In parallel: reports from Culture for Cities and Regions final event's hands-on workshops

Innovative local support to creative entrepreneurship

How can local authorities best support local creative entrepreneurs with non-financial support? What tools do cities and regions need to put in place to help creative entrepreneurs get the right skills? How can cities retain talent and encourage spillover from the creative industries sector to other connected areas? How can they build an efficient network of partners supporting the initiatives?

Daunting as these questions are, the solution could be IncrediBOLy simple: give creative entrepreneurs the space and skills to work! IncrediBOL is a project started in 2010 to support the growth of the cultural and creative industries sector in the Emilia-Romagna region. The simple formula behind the success of IncrediBOL is: small grants to help creative entrepreneurs set up their business, rent-free spaces provided by the municipality, tailor-made services and support from a network of partners.

The power of peer to peer knowledge exchange is letting ideas like this spread: The idea of KRACH was born after a study visit to Bologna, where participants from Chemnitz heard about the IncrediBOL initiative. They took the formula of IncrediBOL and adapted it for their local context. KRACH is now already in its implementation phase. The project is a good example of an effective transfer thanks to Culture for Cities and Regions, and the beginning of a solid collaboration between two cities.

Through Culture for Cities and Regions, tailor-made projects can be adapted to a city’s identity and cultural ecosystem. This is the force of peer-learning and knowledge-sharing – presenting Bologna’s success story, and having the backup of the mentors, allowed Chemnitz’s cultural department to convince the local administration to back its own version of this highly impactful programme.

Read more about IncrediBOL here, or watch a recording of the workshop here.


Bringing culture to the neighbourhood


Discussing cases from Birmingham’s Arts Champions and Lublin’s Districts of Culture programme, the main learning points are:

  • Think long term: It takes time to develop relationships between large cultural institutions (‘champions’) and community centres in areas with low levels of participation and engagement with arts.
  • The first reactions to the scheme from the arts organisations were mixed – in the first phase only about a third of partnerships were successful.
  • Arts Champions need to be associated with districts for long enough to develop local knowledge, to build trust, develop a commitment and run projects with longer term benefit.
  • Handover is vital when moving from district to district, to keep contacts and activities going.
  • Existing provision in districts needs to be linked to new opportunities and resources joined up effectively: the ‘champions’ cannot parachute in and the scheme can enable smaller, locally based organisations to deliver more work, supported by the resources of the Champion.
  • The scheme works best where the ‘champion’ owns it and understands that it is not about the extra money, but about playing a part in delivering culture across the city using the resources they have already been given.
  • Strategic planning requires arts to be integrated into community plans.

In a nutshell, it’s all about trust, knowledge of the area and preparation from all actors!


New creative uses for heritage spaces



Barcelona Art Factories are putting empty spaces to good use. Initiated in 2007 as a programme to transform nine obsolete industrial sites into public venues that drive culture and innovation, this dynamic network of municipally-owned facilities is adding a growing number of heretofore unused spaces for cultural purposes. It now comprises over 30,000 square meters for artistic and cultural creation and production. Some of these factories have a long track record of supporting creative talents, and newer facilities in various artistic fields, run by agents and institutions, have joined the initiative. The goal of the overall project is to put creativity, knowledge and innovation at the heart of the city’s policies.

In Dortmund, the Union district around the old Union brewery is one of the creative quarters of the Ruhr area and home to Dortmund’s iconic symbol, the Dortmunder U. The Creative Quarter Unionviertel in Dortmund was set up by the city of Dortmund in partnership with the region and civil society in 2015. In the meantime, numerous artists have settled here, with their ateliers and art galleries and cultural initiatives. An urban district cooperative, the InWest eG, offers a framework for various activities in the district. It leases, among other things, vacant spaces and passes them on to interested creatives for a reasonable price.

What steps should your city take to implement a similar programme? Dortmund’s Kurt Eichler encouraged other cities to engage stakeholders who want to run such a venue – the demand has to be there already! As investment in buildings and facilities needs long-term thinking, it is a good idea to develop concepts in a public/private partnership in order for them to be sustainable.
Esteve Caramés of Barcelona added that you must recognise what is already there - don’t invent things! He warned that partnerships with stakeholders should be clearly defined in terms of roles, funding, responsibilities. Finally, he drew attention to the need to keep in mind the historical and community value of heritage buildings, and to push the creatives to be involved with communities.

Learn more about the Art Factories here!

Local innovative financing scheme for culture

Cities are having to be more and more resourceful to cope with budget cuts and be more innovative in the way they spend money. What has previously been called alternative sources of funding is now increasingly mainstream, which leads to a wider discussion, for example, on financial or in-kind support.

More pressure on the cultural budget is a specific problem because we know it benefits other areas; so it’s a question of how do we position culture as a driver for development that can make the best use of resources; crossing into other policy areas; as a means for cultural investment?

What kinds of opportunity might there be? We have partnerships and investment with private sector, which is itself very diverse. These partnerships mean cities are acting more like a business and thinking more strategically about what assets they have.


Clearly, keeping businesses engaged and showing how they can benefit from city initiatives is hard work, but it can pay off. A lot of the benefits include raising a business’s profile or a sense of giving back to the local community. Co-investment is another option for cities, with crowdfuncing and match funding being two examples:

  • Crowdfunding has different types: donate, reward, equity, lending. This can be a useful tool in a time of digitalisation, and adds an important ‘people’ element to public-private partnerships. Find out more about crowdfunding here.
  • Match funding is also growing. For example, cities might put in €70,000 and then for every € added by the crowd/private enterprise, the public body adds another €.

To make the most of this, we also need greater knowledge sharing between cities. This is especially important to help convince those who make financial decisions based on hard data, of the value of city-led initiatives based around innovative funding.