VSS is back! (again)

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
― Albert Einstein

Great News! Visegrad Summer School is back!
Due to the whole challenge that represent the Covid_19 crisis, and in
a way to avoid any risk the VSS will be in a totally different form
this year.
The event will take place the 2nd and 3rd weeks of September, and it
will be online!

We are currently working on details, stay focus more information will
be shared soon!

To make you wait here is an interview with Jean Pierre Deru, Director of the Marcel Hicter Foundation, expert from the previous edition of the VSS. 


Jean Pierre Deru

Director of the Marcel Hicter Foundation

 “28 year of Game Changing”

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Jean Pierre Deru - a specialist in the field of culture management and networking, lawyer by profession, director of the Marcel Hicter Foundation. Starting perversely, does origin matter?

I’m Belgian, nobody is perfect. In fact, Belgium is a strange little country divided by the line of the last Latin tribe - French speaking, and the southern Germanic tribe – The Flemish. So, we share very small area. We are really divided by different cultures, but we’ve some common points, and it will not be easy - like for the Czechs or to Slovaks - to split it, because every capital is in the middle of everything. So, I think it is always important to tell why you do the things and where you speak from. 

When I was a student, there was a was a kind of a prerevolutionary moment, first in France, then in Belgium. We were very much against the traditional system, especially the academic system, which is – like the great French sociologist Gérard once said „la reproduction” – reproducing social classes and that top-down system, where there are professors who know and others who do not know. In the same time, we stilled military service in Belgium, so I was in radical students’ movement, and we could choose either ten months in the army or to go two years to one of underdeveloped countries. My friends were all going to Algeria because it was a socialist country. I went to Congo. 

The direction you choose (Congo) sounds like a challenge, was it a challenge for you?

It was an independent country for a few years but still with the military mission, and still under this postcolonial system. I was teaching in the bush, in the middle of nowhere. For me, it was greatest experience in my life because suddenly, I saw lots of things, that I wouldn’t be able to discover – all these stereotypes, all the colonial mind, all the pretentious superiority of the white man against Africans and so on. I discovered enormous wealth: in Congo, they speak 250 languages, thousands of dialects within those 250 languages, with various structures of languages. There was various cultural power, as well on the artistic level: masks, sculptures, dances… Moreover, I discovered that you cannot absolutely tolerate being in the position where you think you are superior. Superiority means you have to dominate others. That’s how I actually discovered my magic triangle: culture, development and straining.

Is there anything you could say that resembles your triangle in real life?

I have been looking for that definition after, but without even knowing it. The most important thing which merges my triangle – in that logic – is cooperation. 

What is your significance of cooperation? How to construct meaningful cooperation?

Such cooperation is always very complex, because we all have the stereotypes – and what we have to do is to fight them. The stereotypes are killing cooperation.  

I had a big meeting of the Council of Europe in Barcelona. That time they had very interesting program which was called: „culture and regions”. Within that program there were experts (national and international), analyzing countries each year, and they were checking what was happening, what was the role of culture in development, what was for instance, happening in lots of places in Europe - where suddenly the big capitals are “eating” all the activity, swallowing the creativity, swallowing the people from villages or small cities. They discovered at the end, at the briefing session in Barcelona, that they needed at least a few things, first – was the cultural observatories, second – very important - was the training of cultural operators, cultural managers. They discovered in the University system, that actually there were like 5-6 countries which have provided this cultural management studies. We thought, that we have to invent something, - a good solution - so after going to bars and drinking a lot, and thinking through a lot of things, we invented European Diploma and cultural project management. We invented on that spot the operational concept. From my perspective, we all need operational concept. 

By "operational concepts" we can understand some kind of findings, plans of activities or theories connected with practice. What was the base of European Diploma?

What were the concepts for European Diploma? The first concept is that we are nomads, like Tuaregs on the camels. Every year, we go to two different places and every time it is an incredible challenge. It’s a kind of Russian roulette, because I never know: if the country will take part in our project, if we will have real partners on the spot. Partners are most important thing in the process. The second thing is that participants must have the power. (I don’t care about the age; they can be 50 if they are active). We’ve participants and we’ve experts, and I oblige those experts (sometime great professors very open-minded), to stop talking, and to talk only a little bit and then to have an interaction and to work with group and so on. The third one is a creative interaction between participants - it is very enriching, because when you are questioned by somebody from another country – it’s enabling you to think differently. The last thing, which is for me probably the most important, is that you cannot collaborate if you are inbuilt in your logic, in your mentality, in your gender, in your religion, in your country. You have to be destabilized. It doesn’t mean that we are killing the identity. We are obliging the people to open their identity. It will help. 

One thing, that I noticed for years of observing the cultural operators, and cultural managers is lack of vision. 

Vision - is a broad term. Can you please precise your meaning of this term? It should be enough just to fit the need and deliver demanded cultural products.

You MUST be like Martin Luther King, you must be like “I have a dream…” – vision is extremely important, because very often we only see the tip of our nose, nothing more. In the next step, we have to turn this vision into a mission. You can cooperate only if you are authentic in the partnership. Real partnership means you must create a baby together, the collaboration project is always a baby. The baby is growing, sometimes baby becomes an adult and does not agree with you, that can happen. The partnership is not something that you get from the sky, it’s something that you construct. With this partnership you also need to talk about the ethics of the project. For which values are you doing, what you are doing. 

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Opis wygenerowany automatycznie

It does not sound challenging at all. It seems to be based on common sense. Where is the catch?

The more obvious thing the harder to cope with it. If you only take a climate, it is becoming a disaster issue. The icebergs are melting, the temperature is rising, there are lots of things like droughts, heats, and we don’t control that anymore. We used the planet so badly. In the same time, there is a huge trend, now all over the world, about consumerism. The people consume. Shopping malls everywhere. Consumerism is like some kind of a new religion.

The second big danger I’ve seen is a populist logic, especially for Europe. Obviously it should not have supporter. Populism, politically speaking, means that you must build elections on fear. You have to fear of the invasions of the others. You have to build walls. Building walls is the most stupid thing in the world. Never, ever any country, any power – even the China with that big wall, not even Trump with these walls on Mexican border – have solved anything with walls. If you are in populism logic, we have the people we want and at the same time we don’t want to have “the others”. If you look at history, we have been mixing over the ages. There is no pure race - only Adolf Hitler could believe in that - it doesn't exist. To go further, I think that, this mixing is very positive. Of course, there are tensions and problems sometimes. That’s why now, it’s so important to have trainings for culture operators on cultural cooperation, on values, and on links with other sectors of the activity. We have to talk not only to people of different region, but also of different sectors. I think, we have lots of things to do and change. There is lots of catches and obviousness.

How do you perceive our region according to your knowledge, in comparison to trainings you did for different participants. Is there any strength or weakness you notice in professionals from Central Europe and Visegrad Countries?

I would say, the potential, intellectual, artistic, involvement potential is very strong. I really believe the first thing is to be sure of yourself, to recognize what you can do. When I started, European Diploma I remember, even when the Wall was still there, we had a few people from Poland, and from Hungary, and there were some people from France and England, considering them sub-people because they said: they think all they need is just money, while money are useless. Those participants were incredibly intelligent, incredibly strong, so I was just pilling the people from England and France and enabling them to understand that we are on the same level. Everybody else have to learn from everybody else. That those from Central Europe are used to giving performance without money in unknown reality. And we have a lot to learn. 

28 year of Game Changing, who is the game changers? Who are they?

Well, I think of people influencing other people. Stimulating them to go in this logic of thinking constantly, of acting differently. When I’m looking at the performance of quite a few people, they are really having an impact. They have an impact on the culture, on collaborations with other partners. I use term „game changer” because who is setting the rules of the game? Now, especially more than ever it is a politician, but it is also the business - the big multinational companies. Amazon knows everything about you, Facebook knows everything about you. They decide. I think the society and citizenship, in this basic logic, can be a game changer too, because in one moment you can impose different patterns. And culture as a sector has a lot to do with society and shaping it. So, it’s a choice. Maybe it’s a wrong choice, I don’t know, but it’s only choice I found. 


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