Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why is it important to involve the youngsters and volunteers - some reflections on the study trip to Roskilde (Denmark)

Following the Action Plan of the project KA425 which covers a certain effort to be undertaken to collect the best practices and relevant experiences accumulated in the Nordic countries in the field of education and training of cultural managers, the representatives of the KRIMEL PetrSU, took part in a study trip to Roskilde, 3-8 July, 2013, that made it also possible to attend the last 3 days of the Roskilde Festival 2013.

There is no need to say that the Roskilde Festival can itself be a worthwhile object for research and studying. Established in 1971 as a small / local event, it grew up to be the biggest and most prestigious outdoor music festival in Scandinavia, having seen the likes of U2, The Kings, Prince, Guns N’ Roses down the years, also Rihanna, Metallica and Slipknot performing in 2013. Annually the Roskilde Festival attracts thousands of visitors and tourists from all over the world. The inhabitants of Roskilde are very much dependent on the Festival, which is the main driving force for the economic well-being of a whole municipality.

The reason to make a study trip to Roskilde has been multifold. On the one hand, the Roskilde Business College has a reputation of an advanced educational institution offering a variety of programmes / courses which develop students’ skills and expertise in mastering the creation and management of events. On the other hand, the Roskilde Festival, being one of the best known “products” of the creative industries in the European North, might be seen as a good example for KA425. The Roskilde Business College and the Roskilde has been successfully cooperating for a number of years, and both of them accumulated valuable experience in event organization and management, sustainable regional development and cultural tourism.

The Roskilde Business College, which hosted the Russian visitors, organized the seminar “Sustainable Event Management and volunteer coordination – and backstage tour at Roskilde Festival.” The seminar consisted of two parts: two-day workshop and walking tour at Roskilde Festival area. The workshop was dedicated to the management issues in culture on the example of Roskilde Festival, and to the technologies of coordination and motivation of volunteers.

As a special focus of a study-trip has been on the best practices in the sphere of volunteer training and coordination the Russian visitors received an opportunity to meet with and listen to the volunteer leaders in charge for management of volunteers serving the various tasks at the festival. During the “backstage tour”, offered by the Roskilde Festival on a commercial basis, the visitors from KRIMEL witnessed how the various festival issues, such as the safety measures, PR and media coverage, ticketing and cleaning, and many other, have been handled by the volunteers.

The most striking thing at Roskilde Festival was that it had more than 30 000 (!) volunteers. (For the comparison it is only 20 000 volunteers serving the World University Games in Kazan 2013). The Roskilde Festival volunteers take part in implementation of different tasks of different levels. It was emphasized that large part of volunteers has many years of experience at Roskilde Festival and spend their annual holidays there. Many do it with their families. And some of the volunteers come from the foreign countries.

In Roskilde this small army of volunteers is grouped, using the military terminology, into 8 large brigades, each consisting of between 3000 and 5000 volunteers. Each brigade, responsible for a particular service area at the Festival, is chaired by 2 volunteer leaders who report only to the Head of the Festival Organising Committee.

The Roskilde Festival has a unique system of well-organized work with volunteers. All of them pass an examination and receive instructions. Every volunteer has its group with a manager who is responsible for decision making and who should report to a supervisor. The Supervisors inform about the situation the respective Volunteer Leader. This is a multistage hierarchy, which is under control of the Organising Committee of Roskilde Festival.

The Russian visitors were curious on what makes the people living in the Nordic (wealthy) countries to volunteer. What makes a person, who has other regular and time-consuming assignments, such as running a career, raising family, not to mention taking care of aging parents, going to the gym, and keeping up with e-mail, to work, at least, 32 hours in addition to the hours spent for training, introductions, instructions at the Roskilde Festival? Only a selfish human desire to get a free ticket or/and access to the after parties or backstage zones where the music stars or other celebrities might appear? No, that’s not the case of Roskilde. The volunteers coming to Roskilde are truly committed, as they are willing to help create something and make a difference – that makes up the festival.

The Roskilde Business College and Roskilde Festival have worked together for three years to create a training course titled “Project Management in Practice” for volunteer leaders. A total of more than 75 volunteer leaders have so far attended the course, equivalent to 10 ECTS of the bachelor’s programme.

The pointed training course has contributed to the development of a model for the management of volunteers, which is also used for self-management and managing people who manage themselves. A key challenge with managing volunteers is that only positive sanctions are available, since the negative, such as reducing salary, transferring the employee or firing the employee have no effect, as volunteers are not hired in a normal sense. The trick is to find a balance between administrative management and communicative leadership.

But what stimulates people to become volunteers? Having returned from Roskilde, the representatives of KRIMEL say that the volunteers are inspired by many things, including but not limited to:
  • A well-respected line in CV getting extra points in the eyes of a potential employer; Adding volunteer experience to a resume shows a commitment to helping others or to working in a particular field;
  • Working side by side with professionals, enhancing one’s network of professional contacts;
  • Social communication – the volunteers have fun together; find friends and boy-/girlfriends;
  • Professional ambitions – people, especially the youngsters, receive an opportunity to get work experience and training in different professional spheres;
  • Ownership and participation – people become a part of great movement; they think “it is because of me”.

Undoubtedly, there are always those who do not share the original values, beliefs and ethics of volunteerism, and those who make themselves inspired by an idea to get a free ticket. And the Roskilde Festival is not an exception in this case, thought those few pseudo volunteers are never invited to come back next year.

What concerns KA425, a study-trip to Roskilde made it possible for the Russian visitors to get an inside look and in-depth understanding of how the volunteers are managed at such comprehensive event like the Roskilde Festival. The valuable lessons learnt during 40-year running of the Roskilde Festival would be capitalized and summarized in the training programmes to be designed and run for the culture professionals in the Republic of Karelia and Oulu.

In KA425 the youngsters and volunteers have been selected as special target groups for the project simply because that it is believed their possible input in the cultural process running in the local municipalities is underestimated. The formal and informal groups of youngsters, also the school / college / university students, and volunteers, if engaged in the community cultural life, may contribute significantly to the cultural events running in the peripheral municipalities. The knowledge and expertise transferred from Roskilde might help to create a signal for the youngsters for more commitment, active citizenship and participation in the municipal development, also in the cultural sector.

These best practices and pedagogical models of coordinating and training of volunteers developed at Roskilde should be critically analyzed, and, if possible, transferred to the Republic of Karelia and Oulu. It is envisaged in the KA425 that a brochure containing the best EU practices in the field of festival production and event management will be published in one thousand copies and distributed to all the relevant stakeholders. 

DEnis A. Pyzhikov, KRIMEL PetrSU (Lead partner for the Project KA425) 

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