New partnership with Germany: The Centre for Cultural Relations and IfA collaborate on online learning.

IfA office

IfA headquarters, Stuttgart

The Centre for Cultural Relations (CCR) has today signed a Memorandum of Understanding with IfA (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), Germany’s Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, which is supported by the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany, the state of Baden-Württemberg, and the City of Stuttgart to provide a link between practical issues arising in the field of cultural relations, academia and the media.

The aim of the collaboration is to promote co-operation and align expertise in the study of international cultural relations, continuing professional development and research.

The signing is an exciting opportunity for the CCR which came about following two conferences in January and March this year which the CCR organised on the theme of Germany’s unique approach to international cultural relations as one of the three pillars of its foreign policy.

The Secretary General of IfA, Ronald Grätz, spoke at the first of these conferences, stressing the importance of IfA’s role in the creation and exchange of knowledge through culture, and the need to align international education and cultural policies with science, the media and business, in order to contribute to good relations in Europe, conflict resolution, peace, democracy and social dialogue.

He also spoke of IfA’s role as a hub for research in cultural relations and of the importance of IfA’s library as a crucial archive of Germany’s international cultural relations. Finally, he announced that IfA had a new Academy that will offer training on key issues in cultural relations. This collaboration will be with both the Academy and with IfA as a whole.

On 24 June, following the vote to leave the EU, the Principal of the University, Sir Tim O’Shea, reiterated the University’s commitment to international engagement:

“Edinburgh is and always will be a truly global university and I think it is very important to stress in times of uncertainty the stability and strength of the institution… Our priority will be to maintain our research and exchange partnerships across Europe.”

This collaboration therefore comes at an important time, and will be built on specific co-operation, initially to develop a MOOC on the subject of the migrant crisis. Germany played a key role in the crisis and remains at the heart of debate in Europe and beyond.

The MOOC should be seen in the context of the University of Edinburgh’s strong commitment to the development of online learning and the CCR is at the heart of that, as we develop a new online Masters course in Cultural Relations.

The University is also at the leading edge of developments in Informatics. On the 12th of July (last week), at a round table on flight and migration, Germany’s Foreign Minister Steinmeier announced that Germany would be funding development of a new global migration analysis tool, to be set up in Berlin with the IOM (International Organization for Migration).

While we are not involved with that development, we hope that, in time, as our partnership evolves, there will be wider opportunities for collaboration with IfA and with Germany. These will be in learning and research, but we hope to be able to work with colleagues in Germany in other areas where this University has specific expertise, perhaps in the development of digital platforms which help address complex transnational issues.

This partnership has only just begun. We look forward to strengthening and deepening it in the years ahead.

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Digital Citizenship in Pakistan

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Digital Citizenship in Pakistan, Centre for Cultural Relations for REMU, British Council, Pakistan

The report Digital Citizenship in Pakistan by the Centre for Cultural Relations (CCR), for the Research Evaluation and Monitoring Unit (REMU) of British Council Pakistan, provides a snapshot of the status of digital citizenship in Pakistan 2015-16.

Pakistan is a country with low levels of internet access, high levels of contestation in society in terms of attitudes to internet freedom, and high levels of inequality, all of which pose severe challenges to the practice of effective digital citizenship. “Effective” practice is defined by regular, skilled use of the internet to engage in society to access services, practice politics, get an education, conduct business and so on, i.e. to engage in civic life.

Our work on the report was made possible by the involvement and collaboration of academics from across the university. The Centre for South Asian Studies brought expertise in Pakistan, and, crucially in understanding the linguistic aspects of digital citizenship, and the Informatics Department was able to build on earlier research for the British Council on the UK’s digital connectivity to analyse the uses of social media (Twitter) in Pakistan.

The report presents survey data collected by Nielsen Pakistan, and qualitative interview material collected by University of Edinburgh researchers in Pakistan. The data was not only collected from internet users, but included household data from non-users. This was important is that data collection can be challenging in Pakistan and surveys of internet use there can tend to focus on existing users only, which inevitably distorts the picture.

Headline findings related to the need for a coherent strategy to redress regional imbalances in infrastructure, implement a regulatory regime which drives internet use without undue restrictions on internet freedom, and the need to focus on users’  needs for relevant content and services, made available in ways that overcome the digital divide.

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Workshop, Lahore, March 2016

REMU organised a series of events to discuss the preliminary research findings with Pakistani stakeholders and others with an interest. The first was held in Edinburgh in February, the second in Lahore in March, and the third in London in May. These workshops were invaluable in allowing us to get feedback from high level Pakistani officials and those active in digital media in Pakistan on the relevance and likely impact of the research.

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Workshop, London, May 2016

From the point of view of the CCR, this research has generated a wide range of questions directly relevant to the practice of cultural relations today. Firstly, it is important to understand specific contexts such as Pakistan in as much detail as possible if we are to understand the nature and impact of transnational flows of information, knowledge and influence. This is only possible through truly interdisciplinary collaborations between academic disciplines and practice organisations. Secondly, digital diplomacy needs to be viewed as more than communications strategies which aim to influence perceptions, events and behaviours. It is also about understanding the multi-level, complex nature of digital policy and strategy and how that works in different societies and cultures. Thirdly, research on digital citizenship raises questions about citizenship more generally and about the often troubled interface between global communications with all their potential for positive development and how people view the practice of citizenship, the exercise of cultural rights and cultural production in their own societies. Finally, the research shone a light on digital divides at a range of levels, both within and between societies.

This research project was particularly timely. There is a turn towards international development in the practice of cultural relations. It is essential that we do what we can to understand the dynamics of development in relation to the economic and cultural drivers of globalisation such as the internet in specific places if we are to develop better theories of change and understandings of impact.

 

 

 

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What exactly are cultural relations?

WipikediaSince the Centre for Cultural Relations started its work in 2012-13, we have discussed on numerous occasions what the Centre should be called and what the term cultural relations might mean.

We started by talking about cultural diplomacy. Early on, however, we abandoned the term, as it was too narrowly focussed on the activities of states and therefore unable to capture the vast range of transnational communications, exchanges and networks, or the vast range of both state and non-state actors involved. Similar thought processes led us also to abandon the term public diplomacy with its overtones of propaganda and a view of influence based on governments’ ability to shape the preferences and behaviours of the populations of other states. In other words, both cultural and public diplomacy were too instrumental and uni-directional to provide an adequate model for how the world was communicating and acting in the 21st century. Nor did they offer the potential to develop insights that would be useful to people who aspired to think about global citizenship and new forms of governance and civil society.

We therefore spent some time thinking about global citizenship and whether that was a better approach. We abandoned that as well, however, as it rapidly became clear that understanding cross-border relationships exceeded the scope of often normative propositions about how we should govern ourselves and participate as citizens – a great deal of cross-border activity was simply not concerned with that.

So, to cut a very long story short, we settled on the term cultural relations as the least bad term for describing our area of interest. As time went on, however, the term did seem to take root. It was sufficiently inclusive to accommodate the range of actors involved from diplomats to individuals, including public policy, global civil society, education, business, cultural and sporting bodies… It had an emphasis on two-way communication, often but not exclusively, enabled by digital communications technology, reflecting the tectonic shift in thinking and behaviour they have brought about, particularly, the potential to work collaboratively across borders, to share ideas and understandings.

In this spirit, the Centre for Cultural Relations proposes a simple experiment, which is to draft a definition of cultural relations, create a wiki, and invite both theorists and practitioners to edit it collaboratively. That wiki went live yesterday and can be found here.

The wiki was itself written collaboratively. Erik Vlaeminck, a PhD student of Russian acted as the principal author of the text, in discussion and with the assistance of myself. The purpose of the wiki is to invite readers of this blog, from academia and practice to participate in improving and refining the definition with a view to evolving our shared understanding of what exactly it is we mean by cultural relations.

We shall be monitoring the wiki and hope to see it develop over time. If this process starts a conversation that takes us in unexpected directions, so much the better!

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Humboldt Forum: a network for the world?

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Aerial view of Museum Island with the Humboldt Forum to rear

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Section through Humboldt Forum

On 1 March, the Centre for Cultural Relations hosted a conference with the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the National Museums Scotland, on the Humboldt Forum in Berlin. The Humboldt Forum is Europe’s (if not the world’s) largest and most important museum project. It aims to have a global impact as well as transforming the cultural centre of Berlin. The Gründungsintendant (founding Artistic Director) is Neil MacGregor, former Director of the British Museum and alumnus of the University of Edinburgh, who is leading the project as one of a troika with Professor Hermann Parzinger and Professor Horst Bredekamp.

The conference was introduced by Professor Chris Breward, Principal of Edinburgh College of Art, and by Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Professor Breward’s blog about the event can be found here. It was a great pleasure for us to welcome Dr Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation as the keynote speaker.

The Humboldt Forum is now being constructed in the reconstructed Berliner Schloss (Berlin Palace). It is dedicated to the idea of establishing a dialogue of the world’s cultures. It will do so by bringing museum collections of Ancient, European and other cultures together in the one building, and by providing a platform for examining social developments worldwide and contributing to conveying an up-to-date understanding of our globalised world.

The project had its controversies and was the subject of media comment and intense debate both within Berlin and beyond as can be seen for instance in the columns of the Frankfurter Allgemeine.

These controversies are of course, particularly sharp in the current climate where the migrant crisis is challenging the German post-war political consensus and Germany’s view of itself as a country with a cosmopolitan world view, welcoming to other cultures. The Forum has been hailed as a “Network for the World” particularly as it partners with the Goethe Institut and its 160 institutes in 100 countries to co-produce programmes with the Humboldt Forum around the world. This partnership places the Humboldt Forum squarely at the heart of Germany’s international cultural relations strategy.

Then there is the question of the project’s relationship to the City of Berlin. Professor Parzinger was clear that the key measure of success for the project would be the levels of participation of the citizens of Berlin. The original design of the Berliner Schloss has been opened up to encourage access, internal streets, and to be a venue for events. The City of Berlin will be included in the Forum, in an initiative led by the new Director of the City’s Museums, Paul Spies.  It will be important that the Humboldt Forum is not just for tourists, but is owned by the City’s people in a way that, for example, the Kulturforum, near to Potsdamer Platz, is not.

This all led to a series of very lively discussions with Scottish institutions many of whom were involved in similar developments, whether it was the V&A in Dundee, or the Kelvinhall project in Glasgow. There was a keen recognition that there was much to learn from the German approach which enjoyed cross-party support from politicians, was adequately financed, and saw a cultural project as an integral part of its long-standing policy of international cultural relations as a pillar of foreign policy.

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The Future of International Cultural Relations, Conference, 21 January 2016

The CCR held a conference on 21 January with partners from Scotland, the UK and Germany to discuss the future role of culture in international relations at a time of increasingly rapid change.

The conference brought together politicians, academics and practitioners in a day long event followed by a public lecture by Professor Hanns Maull titled: Germany, the last multilateralist?

The range of participants included representatives of the Federal Foreign Office, the Goethe Institut, IfA, academics, the Scottish Government, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Council.

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L-R: Professor Charlie Jeffery, Director of the CCR; Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Relations, Scottish Government; Jens-Peter Voss, Consul General of Germany.

The aim of the conference was to learn lessons from Germany’s long-term commitment to international cultural relations and from the way in which that commitment had helped shape its response to contemporary crises of migration, terrorism and the economic crisis.

It became clear, from the speeches and during the course of the discussion, that there were differences in how the UK and Germany approached the question of soft power. From the UK participants, from both the Scottish and UK Governments, there were similar emphases on Government-led promotional activities based on strategic communications around national “brands” – for example the “Great Britain” campaign although there were of course some notable differences.

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L-R: Michael Reiffenstuel, Federal Foreign Office; Hugh Elliott, FCO; Ronald Gratz, Secretary General, IfA.

From German speakers, on the other hand, much greater importance was given to the idea of a “foreign policy of societies rather than governments”. The impetus should come from civil society. Cultural policy should be the basis of foreign policy as it builds bridges, fosters exchange and creates networks. Good cultural relations were a “safety net” especially in times of difficulty.

It was important, however, to define goals more clearly in relation to the social power of culture. A good example was the refugee crisis and attempts to find a way to create opportunities for refugees to stay in their region by giving “aid for humanity” i.e. access to culture and education. Post-conflict repair will be essential for the future of Syria. Germany had started to fund scholarships for Syrian refugees, to create opportunity for Syrians to gain skills.

The centrality of culture to Germany’s external relations became very clear. One (German) speaker remarked that cultural categories were fundamental to political action, as culture shapes social discourse and includes all forms of social co-existence. Culture can cause conflict and help resolve conflict. Germany therefore involves cultural figures in political activity.

This approach was reflected within the frame of the German 2014 foreign policy review process, which maintained the view of the state as a social, rather than a political construct – the state does not have an interest of its own, but a responsibility to society.

Lessons for Scotland? The Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Relations observed that cultural relations complement hard power and are becoming more important, as it becomes more difficult for hard power to resolve disputes and conflicts. We need a wider connective view of culture. This is important to Scotland where key issues are national identity and trust. In addition to this, there are instrumental benefits, both economic and promotional from the use of culture in external relations.

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L-R: James Boyle, Chair, National Library of Scotland; Professor Helmut Anheier, President and Dean of the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin.

The conference discussions did not come to firm conclusions, rather they identified questions.

Does foreign policy need to change to respond to challenges to Western values from radical Islam? Was there a need for a new kind of political leadership, which went beyond the national? What would be the implications for traditional ideas of national identity? How can we think beyond short-term metric-driven activities?

Cultural relations offered a range of pre- and post-crisis cultural relations interventions. How should we engage with civil society when a state was resilient and opposed to its own civil society? Cultural relations activity was needed to monitor the health of state/civil society relations as a focus for crisis prevention and post-crisis reconciliation. Transient populations had neither state nor civil society, but were composed of individuals or networks eg in camps in Jordan. Key questions for cultural relations were how to turn humanitarian aid into “humanity” i.e. helping people beyond satisfying immediate needs, and cultural protection including digital protection.

Modern social media has a role to play in times of crisis. They are news media, but not reliable, which raised issues about the uses of social media around the official communication of information. Social media are good for local relevance and for engagement, but not to exert influence. What do we need to do to equip diplomats and practitioners of cultural relations to use social media effectively and positively?

Universities are a force for cultural engagement, but not if they’re complacent. They are good at being international and reaching out to people who share our values. They are also good at following the money. It was important they focused on shared problems not on their comfort zone. A key question for universities was how to be creative and work with people with whom they are not comfortable?

 Specific cultural images of countries were resilient, and corporations used this to their advantage. In the VW scandal, behind the corporate scandals was a stable picture of Germany. In relation to nation branding, it was interesting to ask to what extent can politics’ use of culture be linked to the economy? There was a division of opinion as to the economic benefits of branding. Were they in country (investment) or abroad (exports)?

 The key question in cultural relations was definition of outcomes. These could include social wealth and the common good, but under accountability pressures, we tended to end up with economic measures. There was, however, general agreement (even if it couldn’t easily be proved) about what worked: mutuality; cooperation; face to face encounters; independent or at least arms’ length institutions; a plurality of domestic voices; transparency; patience – cultural relations is a long-term practice; transnational strategies – eg to be a good global citizen. It was easy to agree all this but more analysis was needed – the question was how to incorporate this institutional experience into accepted policy and operational frameworks.

Following the conference, Professor Hanns Maull’s lecture started from Thomas Bagger’s nightmare dilemma for German foreign policy – that Germany could be forced to choose between its global competitiveness and its European vocation.

L-R: Professor Hanns Maull giving his lecture; Professors Maull and Professor Charlie Jeffery

Professor Maull then discussed his alternative nightmare dilemma: What does a committed multilateralist do when she does not find partners? This German foreign policy nightmare was now about to materialise around the issue of migration, which, in turn was part of a “mega-crisis” – that of the European project itself. What does it imply to be in the European Union, and in its inner circle, the Eurozone? What does solidarity mean? There is a lot of cheap talk about a “community of values”, and it is not clear what those shared values really are. Not only the UK, but all member countries will have to clarify their position towards membership in the EU. The mega-crisis of Europe is not just a mega-crisis of the old continent, it is a worldwide phenomenon. That phenomenon is the gap between expectations addressed towards political leaders and what they are able to deliver. The lecture, ended the day by stimulating a very lively and engaged discussion with an informed audience.

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Seminário de Cooperação Internacional, Instituto Camões, Lisbon

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Augusto Santos Silva (centre). Photo by author.

The Centre for Cultural Relations was very pleased and honoured to be invited by Prof.ª Doutora Ana Paula Laborinho, President of the Instituto Camões, to present its work on 7 January in Lisbon at the annual conference of ambassadors and heads of service involved in international development and cultural relations.

The conference, which takes place each year at this time, was the first since the elections of October 2015. The theme was international cooperation and the challenges Portugal faces in its international relations, development and cultural diplomacy at a time of fiscal restraint with much smaller budgets to support activity.

The main speakers were Augusto Santos Silva, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who stressed the importance of the Portuguese language as the key element in Portugal’s international public diplomacy, particularly in relation to the Lusophone countries, and Teresa Ribeiro, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, who spoke of the importance to Portugal of international development, and cooperation with the EU.

Portugal has always championed the policy of protecting the Portuguese language and culture and thus the identity of the Portuguese nation. In 1996 Portugal initiated the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP). The CPLP Conference of Heads of State in the summer of 2008 decided to promote the Portuguese language as a global language, with the intention that the language policies promoted at the conference should be fully adopted by all Member States of the Lusophone world. Luis Amado, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in 2010: “We have one of the great languages of universal jurisdiction, and around it develops the whole dynamic for affirmation of our culture outside”. Portugal also has ambitions for its language to become a strategic tool of the EU’s external relations, using its linguistic and cultural proximity to the Lusophone countries as a distinctive contribution to the EU’s strategy for external relations.

There are some 200 million speakers of Portuguese as a first (L1) language in the world, making it one of the world’s major languages. Statistics on the numbers of speakers as a second or third language (L2, L3) are not available.[i] There are therefore good grounds for seeing the language as an effective promotional tool for Portugal.

There are some interesting parallels between the Portuguese and UK experiences as countries whose languages have become globally important, but which both have competition for cultural influence. Portugal is not the main Portuguese speaking country, and the UK is not the main English speaking country. Although they both undoubtedly have status as points of linguistic origins and standards – claims often asserted by reference to literature – both face stiff competition from Brazil on the one hand and the USA on the other.

The conference recognised however, that when it comes to branding the nation, Portugal’s undoubted contemporary cultural and sporting achievements in eg architecture and design, or football, were also effective ways to achieve international recognition. The challenge will be to develop a strategy that maximises the impact of all of Portugal’s soft power assets.

[i] List of languages by total number of speakers (2016, 10 January). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_total_number_of_speakers

 

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Digitalisation and Scotland’s international engagement

Image from digital-colony-blog.

In March 2015, the Scottish Government published (online) its International Policy Statement. The Statement, quite rightly, referenced digital connectivity as an important element of its approach to internationalisation, in terms of attracting investment and helping businesses engage with global markets. The Statement cited the Government’s vision of Scotland’s digital future: Digital Scotland 2020: Achieving World Class Digital Infrastructure (2012).

On 10 December 2015, the Deloittes report The Economic and Social Impacts of Enhanced Digitalisation in Scotland, was welcomed by the Deputy First Minister. The report confirms the view of the economic benefits of digitalisation, identifying a virtuous cycle: increased digitalisation reduces costs, makes business more competitive internationally, encourages innovation and increases GDP and exports.

So, how do the policies for internationalisation and digitalisation relate to each other?

The International Policy Statement identifies a range of goals where digitalisation might be expected to make a difference, including economic development, but also wider goals of internationalisation such as building Scotland’s capacity to understand the international environment; supporting the development of (international) relationships and partnerships; support for foreign language teaching; diaspora engagement and enhanced EU partnerships.

The case for digitalisation playing a positive role in economic growth seems to be made in the Deloittes report, but it could be argued that now is the time to make a robust case for the benefits of developing a strategy for digitalisation as a core driver of the wider internationalisation agenda.

The Scotland’s Digital Future web page on the Scottish Government website http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Economy/digital seeks views on connectivity, the digital economy, digital participation and digital public services. The focus is, however, almost exclusively on infrastructure and domestic public service delivery.

The time may be right for a fifth consultation, on how increased digitalisation can support vital internationalisation initiatives in education, building understanding, supporting key partnerships and networks, and engaging with the vast range of international actors Scotland needs to have constructive relationships with. These include international organisations such as the EU, governments, civic society bodies, businesses, media, digital content providers, educators, cultural organisations and individuals for whom digital communications media are the only means they have of staying in touch across international borders.

Such a consultation could seek views on how we best understand the global world of the digital. The digital is not only about local services and efficiency savings. We are each of us living hybrid lives, accessing global culture over our devices while living in specific places. It is how we can learn to negotiate this new digital world that generates uncertainties as well as opportunities, which will define the quality of our lives in the 21st century.

 

 

 

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CCR at the Chevening Orientation Conference 2015

 

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Audience: Media and culture panel.

On Saturday 17 October, I participated as a panel member at the Chevening Orientation Conference 2015 at the Excel Conference Centre in London Docklands. The Excel Centre is vast and has 2 stops on the Docklands Light Railway – one each for the East and West entrances. The scale of the event required such an enormous venue, with over 1,800 participants from over 150 countries coming to the UK on Chevening scholarships and fellowships.

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Audience: Media and culture panel

Chevening is the UK government’s international awards scheme aimed at developing global leaders. It offers a unique opportunity for future leaders, influencers, and decision-makers from all over the world to develop professionally and academically, network, experience UK culture, and build lasting positive relationships with the UK. As such it is a key component of the UK’s global engagement.

Scholarships are awarded to outstanding scholars with leadership potential. Awards are typically for a one-year Master’s degree at universities across the UK. There are over 43,000 Chevening alumni around the world who together comprise an influential and highly regarded global network. The University of Edinburgh is already a very enthusiastic supporter of the Chevening programme, and we are looking forward to expanding our involvement in the years to come.

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Media and culture panel. Speaker: David Rossington, DCMS.

From the point of view of the Centre for Cultural Relations, it was a pleasure to be able to talk about our work, on the media and culture panel, at such a significant event. Over 200 people more than filled a large room, and asked searching questions about a wide range of subjects, but most interest was in social media on the one hand and restitution of cultural heritage on the other.

I am looking forward to continuing the relationship with Chevening – the energy was incredible!
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The Netherlands International Visitor Programme

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Presenting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Den Haag.

I was very pleased to be invited to participate, last week, in the International Visitor Programme run by Dutch Culture, which aims to provide an opportunity to engage with policy makers, academics and cultural figures in the Netherlands.

The visit highlighted for me the value of a systematic approach to the development of contacts and networks through such a tailored programme which allowed fact-finding and exchange of information and views. It also introduced multiple perspectives and facilitated the development of what I hope will be an ongoing dialogue with colleagues in the Netherlands.

The timing of this particular visit was good, in that it coincided both with a formal evaluation of Dutch cultural diplomacy by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), for the Parliament, and with preparation for the next 4 year planning cycle. This made discussions with the MFA (and with representatives from the Ministry of Culture) particularly interesting at the levels both of high level policy and of practical questions related to budgetary pressures, responses to fast-changing world events and the intersection of foreign and domestic policy agendas.

The range of meetings organised by Dutch Culture excellently reflected the range of people involved in both the theory and practice of cultural relations. In addition to a fascinating meeting with those from the MFA who were involved in the evaluation of Dutch cultural diplomacy, Renilde Steeghs, the Ambassador of Cultural Cooperation at the MFA kindly hosted a workshop with around 15 of her colleagues where there was a real opportunity to exchange views (see photo above).

The Netherlands is characterised by its range of specialist organisations, all with fascinating expertise and insight. These highlighted a number of common interests:

  • The need for knowledge, evidence and relevant statistics to inform policy development at every level (Boekman Foundation), and the potential of data science to contribute to this process;
  • Responses to events and challenges to culture in conflict zones (Prince Claus Fund) – the understanding that while cultural relations are a long-term endeavour, there was also a need for short-term responses to crises, whether in the form of threats to heritage or the need to cope with large-scale challenges to social systems due, for example, to migration;
  • The need for “cultural fluency” (intercultural skills) at every level for those engaged in international activity (KIT);
  • The value of public debate and a focal point for the expression of free speech (De Balie);
  • Nation branding in terms of values and recognition (MFA);
  • Challenges facing perceptions of Europe and the EU (European Cultural Foundation and elsewhere); and
  • Relationships between the theory and practice of cultural diplomacy – how universities can contribute to the policy process through research and the provision of learning opportunities (everywhere).

It was also valuable to hear more about Dutch Culture itself, and how a relatively new organisation was developing a positive role for itself.

One impression of the visit which has remained with me is that of the combination of specialist expertise with openness which seems to be a feature of the Netherlands. This seems to apply between organisations who operate at a similar level, but it also appears to work at all 3 levels of governance: national; regional and local. This makes for a complex policy environment, but one which is resilient and responsive to change. There are many lessons to be learned.

 

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Digital Life

AdobePhotoshopExpress_2a42ebb29d5e4bbbb6c73bb5e7e98aaaDoctoral students from across the University participated yesterday in a “Rapid Reflection Construction Event” organised by the Centre for Cultural Relations for the Scottish Government. The purpose of the event was to develop big picture thinking on digital life which would be used by Ministers and others to inform policy development.

The discussion touched on a huge range of topics. The focus was on (in)security, personal, societal and cultural in the digital space. It went much wider, however, including insights from economics and business; law; sociology and informatics. Continue reading

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