Exploring Openness 3: Citizens Have the Right to Change Their Own Institutions

The session started and closed with the question on ownership of the institutions. In the case of Riksteatren, the new organizational form started when a theatre director realized the importance of inhabitants getting back the ownership over the city theatre. They have developed an interesting decision making model where 230 member associations and 40.000 members are deciding about the programme. The core question in every decision making about the theatre is how to stay relevant in a global context. Their members are in a constant dialogue with the aim of reaching a consensus, however reaching consensus means becoming dead institution.

If you become dependent from the money of the City or the Ministry, your creative energy is going down. People working in Cultural centre Grad in Belgrade are persuaded of the importance of finding the economical sources of own independency and of sustainability. Also by commercial means like having a bar, a small shop, ticket sail, knowledge, different partnerships…

The problem in Croatia is that there is a strong labour law that is protecting permanent contracts. Those people are running out of ideas, there is the need to employ people for short term contracts that are more flexible and would bring new ideas to the institutions. In the case of city institutions in Croatia, the institutions do not have autonomy, since there is a direct relation between the employees and the employer which is the City. The question occurred who is preventing directors of public institutions to propose better solutions even on the level of the labour law. In the region the issues of lifelong employment in cultural institutions are not approached by the politicians, since those issues are part of bigger social issues. No political party has guts to tackle the syndicates in the moment of crisis when many families are depending on one person having a job in a public institution. This does not have a lot to do with policy making but with buying social peace.

However, the cases from abroad show that different kinds of public institutions are possible and that they can respond better to the needs and the reality of contemporary society. An important element of those institutions is close cooperation with different member associations and individuals in the process of programming, which results in bigger ownership from the side of interested groups and individuals.

In the case of performing arts, the changes will have to occur since there will soon be no more many for financing the repertory theaters. In Belgium and in France they have dissolved repertory theaters because they are costing too much money.

The important point on which all the participants have agreed was that the independents should not support the shrinkage of public institutions. If public institutions will get weaker, all the public sphere will get weaker. However, it is important to protect public sector by restructuring public institutions and not protecting public sector by protecting public institutions as they are. The citizens have the right to change their own institutions. The enlightened people from institutions and from the NGOs should fight for it together.

Prepared by Meta Štular

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