The award of the title of European Capital City of Culture of 2013 to Košice not only brought benefits in the form of rich cultural offerings and successful investment projects, but also more importantly in the new initiatives and bodies which emerged in the field of the cultural and creative industries. In order for these newly formed organizations and also those which had existed prior to 2013 to develop and flourish, it is necessary for them to constantly educate themselves and also to focus on improving their own professionalism.
The non-profit organization Creative Industry Košice works in the field of creative industry and is primarily focused on cultural players and creative artists, creating suitable conditions for their activities and offering them the possibility of professional development. The organization provides various types of activities including lectures, conferences, workshops and individual programs of professional development, and also offers activities which aim to connect the cultural and creative industry with other sectors.
The Creative Industry Košice Education Program consists of a series of workshops, seminars and lectures. Their content is tailored and selected to take into account the needs of people and organizations working in the culture and creative industries. The program focuses on their professional development and aims to create an educated critical mass. The gradual build-up of a series of professional courses will lead to a professionally accredited program providing follow-up modules, the completion of which will offer a complete portfolio of knowledge and skills necessary for successful functioning and participation in the labour market. The workshops and seminars held to date have covered contemporary topics and have been led by both Slovak and foreign lecturers. A strong emphasis is placed on ensuring that theoretical knowledge can be transferred to the real world by offering education based on practice, primarily through case studies and the examination of successful examples. Among the topics covered to date are project management for creative projects, gamification, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, fundraising, social media and marketing, the basics of financial management, the right to culture, and many more. The education program also takes into account the needs and requirements of the participants themselves, which are determined through feedback from questionnaire surveys. This approach contributes to the creation of the educational programme of Creative Industry Košice itself, not only in terms of content, but also in terms of organization. Events are tailored to the time and financial resources of participants and are thus fully attended.
A further initiative which Creative Industry Košice has introduced relating to education in the creative industry is its partnership in a four year project with Creative Lenses (2015-2019). Creative Lenses helps cultural organizations become competitive and self-supporting. The project brings together international figures from the creative industries to allow them to improve their business models and long-term strategies and to identify the most appropriate models by which non-profit, cultural and artistic organizations can remain resilient and financially independent without being forced to compromise their artistic integrity, mission and values. Creative Lenses provides a means of sharing experience, tools and support mechanisms required for European arts and cultural institutions. Experience is exchanged through cultural forums, conferences, workshops, but also through benchmarking systems and research. Creative Industry Košice is responsible for preparing an online knowledge base, and for developing and testing the Creative Benchmarking System. It is also involved the design of websites, graphics and other digital tools which will help organizations to deepen their knowledge or improve their business models. It also played a role in organizing the Creative Lenses Forum Košice conference, which discussed the factors which make organizations in the cultural and creative sector stronger and more competitive. The forum was focused on working strategies and people who have implemented these strategies successfully, and discussed topics such as business models, value in culture, and innovative approaches to solving everyday problems. The Forum Program was built by combining theoretical knowledge with the practical experience of experts and organizations gained over many years of working in the cultural and creative field. The invited experts gave presentations on the operation and functioning of cultural centres and organizations with a wide range of different strengths, financial strategies and business models. By focusing on the eastern European and specifically the Slovak context, we want to analyse the proven methods and practical models of financing, management, cooperation, partnership, growth and communication and then propose a scenario for the innovation of business models of cultural organizations. At the same time, the program offered participants the opportunity to gain their own practical experience through the Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition workshops.
Another professional program organized by the non-profit organization Creative Industry Košice is the program called Escalator.
Escalator is a highly individualized intensive training program which focuses on developing the creativity, talent and professionalization of people and organizations operating in the cultural and creative industries. The format is unique in that it provides training for selected organizations or individuals with foreign experts with long-term experience in the creative sector. These mentors work with participants all year round on an individual basis which results in the development of an individual training program for each participant- training according to identified needs and problems and addressing their solutions. The training program is typically comprised of consultations, coaching, mentoring, strategic planning, audience development, leadership training, business models, fundraising, collaboration, and others, and, last but not least, study visits and networking. These are an inherent part of the healthy functioning of every organization in the context of the field and the sector in which it operates.
Creative Industry Košice has been organizing Escalator since 2013 and to date 32 organizations have undergone the training program. Escalator was initially focused primarily on Košice, but from 2015 the selection had spread to the whole of Slovakia. The effectiveness of this highly specific program can be assessed from the perspective of the participants themselves, but also from that of the mentors who work with the participants. The key fact is that all participants, without exception, perceive Escalator as having been essential to the growth and direction of their activities, and a finding which is of no less importance to the developers, they also consider it to be of great significance in terms of their personal growth.
The costs involved in running a project which is so demanding in terms of content and organizational requirements are considerably high. Training for a single participant in the Escalator program currently requires funding of €6000 per year, at zero cost to the participant themselves because of the realities of the local environment.
Escalator is one of the major projects of the non-profit organization Creative Industry Košice and, as with other educational activities, it is a tool for fulfilling its vision of making Košice an attractive place to live on account of the quality of culture, the creative environment and the innovations to be found in all areas of life. This can be achieved by educating talented individuals and cultural institutions, increasing their international profile, for example by providing opportunities to foreign stays, improving mobility and organising residential programs.