Creating Innovative Cultural Product
Key Takeaways from the Culture Bridges' and Insha Osvita Workshops
In November 2018 and again in January-February 2019, Culture Bridges partnered with the Insha Osvita NGO to conduct a series of 10 workshops for roughly 200 cultural managers in cities around Ukraine. The programme developed and taught by the Insha Osvita coaching team focused on familiarising attendees with the tools and best practices of effective, contemporary, and up-to-date cultural management.

Insha Osvita provided workshoppers with detailed outlines of the instruments discussed and face-time with cultural sector leaders who spoke at the sessions. Following the completion of their training, participants were surveyed for their reaction to the sessions and the curriculum.
Part One, where you can partly feel yourself
a participant of the workshops
To equip workshoppers with a better grasp of the world of cultural management, Insha Osvita trainers worked through the VUCA approach during group sessions. Developed by the military and promoted in Forbes and the Harvard Business Review among others, the VUCA method acknowledges a rapidly changing world in which once-revered management and teamwork models have now become outdated. The only practical response to this turn of events require vision, transparency, flexibility, perception and context-awareness.

In a simulation of the environment in which managers are tasked with "assembling the pieces" of cultural project, VUCA suggests the following types of "puzzles" – models and practical techniques that assist in producing a successful project cycle.
The Idea Puzzle
The workshop offered this approach as an alternative to classic project management models – Design Thinking. Going beyond the mere creation of a design using different coloured paper, Design Thinking assists in testing out an idea by shrinking it down to a manageable scale before attempting to implement it as a large-scale project. This helps determine whether or not a project is feasible in a given situation long before committing to it. A positive result then provides a solid foundation for an approach to the full-scale project.

Additional Resources on this topic recommended by Insha Osvita:

The Audience Puzzle
Empathy mapping involves attempting to construct a typical audience for your cultural product by asking what is on their minds; what are they talking about; what troubles them? This exercise assists in the construction of a project and its communication strategy from the ground up by paying special attention to the particularities of your target audience. Further detail on how to use this approach is available at the link.

An additional tool for working with an audience is the Ansoff Matrix – a strategic planning tool that helps define how to position a product on the market. Consisting of two intersecting axes, it identifies four quadrants – product/activity/product and audience/market - that assist in determining appropriate strategies and tools in product placement.
The Strategy Puzzle
Here we consider a model of dynamic business development by Bernard Livgold and Fritz Glazl may become useful. It treats organisations as if they were people: they are born, they live, they die. A human life consists of three stages: dependence, independence, interconnection. But unlike a person, organisations do not necessarily move organically from one stage to another. The model highlights the following stages in the life of an organisation: pioneer, rational, integration, associative. During the first stage the organization moves dynamically, greatly motivated in pursuit of a concept. During the second, it begins to establish procedures to stay active but reduces the energy it expends. In the third stage, the organization reaches equilibrium between its mandated bureaucratic function and its team's 'live energy.' In the end, it's not only found its pace but it's prepared to collaborate with others.
13 speakers assisted in focusing the workshops on market- and strategy-focused issues by walking the audience through case studies drawn from the organisations where they work: Mystetskyi Arsenal, Porto Franko Festival, GogolFest, Respublica, Nova Opera, Port Creative Hub and Art Management, Garage Gang, Wild Theater, ArtPole Agency, Lviv Terror Territory Museum and Tandem Ukraine.
We live in a time where the richest companies in the world don't make anything. They sell us an empty page and the user fills it with content: Facebook, Instagram, Uber, Airbnb. What's the connection with cultural industry? First off, everything is reciprocal. Still more, to have a cultural experience it's not necessary to make your way to the theatre or buy a record album. We just download a track from iTunes without moving from the couch. Considering all this, now try to convince me that global economics doesn't influence the cultural scene
Where is the cultural scene headed these days? We have a certain amount of freedom but we're on some pretty uncertain ground. We're walking next to the abyss and it's possible to fall in, but people are open to festivals and are working to start new festivals and projects. Is Europe the place to look for an example? Don't do a bad imitation of something you've seen done better elsewhere. And don't bring generic content. Bring acts that retain some spark of their country of origin – this is always more interesting. Be who you are and show it to the world. I think we're going to see the cultural scene explode in the next five years, though some of it won't last but a few years, but this will result in the appearance of new things
If we don't start out a project by doing everything that we can, it gets real hard to do it later on. When we're talking about our 'target audience', we're talking about the people who will be attending our events. So you need to ask yourself first: if I go to some event, what am I looking to get out of it? First, they come for some emotional reason. And you need to take those emotions into consideration. You need to do a complete walkthrough of their process. Is there a coat room? Do the restrooms smell? Will a person be comfortable here? All of these nuances have their effect on people's general impressions. Don't just close your eyes to negative issues – work them out. If the walk up to your entrance is slippery, provide assistance and hand out apples, candy.
Part Two, where Insha Osvita's Alona Karavai and Olha Diatel draw on observations made during workshops to explain exactly what a "Ukrainian cultural manager is", and where workshoppers talk about what they've learned
Olha Diatel, workshop coordinator and trainer from Insha Osvita, says that the gatherings drew an audience that reflected a variety of ages and institutional backgrounds.

"They have a thirst for learning in the cultural management field and are aware of their current shortcomings. Many work in situations in small to mid-sized cities where there's very limited cultural and artistic activity to choose from. To generate local interest in one event or another demands significant effort from local cultural managers."

Among other trends Olha identifies limited or erratic financial support and the need for establishing a team-based approach: "New initiatives lack the necessary institutional clout to achieve sustainable levels of activity and the ability to strengthen their voice in communicating with potential partners and players in the field. Institutions that have been around for a long time are locked into fixed approaches and tend to lose their flexibility to respond to the needs of modern society."

She goes on to talk about her workshoppers: "These people combine a pragmatic vision and a love for their city and environment. They have the desire to create events, educational opportunities and fertile conditions for culture in the here and now".

Alona Karavai, a workshop trainer from Insha Osvita:

"At the next-to-last workshop held in Poltava a participant asked: "How to cultural managers differ from one region to another? " And I have to say honestly that I couldn't answer her. It seems that at every workshop we're fielding very similar questions, responding to similar challenges: about the generic approach to cultural management training, the absence of professional specialisation, problems with ticket sales, challenges of securing a permanent position both financially and as part of a broader cultural programme".
Alona talks further about the prevailing culture formats she encounters in various towns:
"In the city of Ivano-Frankivsk we engaged with a significant number of players working with musical and festival events; in Poltava there were a lot of visual arts and cultural spaces; and in Uzhgorod we were introduced to an entire ecosystem of museum professionals."
On the one hand, the workshop was a needed motivator to keep working; on the other, it pointed us to some new activities and directions to take. Communicating with like-minded people and those active in regional cultural life is an inspiration and an excellent chance to re-examine what you're doing in your town. The training brought me up-to-date on fundraising and integrated project activity approaches. This resulted in our Art Intersection. Yegorov. Roitburd. Gusyev. project that we implemented with a Culture Bridges mini-grant we were awarded through the Insha Osvita workshop.

Right now, I feel I need to improve my understanding and skills in the areas of audience attraction for educational programming; identifying partners working in similar circumstances from around the country as well as international partners – networking among cultural institutions from small towns; providing for skills training for museum staff in modern cultural processes; in working with crowdfunding and organising the work of a "Friends of the Museum" charitable programme.
Olena Mykhailovska, Khmelnytskyi, the Khmelnytsky Region Art Museum
"It was both difficult and fun. There was real value for everybody there in the exchange of ideas and of contact information, hopefully leading to joint projects in future…PS, I wish I could ALWAYS study at that pace, in that positive atmosphere and with a group like that!"*

*citation taken from Ruslan's post on Facebook
Ruslan Ramazanov, Ivano-Frankivsk, director of the EKSELEMA NGO
The workshop has radically altered my take on my professional activity: on starting large-scale cultural projects, making my vision real, planning & carrying out original musical events in our town, working with cultural managers and representatives from other organisations, and the hows and whys of writing a grant application
Natalia Nalivko, Ivano-Frankivsk, D.O.M.48.24 NGO
The introduction to the concept of design thinking at the workshop has helped expand my perceptions of my work and set aside some tired paradigms. My experiences in Ivano-Frankivsk were stimulating – even TOO stimulating – when you see a large-scale and cultural invaluable event taking place someplace far from Kyiv and being accomplished with local financial support. It's a living example how culture can transform an entire city and its people.

The difficulty of working as a cultural manager in Kherson comes from the fact that you're probably creating (or think you are, anyway) an innovative cultural product but that it won't reach further than the local public. So, it's difficult to draw the relation between the local context and world culture. Still, you have to do it. Otherwise there's no sense to even working in culture.
Olena Afanasieva, Kherson, director of Totem Cultural Development Centre NGO
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