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Public participation and user engagement in the cultural sector

There are many questions surrounding the debate on public participation in Denmark. On 3 September 2010, the British Council coorganised (with the network Kreative Byer and the Danish Centre for Culture and Experience Economy) an event on the issue.

First Rune Fløe from Høje Taastrup talked about his practical experience of working with user participation, which he started from scratch in the municipality of Høje Taastrup. He found that people did not give the few ethnic minorites any attention - a combination of dissatisfaction on the behalf of the minoritites, language barriers, and the fact that they disagreed with the agenda of the meeting.

Rune and his colleagues started going out to where the people live in order to hear the general minorities' opinions, and engage children from early years in schools to do pratical work (children who normally have a hard time expressing themselves verbally to work instead with creative expression). One example is how they worked on designing refuse bins for their neighbourhood - from idea to implementation - giving a sense of ownership. You can watch a short video here.

The second presentation, by Mogens Holm, Director of Taastrup Teater, was around the cultural institution's role in the neighbourhood. Some years ago, they worked with the British Council on audience development, and began to learn about institutional racism and were inspired by the experience in the UK of how to deal with such issues. A key element in their success was networking; building relationships take time "at least four years (one election cycle)".

The third presentation was by Alice Casey from NESTA. She talked about her work in NESTA's Lab and presented two case studies: