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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