Development programme and international cooperation as a component of experiencing culture.
Východné pobrežie is a civic association which formally originated in February 2009 but which began to informally create activities under this name in 2006 and 2007. The formalization of the legal statute was associated with a clearer concentrated idea of the portfolio of activities and with plans to obtain resources for carrying them out from public finances and grant and donation schemes.
“Východné pobrežie seeks, renews, creates, sustains, improves and pays heed to the urban character of towns and settlements.” This was the first and is still a valid summary of the vision of the young people who after years of study in different cities and countries returned to their native city of Košice with the goal of using their acquired knowledge and experience for improving the cultural and public life of their birthplace. Our background and education lay in the fields of architecture, film, design and philosophy, and the programme and list of activities we began to vitally carry out corresponded with this.
Up to 2013 we prepared nearly 200 activities/events in which nearly a thousand people cooperated with us, and the outputs could be seen/read/used/enjoyed by more than 19,000 recipients. The activities varied from PechaKucha Nights, a Fórum 13 poschodí discussion on life in panel-building housing estates, through organizing lectures, workshops, surveys and concerts up to even publishing books and albums, operating creative urban games and interventions in public spaces or making videos. This was excellent volume and praiseworthy content for a small unstructured organization permanently under time and financial straits, but at the same time we felt emptied and lagging behind the determined ideas, a decline in the quality of our outputs and a smaller measure of involvement of the founding members of Východné pobrežie. Furthermore, we never had our own space available, where we could concentrate on our production or supplement our budget by building our own bar or offering refreshments.
That’s why in the spring of 2013 we registered for the development programme Escalator, which was organized in Košice by the non-profit organization Košice 2013, which we know today under the name Creative Industry Košice.
Our expectations were simple: to learn what we are doing badly and through systematic steps to correct them. Even before entering the programme we knew that our dependence on grant schemes and unbalanced sources of financing are not sustainable over the long-term, and even in 2012 we radically lowered the number of projects dependent on donations and the total share of money from public funds in the annual budget. Our intuitive approach to subjects and forms were rapidly and fully exhausted, and despite several years of active work and solid results, we were unable to surpass limits and the form of a constantly beginning and forming organization.
Our mentor was Sandy Fitzgerald, an experienced and respected cultural operator from Ireland, known for his work in the structures of the international network of independent cultural centres Trans Europe Halles (TEH).
Key moments of our participation in the Escalator programme in 2013 was an analysis of the current state of the organization and its confrontation with its stated vision, a study stay in Tallinn, Estonia, and the entry of Východné pobrežie to the Trans Europe Halles network.
Analysis confirmed our assumptions that we were working with too many subjects with a notably weak capacity of people. We devoted the second half of 2013 and the Escalator programme to classification and re-evaluation of the activities we had focused on up to that time. From this time we ceased producing the larger part of our outputs, events and activities. Thanks to this we freed up capacity (financial, time, communication) for more complex projects, seeking out relevant partners abroad and from almost being a production organization we gradually began to reshape ourselves into an entity focusing on urban exploration.
The study stay in Tallinn and entry to the Trans Europe Halles network at a TEH Meeting in Marseille are two different forms of international networking. In Tallinn we met with several organizations devoting themselves to very similar subjects as those of Východné pobrežie. Their international contacts strictly followed their affinity in branches or regions and had more the bilateral and multilateral form of a project character, which was changed as needed. Trans Europe Halles on the other hand expands its members at regular intervals; the majority of them have their own space available with a regular programme consisting primarily in cultural presentations. Members intensively exchange knowledge and experience among themselves and enter into projects together. We tried to take the best details from both models and to combine them for our own needs.
We were also admitted to the Escalator programme in 2014. We used both years for intensifying knowledge and awareness about management of the organization and financial and strategic planning, and we tried to expand the possibilities among as many members of Východné pobrežie as possible. We also asked ourselves a very important question about whether to apply for our own space with a daily programme or not. For this purpose we travelled to the Berlin ufaFabrik cultural centre for the seminar Creative Strategies of Sustainability. With mentor Sandy Fitzgerald, however, we came to a common decision that taking care of a property and a production programme could again lead us away from original role – of urban exploration. Therefore, we put off plans for our own building or physical space indefinitely.
Practical results of the Escalator development programme began to appear in years 2014 and 2015. For this reason only about two-fifths of the annual budget of Východné pobrežie is made up of revenues from public sources. The higher portion comes from our own resources, which we obtain by creating products and offering services.
In 2015 we got involved in two international projects.
The main role of the first of them, the 24-month programme Creative Spaces, was to map the conditions of informal groups of young people up to 25 years old, on the basis of which they can create their own places and spaces with creative content. This involved the cooperation of nine organizations from all over Europe; Východné pobrežie beyond the framework of common cooperation also contributed with capacities for documenting video and design of the project’s final outputs.
The second project, Viablity 2.0, is a development programme for people of urban communities and is organized by the foundation Nadace Via in Prague. The 18-month programme combined 16 representatives of organizations from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Thanks to this programme Východné pobrežie found partners in Warsaw and Prague, with which we began to work in December 2016 on development of the project Nemiesta on the new usage of public spaces in cities.
Today, after transformation of the organization, we can clearly name our operating space. Východné pobrežie is devoted to mapping and development of public spaces, public life and active citizenship in the city of Košice and its surroundings. For achieving of these goals diverse instrument are used – presentation forms, publication activities and interventions. Eight years have passed since the formulation of the first vision. That vision is still valid, but its effective fulfilment is possible only now, after many attempts and mistakes and especially completion of two development programmes.
Development programmes and primarily international cooperation and networking are for an organization of the shape and size of Východné pobrežie an essential component of survival and subsequent development.