Culture BridgeS
The Art of Building "Bridges of Culture"
It's difficult to imagine but it was only three years ago when the Ukrainian cultural sector first gained regular access to a major open call grant programme. The situation first saw significant change when the European Union launched the Culture Bridges programme. Three types of grants, support for cooperation with the EU and several types of capacity-building activities breathed life into the local cultural and creative industries. In July 2020, the work of Culture Bridges will come to an end, but before that we'd like to take a look back at the programme and introduce you to the team that managed the effort.

Tetyana Shulha
Sector manager at Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine
Cultural cooperation programming between the EU and Ukraine simply didn't exist a decade ago. The first incidence we had of the EU's potential to assist in the Ukrainian cultural sphere's development came with the Lisbon Agreement of 2009. It was only in 2011 that the EU Eastern Partnership policy — targeting eastern European countries — brought about the first regional cultural development grant programme to include Ukraine. The programme illustrated the tremendous demand for this kind of assistance as well as the potential of Ukrainian cultural figures. Its second iteration— the Culture and Creativity programme — still did not offer grant opportunities but focused on the development of the country's capacity.

2016 brought a turning point—the EU's directive on international cultural relations in which it was proposed to add culture to the balance of existing technical assistance instruments. The Ukrainian cultural sector felt like it had been issued carte blanche permission to begin working. We explored core issues with sector stakeholders, including direct support and development for Ukrainian cultural operators. The question arose as to how best to quickly implement this programme. We needed a partner with a high level of expertise in this area, and that proved to be the British Council in Ukraine who had experience implementing the Culture and Creativity programme. Already by the autumn of 2017, which is incredibly fast by European standards, we were launching Culture Bridges.

Simon Williams
Director of the British Council Ukraine
The British Council has worked in the cultural and creative industries sector in Ukraine for 29 years, helping to create links and cooperation between institutions, organisations and individuals in the UK and Ukraine. We've also always worked closely with our fellow European cultural institutes such as the Goethe Institut and Institut Francais, as part of the EU National Institutes of Culture (EUNIC) network. Culture Bridges provided a fantastic chance to deepen our partnership, for even greater impact. The programme was designed with a Steering Committee comprising all members of the EUNIC cluster in Ukraine, as well as the Creative Europe Desk and the EU Delegation.

Anna Karnaukh
Culture Bridges Senior Programme Manager
The working title of the draft programme was Culture Connects, but we couldn't use that as it was too similar to some other programmes. Shortly before the official launch we decided to make a teaser for the new programme on Facebook and announced a contest to find the best name for it.

We got all kinds of suggestions, including that of Culture Bridges. In the version we settled on, "Bridges" was intended to be a verb, with the name meaning "Culture Creates Bridges". But it wasn't the final one. It became clear that our Ukrainian speaking audience saw the name as an Adjective + Noun construction (= "Bridges of Culture"). That was our user test and we kept that version for the Ukrainian name of the programme.

Simon Williams
Director of the British Council Ukraine
Membership of the Creative Europe programme from 2015 was offering great opportunities for Ukrainian cultural operators to get involved in international work, but we knew that many of them lacked the skills, confidence or even the basic professional contacts to take advantage of this. We therefore designed Culture Bridges to address the needs of the sector and provide a "training ground" before entering major international projects. Artists, creatives and organisations could apply for a range of funding and capacity-building opportunities, whatever their level of experience. The programme truly was a bridge to cultural growth and achievement.

Thanks to Culture Bridges, the cooperation of EUNIC cluster members in Ukraine has also intensified. Together we organised six joint projects. We especially want to mention Booking the Future – a programme of presentations by European publishing sector professionals at the Book Arsenal in 2018 and a Summer School for publishers, which brought together 27 publishers from six regions of Ukraine and trainers from seven EU countries. We are also proud that for the first time in Ukraine we organised a film festival dedicated to the theme of inclusion.

Iryna Prokofieva
Head of Programmes at the Ukrainian Institute, former Project Manager for Culture Bridges Programme
In 2017 Culture Bridges was the only programme to offer a large block of individual mobility grants to the EU for people from all cultural sectors and the creative industries. Mobility grants were also offered for citizens of the EU to come to Ukraine.

For national cooperation grants, the focus was on establishing links within Ukraine between regions that do not border one another. International cooperation grants allowed recipients to implement joint projects between Ukraine and EU member states.

Darya Moskalevych
Culture Bridges Project Manager
In addition to this, Culture Bridges worked together with the NGO Insha Osvita to conduct ten workshops for cultural managers in medium and small cities throughout Ukraine. Access to high-level educational opportunities and cultural projects is quite limited in Ukraine. We were able to offer workshops in Khmelnitsky, Rivne, Uzhhorod, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kherson, Cherkasy, Poltava, Kryvyi Rih, Kramatorsk and Mariupol. 21 of 187 alumni received funding of up to € 2,000 to implement local cultural projects (Musical Hugs, ART Peretyn). Here, our "training ground" approach as well worked in preparing participants for the larger grant and programme opportunities.
120 grants over 20 months providing of nearly 778,000 Euros in support
87
International Mobility Projects
16
National Cooperation Projects
17
International Cooperation Projects
2,006
applications from Ukraine and the EU
10
Cultural Management Workshops
10
Creative Europe Applications Development Workshops

Anna Karnaukh
Culture Bridges Senior Programme Manager
Culture Bridges began its work in October 2017. It was close enough to the end of the calendar year, so we understood our first grant open call had to go out already in November. We had to put together a tremendous amount of procedures and processes in order to launch it. We had two people on our team working in parallel getting the website ready and setting up our communications approach. We got it done at light speed. The agile systematized approach of parallel tasking that we initially picked up from Jeff Sutherland's Scrum: A Revolutionary Method of Project Management really helped us going forward. We made it mandatory that all subsequent team members had to read the book before joining us. Later on, we attended courses on applying flexible approaches and adapted these to our work. We had a lot of internal meetings at first—bi-weekly planning sessions, brief sync meetings every morning and so on. We wrote tasks on post-it notes which soon took up a whole wall of our office. After a few months we established a method of programme management that worked best for us, adapting agile to our programme.

Natalia Groma
Culture Bridges Project Coordinator
If we hadn't applied agile it definitely would have been more difficult for us. We met every two weeks to discuss what tasks we had and what we could accomplish over the next period ("the sprint"), and assigned them according to urgency and size, identifying the person in charge and visualising it on our scrum board. Often those meetings revealed issues that could result in invisible hindrances to efficiency and team communication.

Darya Moskalevych
Culture Bridges Project Manager
Structurally speaking, Culture Bridges is a project team within the British Council's Arts team. The size of our team changed over time, with a maximum of five people working together at one time. Anna Karnaukh and Iryna Prokofieva made the initial launch. I joined six months later when Ira moved on to work for the Ukrainian Institute. After that we brought in two coordinators - Sofia Shulga and Natalia Groma. Ihor Kytsenko worked with us as a grant manager for nearly a year helping us establish grant processes. All Culture Bridges' communications were handled by the programme team as well.

Sofia Shulga
Culture Bridges Project Coordinator
We managed to put together a team where everyone had assigned areas of responsibility but knew about every programme element through our regular team meetings. We used the Star Matrix instrument—a great tool—to identify who was best positioned to handle a certain task and which allowed us to allocate a person as needed to some job. It also showed us what areas would benefit from further development and areas where we needed to develop capacity. That system helped turn us into a dream team that worked extremely well together and where you could go to anyone to offer your help and/or ask for it.

Darya Moskalevych
Culture Bridges Project Manager
The initial plan was to award 96 grants over 8 open calls over the course of the Culture Bridges programme. When you consider that now, in the light of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation and at the House of Europe, it seems like a modest number. But in 2017, our grants were a huge boost for the cultural sector. We naturally expected a lot of applications, but the response was overwhelming. For the first open call covering all three types of grants we received 545 applications. The number of applications that scored highly on our evaluation scale was far greater than the number of grants available. So, the Culture Bridges Steering Committee decided to increase the number of grants to 120 and to decrease the number of open calls to six. That way, we were able to issue more grants to worthy applicants with each call.

It also became clear to us that, going forward, we needed to have a specialised system in place to handle grant applications. We explored a number of options, settling on SurveyMonkey Apply, which simplified all stages of grant administration significantly.

Darya Moskalevych
Culture Bridges Project Manager
In keeping with the British Council's grant administration policies, we published the list of grant recipients for each competition only after all grant contracts had been finalised—a process that could take up to two months. At first, as the sector was growing accustomed to the policy, we were accused of lack of transparency by those comparing us to other programmes and their established procedures. Taking into account applicants' frustration, we worked tirelessly to communicate the differences in our approach.

Oddly, there is still resistance in some places to the idea that you can get financial support for a project or a mobility project with just a well-developed concept and a correctly filled-in application. With the start of our sixth grant open call, Anya and I went on a morning radio show to talk about the potential of getting an EU mobility grant. At the end of the show a man called in claiming that it was unrealistic to think that you could be supported financially and travel somewhere for free to do your project. He called us troublemakers. So, we adopted that as our team nickname.

Anna Karnaukh
Culture Bridges Senior Programme Manager
We've put a lot of work into a monitoring and evaluation system that looks at our programme outcomes and impact and now have a list of 26 indicators and 15 tools with which to gather information—applications, reports, questionnaires, etc. These look at both quantitative and qualitative indicators. For example, we know that Culture Bridges national cooperation grants resulted in 16 projects involving 32 organizations and 180 people working in the cultural and creative industries' sector. 12 of these projects took place in cities with limited access to cultural products. A total of 31,730 people attended events developed by these projects.

Currently, we're working to analyse the qualitative changes that have taken place due to our efforts. This is the final stage of Culture Bridges and it comes last for the simple reason that getting the complete picture of qualitative change takes time.

Darya Moskalevych
Culture Bridges Project Manager
It's really difficult to single out this or that grant project for notice. It's satisfying, working as a programme manager, to see projects that show their long-term potential. For example, when an individual mobility project morphs into a collaborative project. One that comes to mind is from our first grant open call when Polish playwright Joanna Wichowska travelled to Lviv for her mobility project. She worked with Ukrainian director Rosa Sarkisian to stage the play Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful Times. In our sixth open call, Rosa won a mobility grant to travel to Berlin where she and Joanna and their German partners worked on a new collaborative effort. We've had programme participants who got their first start in earlier programmes, like Olena Kasperovych, residency curator from the Yermilov Centre in Kharkiv who got her start as part of the Culture and Creativity programme where she established a working relationship with BridA, the Slovenian arts group. Culture Bridges mobility grants allowed Olena and Sandy Mango from BridA to visit, respectively, Slovenia and Ukraine and set up the joint Plantportation project. We recently received the news that Olena had been approached to curate a Slovenian festival of contemporary art called Pixxelpoint 2020. On our website you can find the full story behind a lot of the projects we worked with over these three years. Come and take a look!
Photo credits: Culture Brigdes