missing link, written by Anna Lekvall, Senior Programme Officer at International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).

18 maj, 2009

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Georgian – Swedish Cultural Exchange. Continuation.

The heroes survived. They were supposed to be killed after the film was made, but the film maker just couldn’t. The animated dolls were characters, personalities, so how could you kill them? Instead he hid them. After each movie he hid them in his house with the risk of getting caught. Intellectual property rights in the 70s, the government was afraid that the dolls would be used in another movie and they would have troubles with angry doll makers who wouldn’t get paid. Now we are able to watch them in a small, one-room museum. Beautiful hand-made dolls, made in Russia in the 70s for animated film made in Georgia. The most known is Bombora, a character who just wanted to go to school and in his frustration for not being able to sets fire on things. Now this character is posing over the entrance in the newly made amusement park at Tatsminda.

Wato Tsereleti, a well-known curator and Artist is describing the contemporary Art scene for us on a café. A major problem, many Artist tell us is space and funding. There is no space for Art or large events. In October the conference Artisterium is taking place, and a difficult part has been to find where to have it. A wonder, really, since Tbilisi is still very much a city in transition and there are many empty spaces. Wato Tsereleti has finally been able to find a locality, and the idea is to restore it into an Art center.

Many meetings has been taking place among visual Artists and Art education, between colleagues in the literature and publishing scene in Sweden and Georgia, as well as performance and film. Bakur Sulakauri Publishing is the biggest publishing house in Georgia, publishing around 200 books every year. They are meeting with colleagues at the publishing house Tranan in Sweden, together with writers, to discuss on how they can work together. The idea is that each Art form will come up with project ideas for future cooperation and exchange.

And as we walk to all these meetings, have  discussions between colleagues in the Art world, we pass the cells at Rustaveli Avenue and get reminded of the situation in this country. What is it we see in the streets? At Rustaveli, near the Parliament and Freedom Square the streets are filled with cells, small plastic covered boxes where people stay all day, all night in protest of the government. It’s difficult to analyse or understand what the cells stand for. Is it an organized protest of a well defined opposition? Or a more a protest of angry inhabitants showing their miscontent of the president? Or is it a show put forward by a few people with economic resources wanting to overthrow the president and take power? Perhaps it’s an Art show, or an installation? We get different versions, different stories. But it is clear that many people are very tired of the situation, of the threats of war, and long for coming back to a normal situation.

The visit is part of the project EKAE 2009, run by Natverkstan and financed by the Swedish Institute.


11 maj, 2009

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Tackling Poverty Together

Nätverkstan will during the period October 2008-January 2009 assist LSU (The National Council of Swedish Youth Organisations) in a training project. We will assist the Swedish TPT- team in a process of development from a group of competent individuals to project team. Tackling Poverty Together is a project with the aim of realizing the millennium development goals. The Tackling Poverty Together project aims to strengthen the role of young people in poverty reduction strategies. Twenty-eight youth participants have been selected to attend the workshops, four from each of the following countries: Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Sweden, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Nätverkstan will only work with the Swedish team. From Nätverkstan is Olav Fumarola Unsgaard in charge.

More info about Tackling Poverty Together:

The Millennium Development goals:

3 november, 2008

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Intercultural Dialogue?

”It’s a total failure! We have hundreds of policy papers, but has anything changed?”. One of the participants of the round table burst out in frustration. After four days on the Encatc Conference in Lyon (France) on the topic ”Intercultural dialogue and project management”, listening to professors, directors, general secretaries, presidents, coordinators on different European levels, you wonder.

78 million Europeans live in poverty, the Belgian newspaper Le Soir shows in an article just a day after the conference. 78 millions. It’s equivalent to 16% of the European population.  At the same time as educators from Europe gathered in Lyon to discuss intercultural dialogue, ministers gathered in Marseille to take up the fight on poverty and social exclusion in Europe. Policy papers are written, at the same time as people in Europe, many of them immigrants, struggle to find a job and to live above the poverty line. People are still killed in Europe today on the basis of the colour of their skin, religious belief or for putting forward controversial opinions. So what is missing? There is not a lack of initiatives. Non-profit organisations, artists and cultural entrepreneurs start new projects all the time to address and put light on societal challenges and difficulties. On a small-scale grassroot level these initatives struggle in an unpredictable funding system, where the policies written seem to miss their purposes.

Intercultural dialogue. What in the world does it mean? A quick look in the Encyclopaedia suggests that ”intercultural” consider the processes where people with different languages and cultures communicate with and influence each other. ”Dialogue” is said, in the same dictionary, to be a conversation between two or several persons. The dialogue, the same source suggests, gives excellent opportunity to let the participants characterize themselves, in opinions, judgements and ways of expression. What happens when you put these two words together? Do the meaning get stronger when putting two words of communication next to each other? Or do they simply take out each other, so the meaning gets pointless?

In Lyon we were presented to two projects that in interesting ways try to reach people, communicate and experiment with new forms of expressions: Image-aiguë and the Lyon Opera project Kaléidoscope.


Artists’ situation in USA was described on this website here in June this year.

Two Swedish books (in Swedish) with a critical perspective on how the question of multicultural society has been handled in Sweden is Etnotism by Aleksander Muttori at Bwana Club, and Befria oss från mångkulturalism edited by Rasoul Nejadmehr, Sven-Eric Liedman och Dariush Moaven Doust published by Natur & Kultur.

23 oktober, 2008

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Lotta Lekvall
Director of Nätverkstan, a Cultural Organisation in Sweden. Nätverkstan provides services …

Cultural and Social Entrepreneurship

On this blog we would like to explore entrepreneurship from a cultural and social point of view. Or rather put forward entrepreneurial initiatives within these two fields.




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