Fourth session of the Culture Lab

Fourth session of the Culture Lab - Foto: Paweł Mazur


The session began with a brief overview about what the Culture Lab participants have learned so far. The tutor Łucja Piekarska-Duraj once again emphasized the importance of considering “We“ culture instead of “I“ culture and the necessity to make relations to heritage, to extract values, to define needs and ressources. “Heritage is something that goes beyond monuments! Our task as cultural workers is to make personal relations to the past, not to conserve the past“, she reminded.


You have to come up with a cultural project very fast, in a small town you've never been before. How to start?

Łucja Piekarska-Duraj gave a basic advice according to this task: Mapping needs and ressources is always a good tool for small scale local projects. “But how would you gather information?“ The participants came up with several suggestions about how to approach the local inhabitants, for example to go into a shop and to get into conversation, or to take photos of the environment and use them as a basis for talks which hopefully allow some insights into the locals' needs. Some kinds of strategies were considered since it was clear to all of the group that one cannot simply ask the inhabitants “Hey, what are your needs?“.

Eventually, Łucja Piekarska-Duraj exhorted the participants not to ignore the local institutions and their leaders. Town council, museums, churches, culture centre, local NGOs … – these are all relevant contacts. “Make a list of what is there!“ The tutor pointed to a quite obvious example: “In Poland, you cannot do any project without the church – no matter if it is a religious project or not.“ But besides this, Łucja Piekarska-Duraj admitted that going to the shop, as the participants suggested, is indeed a good way to find out the needs of the community. “Put yourself in the same position as the local inhabitants are in.“

Moreover, the tutor shared own experiences of dealing with the task to come up with a cultural project in a small town very fast. And she shared the important lesson that has to be drawn from her experiences: “Sometimes, if you recognize that there are other needs than you initially thought, be flexible! … Be able to redefine, to reinvent your project according to the actual needs.“


How to motivate your team

Good team work is also one of the requirements for a good cultural project to be developed. Unquestionably, a team that is motivated works better. Therefor, Łucja Piekarska-Duraj informed the group about the five steps of team work (“the motivation 5“) that encourage motivation and a reasonable attitude towards one's work.

Step 1: Set a goal. Then, design a road (a process) how you want to reach this goal. Divide the path into small steps, the smaller and the more specific the better.

Step 2: Define your benefits. Especially volunteers are in need of motivation and have to now their benefits. Thus, create a situation where your volunteers' goals fit into the project goals, help them to achieve their personal goals.

Step 3: Be aware of the price to pay. There are never exclusively benefits.

Step 4: Don't be afraid of mistakes, there will always be some. But learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them so often.

Step 5: Stop using the word “must“, avoid also “have to“. Make use of the “want“ factor. Show that there are only chances, no obligations.


The art of networking

Networking is a crucial pillar of cultural work. Łucja Piekarska-Duraj led the participants through an associative approach into the topic. She scattered diverse motif cards on the floor from which everyone had to take one. “Choose the one you can best associate with a network, and explain why.“ So, one by one, the cards and their possible references to networking were presented and discussed. Some examples: A ramified river might illustrate the dynamics of a network as well as mainstream and peripheries of the cultural discourse being relevant. A labyrinth might illustrate the often difficult and unexpected paths to be taken as part of cooperation. A ruin might illustrate challenges, the need to connect and to tackle a problem. Sheets of paper linked with strings might symbolize different points of view and communication between the connected elements. A tree – “a powerful metaphor for a network“ – symbolizes the need of the networking elements for something that unites them (common “roots“), the process leading in one main direction (“stem“) and the outcomes of the cooperation (“fruits“). The tree also illustrates the organic aspect of a network (“time for rise and time for decline“). Further key words gathered from what the participants' uttered about their cards were a.o. emotions, ice breaking, small talk issues, own goals but one direction, self-presentation. Łucja Piekarska-Duraj put special emphasis on two additional key words: Exchange (“Design a situation of real exchange! Exchange is what justifies contacts in a network.“) and knowledge (“Prove that there is knowledge you can take advantage of. Networks are always networks of knowledge.“). After talking about card motifs that are appropriate metaphors for the accumulation of knowledge (e.g. stacked books, a sailing boat or a wave), the group was given further advices to be kept in mind concerning the immensely important network part of a project. “Some people think that networking is something that just happens“, Łucja Piekarska-Duraj remarked. However, she wanted the participants to be aware of that it is possible – and neccessary – to design a network. “You can even design your own role within the network and this need not be the leading role.“ Of course, one has to think about the whole process to be developed. And one has to be able to explain why exactly one involves this people and this institutions. A main focus should be set on connecting the goals of everyone being a party to the network. Furthermore, Łucja Piekarska-Duraj recommended to think about mainstream (official heritage) and underground (the peripheries) which in their interplay yield a situation of opportunities.

But what is most basic: “Be able to present yourself in a very precise way“ since there are often situations of very fast networking. A few sentences must be enough to let the potential partner know how he/she can benefit from the contact. Another point is to regard is that lack of communication is the greatest danger to a network.


Welcoming Joanna Orlik

In the last part of the session, Łucja Piekarska-Duraj introduced Joanna Orlik to the group, passing the 'sceptre' of coaching the Culture Lab group on to her. The group felt sorry about having to say good bye to Łucja Piekarska-Duraj whom they owed so much valubale knowledge and substantial inspiration, but they looked forward to benefit from Joanna Orlik's expertise and experience as director of the Małoplski Institute of Culture. The rest of the session was in effect devoted to a kind of networking: Joanna Orlik got to know the participants who had the opportunity to practice the recommended brief and precise way of presentig themselves. And the participants got to know Joanna Orlik and the institution she runs. They were given interesting insights, also about the work of culture centres in Poland and the so called “life monuments“ in France.