As ecologically responsible institutions, we can establish relationships and cooperate with various formal and informal entities. This will help us share production costs with other institutions, create alliances for the benefit of local nature, exchange knowledge and provide support while introducing pro-environmental changes. Networks and partnerships can be local, firmly embedded in and focused on a particular site, or supralocal, geared towards the development and promotion of sustainable activities and advocacy. Remember that creating and developing partnerships requires patience, perseverance and, above all, looking at goals broader than the interests of one institution or organisation.
First, identify the needs of your institution/organisation and appreciate your own resources, particularly human resources (and the associated competences), but also material and legal. Map your local environs. Talk to other people and institutions about common needs and issues. Even if it turns out that institutional cooperation is not possible at this moment, it may still be possible at the level of specific people. It is good to start with a small initiative and develop it further as more people and organisations join in.
Identify your own resources and get to know your neighbourhood
The first step in establishing a potential cooperation or partnership is to identify the resources of your own organisation and define the potential of the local environment at the social, cultural, natural, architectural, institutional and entrepreneurial levels. It is important to pay attention to the resources of the local area. It is customary to think about residents because they are our potential audience. But it is worth looking for partners among NGOs operating in the local area, informal and activist groups, other local institutions (such as kindergartens, libraries, children’s playgrounds), entities managing green areas, housing cooperatives, as well as local businesses. It is a good idea to begin with creating a map of the area and on that basis, find common points of interest and potential goals. The goals of neighbouring organisations may coincide, e.g. they may be united by their care of the area. When preparing a map of your neighbours and shared goals, make sure you create a map of your own resources as well. Investigate your institution’s usefulness to local ecosystems. Local cultural workers or activists can help with the diagnosis process. Mapping your own resources and the resources of your neighbourhood is a popular tool in community development.
Creating a map of our neighbours: institutional, commercial (shops, restaurants, services), human and non-human inhabitants (flora and fauna) will allow us to see many dimensions of the space in which we operate. It is a space for living, the daily commute between work and home, recreational walks, it is a work space, a space for management, as well as a habitat for an uncountable number of non-human organisms. As a team working at a cultural institution, we can actively become involved with all aspects of this space. In this way, we become co-responsible for a specific area and enter into relationships that shape this space. These values are important for pro-environmental thinking. Perhaps there already exists some network in our vicinity or sector which we can join. If not, we can initiate it. Advice on how to establish and develop relations of good neighbourliness is included in the section on GOOD NEIGHBOURLINESS.
A lot of institutions and organisations cooperate together informally to promote local identity, e.g. the ‘Recipe for Muranów’ partnership co-created by the POLIN Museum. The Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, on the other hand, initiated ‘Ujazdów Neighbourhood’ which operated between 2015-2016 and which aimed to promote the green areas of the Jazdów district. By working together we can get to know each other better and learn how to cooperate.
Create working groups inside the institution (such a function can be performed by the GREEN TEAMS) as well as outside. Find out if such a network already exists in your city, if not – set it up. Take a look at eco-themed projects, both big ones, such as exhibitions connected with this topic, and smaller ones, such as workshops on building pollinator houses or sowing wildflower meadows. Contact the people who carried out these initiatives in your area. Perhaps you will find common goals and needs and share your experience and knowledge. Such support networks are organised by institutions, for example, in connection with audience development (e.g. ADESTE operating in Warsaw). Urban initiatives and movements also create their networks for sharing experiences. A networking event, e.g. a forum, may be a good place for meeting up, discussing challenges and setting up a working group. One example of an urban networking initiative was Residents’ Forum City Common Cause organised by an NGO – Towarzystwo Inicjatyw Twórczych ‘ę’.
A working group may serve in exchanging experiences and offering support but also for deepening one’s knowledge. You can invite experts, naturalists, activists, representatives of ecological and climate-related movements to your meetings. Such a working group may become a basis of a wider coalition.
Partnerships and coalitions may be built around cultural activities but they can also be made with non-institutional neighbours, residents, informal movements. We can learn a lot from each other, including diverse approaches to problem-solving. Together we can co-manage a site or a social.cultural project. Finally, we can simply share material resources – lend and borrow multimedia equipment or elements of flexible architecture.
You can initiate a transition towards the co-management formula, e.g. of a site used by several stakeholders. Osiedle Jazdów estate in Warsaw is a very motivating example of long-time work for a specific area. This initiative began as a defence of a Finnish wooden house estate, and over the years has transformed into the creation of a multi-stakeholder consortium which strives to develop and implement a model of co-managing this site. The initiative came from the residents of the estate, who found support among activists, informal groups and NGOs. Using participatory tools provided by the City Hall, such as the local initiative programme or the civic budget, it was possible not only to defend the estate from demolition, but also retain the democratic formula of work. Currently, the estate has many equal hosts: families living in the houses, NGOs renting the houses to run their activities, informal groups, a branch of a cultural centre, a formal site manager, and municipal authorities. Numerous texts, recommendations and the history of this place can be found on the jazdow.pl website.
Co-management can be a good tool to create a group of local hosts of, for example, city squares surrounded by cultural institutions. On the website of the Place Warszawy project you will find recommendations as well as texts discussing this topic.
It is a tool offering a permanent formula and a certain status of substantive cooperation, which involves as many entities operating in a given area as possible. Substantive decisions of a multi-member formation are taken by the council, not by one institution. This gives more insight into the needs of the local community and more perspectives and goals that intersect in the area. At the same time, council members become ambassadors of the themes present in the institution’s programme. The scope of the council’s activities may relate to the area shared by many entities, but it may also be the initiative of one institution which wants to involve representatives of various groups from its neighbourhood and its audience in the conceptual work on its programme.
An example of the above is the Programme Council of the Bródno Sculpture Park, which consists of representatives of an art institution (Museum of Modern Art), local authority (representatives of the Culture and Promotion Department of the Targówek District Authority and councillors), local institutions (Ogród Jordanowski children’s playground, Czytelnia Naukowa reading room), head of the District Commission for Social Matters representing the point of view of NGOs and initiator of the Park – artist Paweł Althamer. A multi-member Council as the actual governor of the Sculpture Park takes decisions on artistic projects to be undertaken. An ideal programme council should also include local activists and people representing the world of nature.
Entering into cooperation with other institutions, organisations and groups may also have a physical and, at the same time, financial dimension, the result of which would be reduced carbon footprint of the projects carried out. What is meant here is, of course, sharing, exchanging and reducing production with individual products.. (see: EVENT PRODUCTION, PRODUCTION: MATERIALS).
You can share your space and make it available for other entities. You can share your equipment and furnishings e.g. tables, chairs, multimedia equipment, exhibition infrastructure and elements of set design, temporary architecture. To enable this it would be a good idea to create an internal catalogue of assets, just as Zachęta National Art Gallery in Warsaw did. The next step would be to create a Central Catalogue / Store of Assets, which would make it possible for municipal institutions and organisations to share items or elements of set design. This idea was taken up by Spółdzielnia Kultury in Warsaw. The repository is mainly devoted to cultural centres, libraries, NGOs, informal groups and groups of residents. In order for it to develop, larger institutions should join this platform, too.
You can also share your guests, especially foreign ones. You can share the costs of their travel to a given city, both take advantage of the effort associated with travelling and reduce carbon footprint. This requires institutions to have a conscious attitude to programming based on cooperation rather than competition. You can also share digital services, such as platforms for online meetings.
Cooperate with institutions and entities operating within culture, but not only. Try cooperating with environmental movements as well and creating climate coalitions. Initiatives involving multiple entities will be more efficient in demanding changes in legal regulations. The obligation to respect environmental indicators when running various social activities should constitute a common goal.
Partnerships with environmental movements
Invite activist groups or environmental movements to become involved in the common conceptual work. This is an important and inclusive tool because on the one hand, it enriches our programme with relevant content and ensures high quality presentation and on the other, it gives the floor to other, less audible groups or movements. This makes conscious use of the symbolic capital which every cultural institution has at its disposal. It also gives very real support to the topic or problem which a given group or movement is concerned about. As far as art is concerned, an example of multi-entity cooperation may be the exhibition ‘Magical Engagement’ carried out at the Municipal Gallery Arsenał in Poznań. The exhibition gave the floor to the eco-movements Obóz dla Puszczy (Camp for Białowieża Forest) and the Wild Carpathians Initiative, on equal footing with the curators, artists and activists.
Coalitions for climate
You can also build alliances with other institutions and organisations associated with culture. You do not have to start off by setting up an intercity network with the most important cultural institutions. It is much better to start with a narrower but deeper local collaboration. It is easier then to find time and space to work out common goals and values, and define directions of action. One of the most inspiring coalitions of culture-for-climate networks is Manchester-based MAST.
Cultural institutions and organisations from Brno have also set up a coalition for climate and are calling the city authorities to declare a climate emergency [https://www.kultura-klima-brno.cz/]. Cultural and arts institutions from Prague create a network and proclaim climate emergency. In their manifesto, they emphasise that culture and the arts share the responsibility for the ecological and climate state of the world. They point out the need to fundamentally change how institutions are run. [http://umeniproklima.cz/].
Apart from making declarations and working with your institution for change, you can join working groups with a wide range. An example of such a group is ‘Wikipedia for climate’ which is supported by the portal Nauka o klimacie (Climate Science). As we know, Wikipedia is a basic source of knowledge for nearly everyone. Therefore, the reach of well-written entries for ecological and climate crisis will be really significant.
As institutions, we can also support climate movements. While making its first exhibition, the newly set-up Virtual Museum of the Anthropocene decided that the proceeds from the exhibition and the accompanying events will go to the Wild Carpathians Initiative. This means that all the funds donated during a voluntary collection will be handed over to the Wild Carpathians Initiative, which protects the trees of the Carpathian forest from logging.
Exerting influence on regulations
When working in a partnership, network or other community to minimise the effects of the climate crisis, it is worth setting increasingly ambitious goals. With your attitude and actions, demand changes to regulations in city and municipality offices and actively participate in creating local environmental policies. Finally, influence trends and change the law on a national scale. This stage requires a lot of willpower and commitment, so act together and do not get discouraged by failures.