Looking back at the NPDC panel discussion “Sustainability and new cooperation formats”

On 11 November 2021 the 8th International NDPC Cultural Forum was held online and onsite in Saint-Petersburg. The topic of this year’s Forum was “The COVID-19 Era- Breakthroughs and Possibilities of Creative Industries” and it invited to reflect about new ways of collaboration, professional competencies, and the creative and culture industries (CCI) potentials in the era of Covid-19 and in the sustainability shift. The extract of the NDPC panel discussion is available now! 

The NDPC panel discussion “Sustainability and new cooperation formats” considered the CCI in relation to the issues of sustainability: What is the role and contribution of the creatives to sustainable development?  The discussion gathered experts in cultural and creative industries and museum field: Inga Surgunte (Head of the Sustainable Development projects at the Latvian Museum Association, Latvia), Ugis Zanders (Priority area Officer at Council of the Baltic Sea States, Sweden), Prof. Marina Matetskaya (Researcher at National Research University, Higher School of Economics, Russia), Anna Porse Nielsen (CCI expert, CIO Seismonaut, Denmark), Živile Diawara (Chair of the Board, National Association of Creative and Cultural Industries, Strategy manager at the Art factory  “Loftas”) and Anna Yalova (Deputy Director for development, Manege Central Exhibition Hall, Russia). The discussion online was moderated by Dace Resele (Head of Secretariat, Northern Dimension Partnership on Culture) and onsite – by Ekaterina Sachkova (Director of Creative Industries Agency, Russia). The panelists shared their insights on topical changes in the CCI field, emerging trends and found new insights to synergies between different stakeholders. We looked at concrete examples about inspiring initiatives and innovative cross-sectoral projects, which enhances the understanding regarding CCI’s relation to sustainable development. 


Inga Surgunte pointed out that sustainable development goals (SDG) give the CCI sector a very clear plan of interconnectedness with the world on all major levels. They are also a good base of tools to monitor, to measure and to develop CII activities. She also underlined three layers of operative thinking about memory institutions (and their partners) in relation to sustainability: 

First layer – the awareness that we (memory institutions) are physical organizations with real, considerable environmental impact and there is a real need to think about sustainability on basic impact practical things (heating, gender balance in recruitment strategies etc.)  

The second level – content and the whole philosophy of sustainable development. Ability to see the content of culture, design and creative industries from different perspectives. What kind of consumption patterns do we promote? What kind of behaviors and attitudes do we nourish?  Who do we represent? Who do we serve, who is included, who is excluded? These questions are very overarching and can be asked by any actor in this field and they give a different base for future projects.  

Nevertheless, when talking about the third layer, Surgunte also highlighted the danger of instrumentalizing arts and culture by telling CCI to operate within the SDG’s framework. She emphasizes that losing the art’s intrinsic values should not be risked: “Art should transform us, it should keep us awake, it should keep us critical. Not only within this framework, but we should be able to think through, question things and perceptions we meet every day, including the concept of sustainable development. It’s also arts and culture who should keep questioning: Is this concept still relevant? Is this our duty to boost this development and growth constantly? Is this still relevant? Is this really the framework we all want to be in?” 

She highlighted arts and wellbeing as a good example of collaborations, where two different sectors have been able to get interconnected and integrated. Surgunte also emphasizes that it did not happen overnight, but the positive impact of arts and culture has always been recognized, evidence created, and knowledge has been growing. Lately in the last years, the sectors have created ways to communicate about these impacts, and financial structures have been found.  

Ugis Zanders pinpointed that the CCI’s can operate as a language which communicates SDGs to the general public and address to other industries, so that they also could integrate the SDGs in their daily lives. At the same time CII’s have to recognize where they stand and access what they are doing, because they already are doing a lot of things that already help going towards SDGs, but those actions have not been recognized.  Also, when thinking about sustainability the younger generation’s perspective needs to be taken in consideration and CCI’s are a very good point and platform where the engagement with youth could be developed. 

Prof. Marina Matetskaya emphasized that creative leaders are influencers who set the rules of business communication, because cultural projects involve communication on different levels – horizontal communication, intersectional communication and so on. I think creative leaders are leaders of change. And huge work done by cultural institutions and everyone who represents the creative sector – NGOs, individual entrepreneurs, they demonstrated new technologies, formats of working, of perception, of translating meanings and preserving important models of behavior, formats of communications. I think that when we talk about research, this two-year period of pandemics will yield huge results, it will yield new technologies, new models and new behaviors that will be mastered or created by creative industries. I would like to emphasize that creative leaders remain innovators and changemakers in the contextual sense and in the sense of implementing projects,” she concludes. 

Anna Porse Nielsen emphasized that it is particularly important that we understand the interconnectivity in art, culture, and creativity as drivers for innovation and business development: “Those two things go together, so you cannot sort of separate them and say: now we want to invest in creativity, because we have to innovate. You have to do both: invest and to recognize the huge potential there is in creativity, culture and art as drivers for innovation. And not just financial innovation, but also societal innovation, because I think that we need culture and creativity much more than we ever did before to understand ourselves and the world around us. And because we live in a time we have climate crisis, which is enormous, we have movements such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter and so on. The problems that we are facing right now as a global society are just so complex. So, we can’t just solve them in our countries, we can’t solve them with our normal toolbox, we really have to look cross-sectorial. 

Anna Yalova adds that modern museums become multifunctional centers and do a lot of work also in multicultural and interdisciplinary contexts. She also pointed out: “They (SDGs) relate to the social sphere, environment protection, governance, and state interests, but I’m deeply convinced that it is the cultural relations, cultural leaders, creative industries that can be intermediaries who will provide smooth introduction of those SDGs into our lives. A lot of those SDGs will change our mentality, our habits, our way of life, but it is the culture that can explain why this will be done and what steps, what decisions should be made on the fingertips to introduce those technologies. We already see shifts in this sphere, we see how the world is changing and how we become part of these changes. 

Živile Diawara pointed out that it is extremely important to accept that CCI’s are an important part of economics that distributes a lot of value not only directly, but also through collaborations with different sectors. For example: design. It is present in all projects and creates added value to all products and services and moreover – design contributes for the access to other sectors. Also, in her view, culture is a powerful key to social problems, because in different circumstances we must be even more creative and innovative, thus, in Diawara’s opinion, there should be fundings and programmes for creativity in quite diverse ways. Besides all these collaborations one of main focuses should be culture-goes-digital. Because of all pandemic restrictions and how currently it is possible to access culture, CCI’s must prepare for these circumstances. Also, she points out: “All this digitalization is not only for pandemic, but also for broadening the audience, because it is possible to reach people from all regions and other countries etc.” 

Our sincere gratitude to all the amazing panelists, participants.  

Annual Forum was organized jointly with the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.