Dr. Bruno Gross am 20. April 2016 Dr. Bruno Gross auf der Academy for Cultural Management Bulgaria in Sofia

The Academy for Cultural Management Bulgaria is a postgraduate qualification programme for managers of municipal and independent cultural institutions, organizations and events. The Academy is organized by Sofia Municipality through Sofia Development Association, Goethe-Institut and Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”. The programme combines lectures, workshops, study visits and monthly public “City Talks” about culture, which provide opportunity for the participants to acquire new skills and to develop cooperation with each other.

Es gilt das gesprochene Wort.
 
Dear Mrs. Malina Edreva
(Head of the Council for Culture and Education in the City of Sofia)
dear partners and friends of the Goethe-Institut
liebe Kolleginnen und Kollegen:
 
On behalf of the board of directors at the Goethe-Institut I would like to welcome you here in Sofia to the Cultural Management Academy. The We are very happy to have you here.
 
Europe and its citizens are having a hard time. The refugee crises is a human tragedy and puts to test the European solidarity and its capacity to find a common way to deal with it. At the same time it is a challenge for the social cohesion and social stability in Europe. In fact, many citizens feel detached from the process of European integration. They feel that they lose out on the global job market and that they can no longer make any difference since everything depends on global economic processes or political decisions, they cannot have any impact on. Moreover, people are afraid of the deterioration of their social status and of being "flooded with foreigners". This often pushes them to cast a “protest vote” for nationalist parties, or simply not to vote at all.
 
These problems appear almost too big to cope with. The everyday news seems to confirm that we, the citizens, cannot make any difference at all. But this is not true! There are also hundreds of examples how civil engagement does make change to individual lives, local areas and sometimes whole cities.
 
When we think about the flaws in our surroundings, we have to recognize their social origins. The psychologist Adam Grant said, ""Rules and systems were created by people." This should give us the courage to try to change them!
 
What is the secret of making social difference by doing cultural projects? How can we enlarge our impact, motivate others to devote their time and dedication? These are some of the core questions you are working on. EUROCITIES objective is to identify good European practices on how cities can be changed in a positive way with the possibilities of culture, education and art. This is very complex and there is no "cooking recipe" to strengthen social cohesion and to ensure a vibrant civil society.
 
I would like to outline four basic ideas from our experience while organizing different projects all over the world. The Goethe-Institut with its 159 branches in 98 countries is in the lucky position to work together with and learn from many different partners. We feel privileged and thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.
 
The first concept is Participation: No city can live without its citizens, no municipality without the creative ideas and the support of its inhabitants.
 
The core element of any project which aspires to change the conditions of living is the involvement of civil society, not only as spectators but as active participants. One example for a project with local participation is the initiative the Goethe-Institut Belgrad took in Savamala. Savamala is one of the oldest Belgrade neighborhoods, and it’s ideally located on the right bank of the Sava River. Unfortunately, today Savamala is one of the most neglected city areas. The beauty of the riverbanks and historical facades is hidden behind forgotten and deteriorated buildings, along with the heavy traffic. The "Goethe-Guerilla", a loose organization of artists and activists thoroughly examined Savamala in order to find out it´s specific character and it´s potential. Then they organized a range of projects and workshops with the inhabitants of that area to reclaim lost ground. We don´t know whether they will be successful in the end, but at least they took the initiative.
 
Participation is a key element of today´s society. This is the reason why the Goethe-Institut has chosen participation as one out of three strategic topics for the next few years. Artistic activities in public sphere, street art, environmental sculpture, community activities are just a few examples of participative formats we are working with. The Cultural Management Academy itself is open to dedicated people who work for cultural institutions or municipalities as well as to activists from the so-called “alternative” scenes. The Academy provides a city with a platform to discuss and to experience different cultural strategies to make cities more livable.
 
The second concept is cooperation. Cooperation is basic for every project. The Cultural Management Academy would not have been possible without the cooperation with our partners. I would like to thank Mrs. Lomeva and Mrs. Voynova for the partnership as well as the French Institute, the Instituto Cervantes, the British Council, the Polish Institute, the Czech Center and the Austrian Embassy for their support of the Cultural Management Academy. Thank you very much! I also would like to congratulate you, the participants, for your initiative and willingness to work together, overcoming all possible cultural differences.
 
The third concept is what our foreign minister Mr. Steinmeier calls dialog and the recognition of the other. The hours you spent together in order to discuss different projects and develop new ideas are precious time, in which the seeds for social change through art and culture are planted. The same happens when you discuss your project with artists, activists and locals. These discussions are sometimes very tiring and often issues are discussed over and over. But controversial discussions are an essential part of nearly every successful project. Productive misunderstandings can lead to new perspectives. For the Goethe-Institut, an open dialog between equals and the recognition of cultural differences are core principles of our work. We value the process of creating at least as high as the final product.
 
Finally, the forth ingredient needed is trust. The former director of the Prince-Claus-Fund Els van Plaas said, “culture is a basic need”. I couldn´t agree more and would like to add: intercultural relations are essential for a peaceful world. The cornerstone for intercultural relations is trust. We all need trust to establish reliable relations work relations between institutions and also between individuals.
 
The concepts I mentioned seem all too simple, something we take for granted. But is that really so? My experience tells me that searching for good cooperation, placing confidence in others, listening to my counterparts, working in a participative way by accepting and including the ideas and needs of other people is not as easy as it sounds.
 
Following this spirit, I wish you interesting and controversial discussions and the courage to start innovative projects with both, new and old partners. The Goethe-Institut is happy to have you here and to be your partner.