In this conversation with Culture Action Europe (CAE), Tere Badia, incoming Secretary General of CAE, shares her vision on the future of European networks and the arts & cultural sector in times of uncertainties.
Culture Action Europe (CAE): Social, political and cultural environment of 90-ies, when European networks started mushrooming, was essentially different from the one of today. There’s a lot of discussion about the need to re-think networks and networking in the XXI century. In your opinion, what are the main challenges networks are currently facing?
Tere Badia (TB): In general lines, the challenges in the near future will affect both the organisations themselves and their actions. Similar challenges are observed in all sectors, not only in the arts and culture, but also in education, science, technology, economy, political and social sectors.
Development of information and communication technologies means emergence of other practices and transversal accessibility. That implies that any network will have the challenge to rethink itself at different levels: the forms of governance and sustainability, the handling of the uncertainty and the contradictions, the common management of the commons… Also, that means an urgency to rethink the decision making processes, the transparency and the role of the communication tools not only in speeding up the network internal relations, but to think and to act as a network, which is diverse, balanced and decentralized.
CAE: What is your vision for the future of cultural networks? What are directions networks like Culture Action Europe should be taking?
TB: In relation to the cultural sector, networks need to move out of the boundaries of cultural industries, towards interdisciplinary knowledge and research. Culture Action Europe has the enormous richness of having members of diverse character and disciplines: networks, institutions, projects, associations and individuals. Both intersectorial and sectorial potential of a network like CAE is, itself, a condition to develop transdisciplinarity and trans-sectoriality.
I think it is necessary to understand this diversity of lives not as a mere sum of agents, but as an articulated group with a double sided goal: the development of each of its members in its diversity and the group as a whole. Therefore, CAE must observe each one of them in all its functions and at the same time, work with them to create common assets.
Networks in the XXI century can acquire a special relevance if it gives particular attention to those members located at its limits. Because through them, and from their unique position in the interface of the network, they often manifest the most valuable, diverse, contemporary and sensitive cultural practices. At the same time, they are often the most capable projects of generating symmetries with other sectors and therefore also the most innovative.
CAE: What should be the objective for the network like Culture Action Europe?
TB: Networks as CAE, made by so many different living organisms, among other should detect plural, exploratory, inclusive and sustainable practices and learn from them to be able to act, question, transform and retro-feed cultural production models, performing under the logics of permaculture. It should contribute to generate common spaces, working under the logic of sharing different knowledge, through drawing diagonals that traverse the polarities of forms and interests of the different members. We should work together under the principle of fair share. To empower the network, we need to distribute rather than concentrate mechanisms and resources, making them accessible under the open source logic: share properly and empower the members!
We must search and use diversity to reduce vulnerability and to take advantage of the transient nature of cultural practices. Networks of today should be thought as a community of practices with a distributed leadership, various skills and different levels of expertise and participation, and a regular rhythm.
But for doing so, we would have to know more about HOW are the various interests that are present in the network redefined and modulated? WHAT are the purposes of the group and how do they work for them? WHERE are CAE’s borders: geographical, political, ethical, sectorial? And also, what is the politics of representation and its governance?
A network exists in its ability to participate and be participated, making accessible its resources for communities to take part, contribute to and benefit from. Ones in charge of such a living organism is expected to observe, to share, to learn, to distribute, to synchronise, to empatise and to act, in the most political sense of the word.