POGON Zagreb Center for Independent Culture and Youth

POGON Zagrebački centar za nezavisnu kulturu i mlade

At this conference, POGON is represented by: Tomislav Medak (Chair of the Program Council, President of the Multimedia Institute, Zagreb) & Zvonimir Dobrović (Member of the Program Council, President of Domino, Zagreb)
Other members of the Program Council will also be present at the conference: Nikola Pandurić (Council’s Deputy Chair; President of Croatian Youth Network), Ivan Kralj (Council Member, President of Mala Performerska Scena, Zagreb), Dea Vidović (Council’ Member, President of Kurziv, Zagreb)
POGON will be also represented by the staff: Emina Višnić, Director; Sonja Soldo, Project Coordinator; Nenad Barić, Program Realization Manager; Ruža Gajić Guljašević, Administrator
In addition, many representatives of organizations involved in establishing POGON will be present at the conference.

Kneza Mislava 11, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Contact: Emina Višnić, (Director), Sonja Soldo (Program Coordinator)

cultural center (arts and other cultural activities);
public institution (governed by public law), established jointly in 2009 by a network of cultural and youth organizations formalized in an alliance (Alliance Operation City) and by the City of Zagreb

POGON (which means both “drive” and “production plant” in English) is a hybrid cultural institution, based on a new model of public-civil partnership, established and managed jointly by Alliance Operation City (local network of youth and cultural associations / NGOs) and the City of Zagreb (municipality). This hybrid model provides long-term sustainability as the result of a balance between public financing and supervision on one hand and independent programming and participatory decision-making on the other.

The main purpose of POGON is to provide basic services and manage the infrastructure for cultural and youth programs (contemporary arts and culture; related social, theoretical, and policy activities; various youth activities). Its venues, equipment, and temporary office may be used free of charge for all non-profit activities. At the same time, POGON is also developing its own activities, currently focusing on international cooperation.

Pogon Jedinstvo - KONTEJNER: Extravagant Minds


POGON is jointly managed by its co-founders and by the Director. Users are included in the decision-making process through the Program Council, a five-person coordinating body elected by member organizations of Alliance Operation City. Additionally, all interested organizations may participate in debates concerning the management model and major changes.

The founders monitor the Center’s work, make the important decisions about its main functions and general development, approve the Center’s statutory and other regulatory instruments, and appoint the director.

  • The primary role of the Alliance is to bring together organizations that work in the field and to organize programs in the Center. In this way, it can secure program funding from a variety of domestic and foreign sources. By joining the Alliance, all organizations who wish to participate in the decision-making process may do so. However, Alliance membership is not a prerequisite for using the Center’s resources.
  • The role of the City of Zagreb is to provide the necessary spaces and financial resources for the Center’s basic functioning and the implementation of its program. The City also has control over the use of city property and monitors the work of the Center as a public institution.

This ensures that the overall functioning of the Center is jointly governed by both founders, while control over programming is in the hands of those who use its resources, i.e. those who carry out programs in the Center’s venues.

The two main internal governance bodies are the Director and the Program Council.

  • The Director is the head and the official representative of the Center. Following a public tender, he or she is selected and appointed by the founders, who are also responsible for supervising his or her work. The Director is appointed for a term of 4 years. The Director is responsible for the overall work of the Center, and manages the Center in cooperation with the founders, Program Council, employees, and other associates.
  • The Program Council is an expert advisory body composed of representatives of civil society organizations in charge of defining rules and procedures for the use of resources (the model), program orientation, and long-term program plans. It also arbitrates in case of a complaint against the program coordinator’s decisions. The Programming Council has 5 members, who are elected by the members of the Alliance Operation City for a 2-year term.

Pogon Jedinstvo - Frozen Images

Organizational openness:

  1. Participation in decision-making – POGON’s structure ensures that the Alliance with its member organizations has an equal role in managing POGON. Furthermore, POGON regularly pursues consultations with stakeholders and organizes public discussions about the modalities of its operation.
  2. Equality in access – POGON’s resources are accessible to all the users and their programs on equal conditions; our users are: NGOs, informal groups, artists, and art organizations, individuals organizing cultural and youth programs (contemporary arts and culture; related social, theoretical, and policy activities; various youth activities).
  3. Transparency, simplicity, and flexibility in programming – programming rules and procedures are clear and accessible online. Anyone who needs to use POGON resources may find all the details on our website, including the calendar, a standard contract, pricing etc.. There are no privileged users, and every user must go through the same simple procedure of applying through an online form. No aesthetic criteria or programs are as such more important than others. This entire model was designed through a consultation process with the sector (youth and cultural organizations) and is modified based on experience.
  4. Partnership and collaboration – The very core of our model is the cooperation of different groups and organizations. Alongside the founding civil-public partnership, POGON is based on a partnership of two complementary civil society sub-sectors – culture and youth. This partnership is a result of joint values, shared interests, and complementary needs. Furthermore, we are building relations of trust with our users by trying to support their programs as much as possible.

Venue/s / resources:

POGON’s infrastructure is meant to be polycentric. POGON was initially planned to run venues (preferably former industrial sites) in at least three different locations in the city, making it able to provide a variety of services and spaces to serve different activities and formats, such as: spaces for cultural events, information and education center, meetings, production residencies.

At the moment, the Center operates two locations:


  • located on the Sava riverfront
  • former water-pump factory
  • 2 main halls (80 and 450 m2)
  • officially opened in September 2009, although previously used by independent cultural actors in a variety of semi-legal and illegalized modalities
  • hosting various events: exhibitions by local and international artists, international festivals of visual and performing arts, concerts and parties, theater and dance shows…

POGON Mislavova

  • located in the city center
  • office space with a conference room, altogether 120 m2
  • operational since June 2009
  • used as the Center’s office, a temporary office for NGOs, and a space for informal educational programs, public presentations, and meetings.

POGON has 4 employees: Director Emina Višnić (full time), Project Coordinator Sonja Soldo (part time), Program Realization Manager Nenad Barić (part time) and Administrator Ruža Gajić Guljašević (part time).

POGON is financed through an operational grant from the City of Zagreb’s Office for Education, Culture and Sports as part of the City’s Youth Program. Initially the promised grant was €136,000, but this was later reduced to €95,000. This grant allows POGON only ten months of minimal operational functions (running costs and salaries, which are approximately 30-40% lower than salaries in Zagreb’s other cultural institutions) and minimal servicing of programs.

Programs in POGON’s venues are financed by the members of Alliance Operation City and other users. We estimate user-side annual investment into programs at POGON at approximately €200,000–€250,000.

Budget: less than €100,000

Hosting: In principle, any NGO, informal group, or individual organizing cultural and youth programs (contemporary arts and culture; related social, theoretical, and policy activities; various youth activities) may use POGON’s resources free of charge for nonprofit activities, as long as these activities are in accordance with POGON’s values. User wishing to sell drinks for their events (such as parties, concerts, or similar) pay part of the running costs, depending on audience numbers.

Services: Other than our venues and equipment, and basic promotion for programs, we currently do not provide any additional services.

International collaboration:
International collaboration is one of the foundations for our future development. We therefore aim to be present in various international, primary European, forums that deal with arts and culture and their development.
Our goal is also to develop stable artist-in-residence programs and artist exchanges. Currently, we are collaborating with Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart.
We are interested in establishing long-term connections and developing projects with cultural centers and other organizations, in particular concerning the sustainability and development of independent arts and culture on one hand and the greater involvement of youth in various public activities on the other.

Pogon Jedinstvo - Studio for Contemporary Dance / Oliver Frljić: History of Seeing

Participation: Since POGON is not producing its own programs at the moment, we do not organize such activities.

Gathering citizens: We support, participate at and/or partner at such events organized either by our founder, Alliance Operation City, or by other organizations (public debates, conferences, consultations that primarily concern cultural and youth policies)

Municipality: Since the municipality is one of our two co-founders, we are in constant contact with the City administration, which we regularly meet and communicate with concerning legal, technical, and financial issues. As an institution co-owned by the City, we have an operational grant (a special item in the City budget), covering most of our running costs. Since we were established during the economic crisis and because our activities are not conventionally representational, our budget is rather small compared to other city institutions. Also, because of previous antagonisms with the political structures that preceded the founding of the Center, there is a lack of trust between the scene and current power structures. This is a serious obstacle for the sustainable and adequate long-term development of the Center in particular and of the independent cultural and youth scene in general.

Advocacy / activism:

POGON has been involved in advocacy and lobbing actions on local and youth cultural policies and it supports Operation City and other actors in their advocacy activities.

It is important to stress that POGON is a direct result of the advocacy and activism of previous years. It was initiated by a coalition of NGOs consisting of two national networks (one of independent culture (Clubture Network), the another made up of youth organizations (Croatian Youth Network)), the local collaborative platform Zagreb – Cultural Kapital of Europe 3000, and three independent cultural venues (Mochvara, Attack!, and MaMa). The coalition started an exhaustive advocacy process in early 2005, a few months before the local elections. For the first time, the needs of independent culture and youth in Zagreb were articulated, publicly discussed, and stated in a policy document signed by the future political decision-makers. In parallel to public discussions, media activities, and protest actions, we organized a series of events, Operation:City, which every year focused on a different specific issue important for the urban development of the contemporary city. Through various formats and forms of artistic expression, it temporarily occupied different abandoned locations and, among other things, promoted the idea of a cultural center on which POGON was modeled. After the first Operation:City in September 2005, when over a period of 10 days one of the few remaining former factory sites that had not fallen prey to the wholesale commercialization of space was temporarily occupied by over 50 programs from more than 30 independent cultural organizations, drawing over 15000 visitors, the city mayor promised to save the industrial site of Badel/Gorica for public use and to create a cultural and youth center there. During the following four years, relations with the City went from reserved cooperation, ignorance, and obstruction, to direct attacks, drastic budget cuts, fights in the media and the shutting down of the cultural club Mochvara. Even so, we did not give up. We continued protesting, and before the last elections the City finally agreed to establish the Center.

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