Inter-European – Introduction

The decline of trust the last decade is one of the central challenges of our societies. Several surveys by UN, OECD, EU and others indicate that the declining trust refers not only to the usual suspects as governments, companies and mainstream media, but also to NGOs and even more concerning to an increased distrust of other people.

Trust is the fundamental element of social capital in a country, and the World Development Report (2013) shows that countries, where people are more likely to trust others, are also countries where there is less violence and more political stability, accountability and stronger economic growth.  Furthermore, trustful social relations are essential for happiness. The World Happiness Report (2012) indicates trust as one of the major reasons that some countries are happier than others.

Trust among fellow citizens is also essential for the subjective well-being or quality of life. Without trust, institutions don’t work, societies falter and people lose faith in each other.

This is the background of a two-years long project entitled “Bridging social capital by participatory and co-creative culture” (Project acronym: BRIDGING), realised in the period September 2017 – August 2020 by eight partner organisations from seven countries  that represent four strong national umbrellas as well as four knowledge and research  centres in Northern, Eastern and Western Europe: Denmark, UK, Poland, Austria, Latvia, Slovenia and the Netherlands.

The BRIDGING project overall aim is to bridge social capital and to promote inclusion, cohesion and trust by strengthening the participatory and co-creative culture activities in the European sector of amateur arts, voluntary culture and heritage. The project was co-financed by the Erasmus+ Programme 2014 – 2020, KA2 Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices, Strategic Partnerships for adult education.

The BRIDGING project team shares a belief that the European sector of participatory culture (amateur arts, voluntary culture and heritage) can make a difference. This sector is, next to amateur sport, the largest civil society sector in the EU member states, and it has in the last decade been the civil society area with the highest rate of expansion in members and new associations. A vast number of voluntary and paid staff and artists are employed in a myriad of associations to provide arts and culture-based activities for about 38 pct of the peoples in the member states (Eurobarometer 399, November 2013).

However, the voluntary arts and culture associations could strengthen their societal engagement. Especially in these times, the learning providers in this sector should prioritise new initiatives that can help to counter the current decline of the cohesiveness and mutual trust in our communities. Bridging – type of activities may help this to happen. 

Definitions of main terms

SECTOR OF VOLUNTARY ARTS, AMATEUR ARTS AND HERITAGE: The cross-cultural sector of amateur arts, voluntary culture and heritage is defined as consisting of three sub-groups that are all part of the third sector, civil society and non-profit organizations:

AMATEUR ARTS INCLUDING FOLK ARTS – local and national associations for different kind of arts on amateur level (where the participants are active as amateurs in music, choir, theatre, dancing, visual arts, folk dance, folk music, etc.).

VOLUNTARY CULTURE – local (and national) associations that organize different sorts of mostly professional arts events, such as local classic concerts, visits by theatre groups, arts exhibitions, etc. These sorts of associations are not so much known, even though they constitute a great deal of the sector and provide/organize a lot of more professional arts and culture to the local communities especially outside the bigger cities.

HERITAGE – associations that keep old traditions (sailing, crafts) alive or take care of monuments, associations for local history, local archives, associations for genealogy, or associations related to specific museums that deliver a lot of voluntary work for culture institutions.

CO-CREATION: The term “co-creation”, in the context of this project, refers to co-creation in a free, civic context, where different citizen groups work and create together. It includes the aspect of promoting social capital, mutual trust and recognition as being part of the same national-democratic community.

BRIDGING SOCIAL CAPITAL / SOCIAL INCLUSION: Bridging social capital and fostering social inclusion through co-creative activities is understood as essential learning outcomes of participatory and co-creative culture activities, where former segregated groups are engaged in shared cross-over cultural activities, such as:

  • Inter-social learning (include marginalised groups: poor, low-educated, etc.)
  • Inter-generational learning (include more generations in shared learning activities)
  • Inter-regional learning (include groups from city and countryside, centre and periphery)
  • Inter-cultural (inclusion of minority cultures)
  • Inter-European (include cross-border activities where different European traditions/cultures are engaged with a European added value)

Inter-European dimension of BRIDGING

This compendium aims to provide an overview of good practice examples of co-creative and participatory activities in the sector of amateur arts, voluntary culture and heritage that aim at bridging social capital and promoting inclusion, cohesion and trust in our communities – in the Inter-European context. Inter-European context is meant by including cross-border activities where different European traditions/cultures are engaged with a European added value.

The good practise examples and innovative approaches are compiled in five thematic contexts, where the focus is changed not only from individual creativity to collective creativity, but the co-creation is based on bridging social capital between people normally outside of each other’s direct social networks – not just bonding social capital between similar individuals, which is common across other forms of participation. The Inter-European Compendium is one of five compendia developed within the BRIDGING project.

The Compendia present good practices at bridging five types of segregated groups. Apart from the abovementioned Inter-European context, the other 4 compendia relate to the following contexts of co-creative and participatory activities: Inter-social (including marginalised groups: poor, low-educated, etc.), Inter-regional (including groups from city and countryside, centre and periphery, Inter-cultural (inclusion of minority cultures) and Inter-generational (including more generations in shared learning activities). The five Thematic Compendia are published in the seven partner languages: English, German, Polish, Dutch, Danish, Slovenian and Latvian. All the language versions may be found on the Project Portal

We hope that the good practices described could be used as new teaching material for further education of learning providers in the voluntary cross-cultural sector.

Good practices

Here you will read about six Inter-European initiatives.  All of them include cross-border activities where different European traditions/cultures are engaged with a European added value. They ase somehow similar – but also different.

We hope that after reading them you will feel inspired to design new Inter-European initiatives for your organisation – or just to add and Inter-European context to the initiatives already being realised. At the end of this compendium you will find a workbook part which is meant to guide you through the planning process. Enjoy!