Europa Nostra holds capacity-building workshop on ‘Revisioning Relevance to Become OF/BY/FOR ALL’ with Nina Simon

On 20 April, Europa Nostra held a capacity-building workshop on ‘Revisioning Relevance to become OF/BY/FOR ALL’ with Nina Simon, Founder of the global non-profit OF/BY/FOR ALL that creates digital tools to help civic and cultural organisations become more inclusive, relevant and sustainable. Members of Europa Nostra and winners of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards participated in the interactive virtual workshop, which was a truly vibrant and fruitful experience for all those in attendance (read and share presentation).

Jimmy Jamar, Head of Europa Nostra’s Brussels Office, welcomed the 60 participants. He emphasised the need to “rethink our future, our working conditions and our living conditions” and urged the attendees to question: “What will be the future of our organisations? What can we do better?

Based on lived experiences, the OF/BY/FOR ALL methods are aimed at making an organisation’s target communities feel seen and heard, generating a sense of ownership and encouraging participation in an authentic and effective manner. This type of participation is an accelerator for change towards a more inclusive, diverse and equal society. Experimentally launched in 2018, the OF/BY/FOR ALL Change Network programme now involves over 80 museums, libraries, parks, theatres and non-profit organisations, each striving to become of, by and for their divers.

Connecting with us from Santa Cruz in California, Nina Simon began by presenting the necessity of the initiative and discussed some evocative examples and ideas to start thinking about during the interactive workshop. Participants were then encouraged to use their imaginations to think of ways in which a fictional organisation could be more inclusive of a community it has not traditionally been associated with or been representative of, and considering how this might apply to their own organisations.

Nina Simon’s tangible strategies for becoming more relevant and inclusive helped lay out concrete ways forward, in order to re-vision organisations and the relationships with communities that matter the most to our collective futures.

In light of the world’s ongoing crises, Simon expresses the need to rethink how we lead, create, fundraise, programme, and engage with our audiences. There is a great need to understand how we can “individually and organisationally react to major cataclysmic events” as Simon explains. She asks us not to assume that we know what our communities want or need, but instead to de-programme ourselves and ensure our organisations are representative OF communities, curated BY communities and made FOR communities.

Nina Simon gave concrete examples of organisations who are members of the Change Network: an online programme within OF/BY/FOR ALL which assists organisations by providing an intentional framework to become more inclusive, equitable and relevant. The South Jersey Cultural Alliance in the United States transitioned their board to one which was at least half people of colour, making their institution a better representation OF their community. In Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom, Techniquest created partnerships throughout their neighbourhood in order to co-create programmes BY locals. At the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam in The Netherlands, brand new programmes were introduced, including the production of a Turkish talk show, in order to be FOR ALL in their community. Each of these examples illustrate how the powerful OF/BY/FOR ALL formula has enabled real change within these organisations and meaningful impact on the people they are meant to serve.

Breakout sessions encouraged meaningful conversations between cultural organisations, asking representatives: ‘What do you choose to change?’, ‘Who do you commit to involve?’ and ‘What assets can you share?’. Attendees were encouraged to put into practice the values and methods presented throughout the workshop when rethinking the future of their own organisations. The workshop event was a resounding success of learning, laughter and cooperation, echoed by the digital applause and praise among the participants.

Europa Nostra offered this workshop to its members and winners of the European Heritage Awards / Europa Nostra Awards in the framework of its Network project ‘Sharing Heritage – Sharing Values’ implemented in partnership with the European Commission and co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.

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