Culture Hub Croatia (CHC)
People-centered, independent creative space; in constant evolution, facing and embracing the contemporary challenges. Shaped on the basis of the real needs of the city, it is being built after a 3-year experimentation with the participatory approach at the core. It responds to the needs of the cultural and creative sector and the citizens, providing spaces for work and co-creation, promoting civic engagement and sustainable way of life, allowing everyone to engage in meaningful projects.
Split, south Croatia, Split-Dalmatia County
Dalmatia is mainly focused on unsustainable mass tourism and seasonal activities in city centers. Split, outside of its historical core, especially in the North-Eeastern part is an undefined space, developed rapidly without urban planning leaving some neighbourhoods neglected, without basic infrastructure and identity. The sense that nothing can be changed is predominant which reflects in low citizens’ aspirations. There is a strong need for collectivity and activities that go beyond private spaces. We address this failure of urban life focusing on the peripheral settings in which the situation cannot be fixed in the physical sense, rather only by improving the offer and creating the feeling of proximity. These neighbourhoods need spaces that empower youth and strengthen civic engagement.
Listening to local needs and experimenting is part of our continuous, challenging work, as Split is known for its “mentality” taken as an excuse for being inert. The majority of inhabitants don’t believe in the power they have as citizens. Formal education doesn’t teach us to think critically, share ideas, collaborate. We still need to transmit this to new generations allowing them to learn by doing. However, when people actually care about something they are willing to come together. Targeting issues relevant for the community and offering a free space to engage in a participatory way is part of our strategy. Being independent and outside of the mainstream allows us to use culture as a means for collaboration resulting in raising awareness of the power of democracy and active citizenship.
Our focus is the North-Eastern part of the city with the weakest social cohesion (cca 50 000 inhabitants). Our target groups include our members (40), active civil society organisations, cultural and creative workers, the local community from the selected neighbourhood and the general public. The lack of accessible spaces affects a large number of organizations and young independent artists who are unable to afford their own studios. The lack of good quality cultural offer affects all citizens. By bringing these target groups together we address both of these issues and assure the inclusion of a wide range of opinions. Being independent allows us to reach even the most critical citizens and give them voice through debates, workshops and the co-creation process of the hub from the start.
Prior to the project we did the needs assessment, selected potential neighbourhoods problematic in the social and the urban sense and started mapping many empty buildings without purpose available for rent.
-finalizing mapping; research with inhabitants
-launching large communication campaign
-first set of engagement activities (3 debates with experts, representatives of the local authorities and the inhabitants + co-creation workshops)
-opening of the hub
-creating cultural offer by providing studios for 3-5 artists, exhibition and events space
-launching open calendar to allow everyone to use the hub: inhabitants, NGOs and individuals to address their immediate issues in a creative way (per month: at least 1 workshop, 5 events, 1 exhibition).
Kultivator as a space is the main result in itself. It will be recognized as a dynamic hub in which everyone can get support and co-create with others meaningful projects with social impact. We expect at least 100 people and organisations to be included in the participatory process. We will show that the action and the change are possible if we come together, regardless of the lack of support from local or national governments. Acting without constraints will enable people to think freely, outside of the box, supported by like-minded individuals. This will result in bringing back the feeling of collective, the faith in a better future and the city that we actively shape together. The urban jungle that is the periphery of Split will become a creative ecosystem adapted to its citizens.
Kultivator demonstrates the power of independent spaces and culture to tackle challenges such as civic engagement and democracy. Going beyond the specific enclosed community, through international and especially regional networks, it strengthens democracy by enabling connections and collaborations between diverse actors. This results in better mutual understanding and embracing much needed diversity. In many countries we witness the resistance towards the “other”, however, accepting the diversity is the basis of a tolerant and open society. Many never get a chance to experience or understand cultural differences in their local community. Kultivator is where the differences meet, facilitating interactions with the “other”, with the main aim of showing that the “other” does not exist.
The failure of democracy in Croatia reflects on the shrinking space for civil society. Innovative actions outside of traditional standpoints are marginalized. The potential of the cultural and creative sector for economic or social growth is not valued and not being invested in. Many young motivated individuals left Split for Zagreb or the rest of Europe in search for better opportunities. Our members are these young people who want to contribute back but are feeling helpless and don’t believe in the system. We were one of them. Our motivation is to create an environment in which each of these creative individuals can find its place, feel supported and empowered to change the realities surpassing the negativity and the inefficient system itself. The bottom-up solutions are the way forward.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Promotion and events related expenses (design, video, photo, PR, printing) = 5,000 eur
Personnel costs (4 persons, lump sum fee) = 8,000 eur
Space rental and utility costs (2,500 per month x 10 months, does not involve any construction works) = 25,000 eur
Equipment and office expenses = 4,000 eur
We would like to get the feedback on the clarity of the development strategy, as we have been working on it for a while, but hopefully we are able to transmit our message in a clear way to a wider audience. Any other comments or suggestions are very much welcome!