Culturability – Riga style

Tone Skårdal Tobiasson
Posted on
Monday, 30 June 2014

Apps and art. Bikes and beach. Champagne and culture. Dynamics and diversity. Eco and elegant. Floating and fashion. Gaming and goodness. Riga is so the new alphabet of exciting development.

As the Baltic Sea region (and some of us from beyond) met for the third time in Europe’s Capital of Culture 2014 to discuss how to move forward with concrete projects, the Latvian Minister of Culture, Dace Melbarde, opened the two-day workshop by high-lighting culture as a very important resource for sustainable development. “Creative industries is one of the most promising sectors in the Latvian economy,” she expanded and underlined both the export potential and the power of cooperating in the Baltic Sea region, especially when partnerships are forged between sectors that have not earlier cooperated.

This became very pertinent as the workshops developed during the afternoon and the following morning – as the “high impact proposals” picked by the organizers brought together new sectors and people who had not earlier been in on the proposals. Convincing the gaming industry that the textile and fashion sector could be a partner for nudging new behaviour and more sustainable development was just one example of how the new “bed-partners” found potential platforms to work together.

Apps were very much at the forefront of discussions, as Oleg Koefed presented his Urcycles idea of sharing customized bikes around Europe, which was directly related to the #GooDeed app idea – tapping into social media and digital solutions for sharing products and services – based on creative industries. The possible interconnectedness of these two proposals was perhaps the most obvious, but some of the other working-groups found clustering-potential as well. As the NOASS Floating Art Gallery was the setting for the event, the water-theme of the Baltic Sea was further upheld by a visit to Jürmula and the beach – where the sunset was enjoyed accompanied by a glass of bubbly.

As the new “bed-partners” also were encouraged to speed-date during the two days supported by Riga 2014, new possibilities were explored for the three main themes: Artistic and entrepreneurship for sustainable development, Digital and real spaces for creativity/lifestyle and sustainable behaviour/futures and Culture mapping – planning and engaging in sustainable urban-rural development. A main theme surfacing in many discussions with the diverse participants from the Baltic Sea region and a plethora of sectors, was how culture actually can drive sustainable behaviour and be at the forefront for change and economic prosperity. The culture of sharing, rather than amassing and owning – experience and services beyond “stuff”, to note some concrete social developments.   

Reet Aus, the Estonian designer and founder of Trash to trend, presented her current work in Bangladesh with Beximco, bringing left-overs back into production through careful planning. She is in dialogue with some of the biggest fashion stake-holders, but through speed-dating her competence may become a more important resource, which was applauded by among others Michael Lind from Uniforms for the Dedicated. “Integrating big data with citizen involvement has the potential for innovative new solutions,” said Olaf Gerlach-Hansen, from the Danish Cultural Institute, who has led much of the Culturability work, and pin-pointed again the need for cross-sectorial as well as cross-cultural networks.

Which has of course, been the main theme of the Culturability network. As more than 100 people have engaged in the process so far, it has been as Imants Gross said “a tremendous journey” ending up with a box full of ideas which will be further developed before the final workshop in Copenhagen on the 1st and 2nd of October. As we go from retail to “dotail” and sharing models, the IWWIWWIWI (I want what I want when I want it) generation can prosume rather than consume, and become powerful citizens rather than powerless consumers.