Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Training of cultural managers in north-west Russia - lessons learnt in project KA425

The development of cultural and creative industries (CCI) has been a topic in policy discussions for over several decades now. The approaches to CCI have been gradually broadened and the understanding of its influences has become more complex, but is still evolving. It has been continuously claimed that CCI are among the main drivers to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in most regions and cities. It looks that some regions in North-West Russia have been very good at tapping into this extraordinary potential as a way to promote socio-economic development, while many others have not been making most of this potential.

Judging by the talks of the stakeholders, from both government and industry, there is a desire for quick wins – the magic bullet of a grant, tax cut or promotional campaign that will give them the spurt of growth they want. But what the creative sector really needs is quite different, and more boring. The relevant decision-makers talk about the things that most excite them: how to encourage more risk taking and an entrepreneurial culture; the importance of visionary business leaders; and of course, the constant refrain that we need new business models. But do we really need these?

It appears that we need the things that policymakers and business groups don’t talk enough about: high quality, affordable education, lifelong learning support for the professionals working in CCI, and continuous professional development programmes. We need businesses and educational providers to work together – not simply to churn out graduates to slot into jobs, but to equip them with the kinds of in depth skills that can be applied and built upon in the workplace.

Nowadays in the North-West Russia emerging markets for leisure and arts business have created demand for the professionals running business in the field of CCI, including but not limited to event managers, media producers, brand and image promoters, cultural tourism specialists. Until late 90-s most cultural managers in the NW Russia were trained during the Soviet period and some still operate with attitudes entrenched in that time. For cultural managers accustomed
to non-competitive total state funding, when all commercial activity was illegal and marketing unnecessary, it is difficult to adapt to a climate of enterprise and funding mixes, or to understand the notion of the mission-driven but self-sustaining organisation.

The “decision-making capacity” needed to run a cultural enterprise was not enabled in the Soviet period because the policy-making process was separated from management, so integrated approaches of policy/marketing/management are not established among senior staff. It is also difficult for young cultural entrepreneurs to acquire this expertise except by trial and error, since a distinction between policy and management is maintained in Russian cultural management courses today. The impact of these problems is possibly more apparent in the Republic of Karelia and in its remote territories, where the cultural sector professionals seem to be far from the latest trends of Moscow and St Petersburg.

Apparently, there are few degree programmes in the higher education institutions working in the NW Russia that would train professionals for the regional CCI. (Petrozavodsk State University is about to get a license in 2014 for a running such a programme for the first time in Karelia). Although, a significant progress has been achieved in capacity building for training of professionals for CCI, there is a lot to be done to ensure that the education and training mechanism is well in place and is “tuned” to support the CCI development.

The partnership between employers and education institutions could be a more powerful alliance for supporting CCI, and for encouraging the fusion of new technologies and creative practices. Accredited courses signal high quality in teaching, inter-disciplinarily and industry-relevance. Alongside these training courses the specific institutions should be acknowledged not only for their excellence in teaching, but also recognising relationships with industry that offer degree programmes and joint research and development projects between academics and business. It seems that the key is to facilitate these partnerships encourage industry professionals to be seconded to education institutions to strengthen these links and encourage innovation, links of best practices and new approaches within academia.

There is clearly no ”one-size-fits-all” strategy in the field of CCI and it is up to each and every region to find its own way based on its own assets, but the author is convinced that the good practices accumulated within the Russian-Finnish cross-border cooperation projects can serve as examples and inspiration for regional and local authorities.

Denis Pyzhikov
Head of development Karelian regional institute of management, economics
and law of Petrozavodsk State University

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