By Damien McGlynn, Communications & Partnerships Director, Voluntary Arts
It is in this context the BRIDGING project investigates the methods through which participation in co-creative activities can help to bridge social capital. The project has focused on those projects and activities that have brought together people from different backgrounds to create together as equals. We have sought to uncover the best approaches and environments which are conducive to bridging existing divides and preconceptions, whether those are cultural, generational or otherwise. The opportunity provided by this partnership between organisations in seven different countries is significant and, in itself, presents some clear commonality in our experiences of culture and social bonding in nations with very different cultures and contexts.
Over two years, the BRIDGING project teams are looking at how these creative activities can have an influence on bridging social capital in five thematic areas: inter-cultural, inter-European, inter-generational, inter-regional, and inter-social. Each area has been explored through research, surveys, interviews and case studies. In each area, we have sought out examples of projects, activities and groups that have involved people from across the various divides and asked some key questions about the nature of these activities. How have they been organised? What were the primary goals of the activity? What were the motivations of the participants? Was a welcoming and social atmosphere cultivated, and how? What were the particular logistical considerations for the context of the project?
Through the research conducted, the State of the Art report, and the case studies presented in these thematic compendia, we hope to articulate some common threads and key characteristics of those projects and activities that have been most successful in bridging these divides. Sharing these findings will, we hope, assist other organisers and practitioners to develop new and improved cultural activities that can offer participants a rewarding, enjoyable, creative experience but also allow for personal connections to be made and the social bonds that are so crucial to our communities to flourish within these activities.
Each of the five areas of investigation present their own unique challenges but have been identified as areas where more can be done – across Europe – to bridge divides and help people to learn more about each other through creativity. Whether it is an inter-generational group or one that brings together people of different cultures, the atmosphere cultivated by participating as equals in a creative activity offers a strong platform for personal exchange. It connects people to themselves and, in turn, those around them.
“Higher life satisfaction is correlated with having a more intense relational life in general, such as socializing frequently with friends and relatives, attending social gatherings and cultural events, participating in sports, performing volunteer work, and pro-social behaviour.” 
There are many things that can be considered when devising and delivering the activities to ensure that a more diverse mix of people can feel included, and the case studies expand on these considerations to show different approaches that can be adopted by others. These are presented not as guaranteed methods of success, but demonstrations of the ways in which a variety of potential barriers can be overcome in different circumstances.
The findings of the survey emphasizes that those participating are usually driven, first and foremost, by the desire to do something enjoyable and creative. The social benefits are often clearly evident afterwards but these are secondary in the minds of most participants. This is by no means a negative finding. In fact, it marks out the unique appeal of these creative activities to people of all walks of life. They come together in pursuit of creative expression and pleasure and this, in itself, helps to create the environment in which the many beneficial social outcomes can be reaped. In these compendia, we aim to present numerous examples of how this formula has worked well and, from our findings, suggest ways that others can learn from these approaches.
 BRIDGING: State of the Art report (2018) http://bridgingsocialcapital.eu/?page_id=434
 World Happiness Report (2012) http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2012/