Culture and the SDGs

enhancing creative cross-sectoral collaborations

by Pravali Vangeti

A true arts leadership retreat, from where you can leave with new inspiring connections
and lots of food for thought
,” says Matic Gajšek,
reflecting on his week together with the Culture and the SDGs cohort in Istanbul.

The Culture and the SDGs cohort © Culture and Sustainability Lab

Culture and the SDGs: enhancing creative cross-sectoral collaborations, a capacity-building training and a creative residency organized by the Culture and Sustainability Lab, gathered together thirteen* professionals from around the world in Istanbul, Turkey from 12 to 16 September 2022, to engage in collaborative discussions and explorations on cross-sectoral collaboration models for inclusive sustainable development, encouraging professionals from other sectors (such as education, environment, and policy) to engage more actively with the culture sector.

*16 participants were selected, three of whom couldn’t reach Istanbul due to visa consular issues and other constraints.

Setting the context

Selected from a pool of over 1600 applications, the participants represented a wide range of social, cultural, and professional contexts, all of which resulted in a truly diverse discourse. To set a common stage for this international cohort, the first phase of the programme started consisted of two online sessions, with experts from the CCIs and other sectors – such as policy, education, and environment, providing their interventions and insights on the need for cross-sectoral collaborations.

Ms Anupama Sekhar, Director of Policy and Engagement, the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA), provided her reflections on International Cultural Policy

Among others, the participants explored the concept of eco-civilization, learned about sustainable practices in the performing arts industries, looked at the role of culture in the education sector, and critically analyzed the current sustainable development agenda.

Online Session 1

Online Session 2

An immersive cultural exchange

After their elaborate exchanges online, the participants arrived in Istanbul in the second week of September 2022, to begin their in-person residency. For quite a few, it marked either their first international travel since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic or the first in-person gathering in a professional setting – reiterating further the acute need for us to experience and share our culture, physically.

Opening day of the Residency at the Austrian Cultural Forum © Saidakamal Ikramov

Generously hosted by the Austrian Cultural Forum Istanbul (ACFI), the programme took place in the historic premises of the Yeniköy Palace, overlooking the Bosphorus.

A meditative morning session conducted at the heritage premises of the ACFI by the programme participant Razcel Jan Salvarita © Pravali Vangeti

Over the course of the five days, the participants revisited and reimagined their understanding of the CCIs, creative economy, and the Sustainable Development Goals, through peer-learning-based presentations and breakout discussions. These exchanges were further supported by provocations and interventions from experts in the field.

A session on creating a sustainable and ethical ecosystem for artists in the SDGs by Lisa Russel © Pravali Vangeti

Through their initial days of reflections, the participants identified areas of opportunities arising from the currents the gaps in the system, such as the need for capacity building, safeguarding of artistic freedom, and support for creative entrepreneurship, among others. Delving deeper into the design thinking methodology, they spent two days working in groups, to develop open collaboration models to address current development challenges through the lens of culture.

Participants engaged in brainstorming and group work © Culture and Sustainability Lab

Fuelling their creative juices was the city of Istanbul, providing the perfect cultural confluence of the East and the West. The cohort explored the city by land and sea, and even indulged in the culinary delights of Turkey in the heart of the Çırağan Palace Kempinski, in Besiktas.

Participants at the Pera Museum & dinner at the Tuğra Restaurant in the Çırağan Palace Kempinski İstanbul © Culture and Sustainability

On the final day of the residency, the participants presented their collaboration ideas to the wider cohort, for their feedback and suggestions. Ranging from community-based collectives of social actors, to employing gaming for mental health, the participants truly harnessed the potential of culture to propose development solutions across various spheres. They will continue to develop this network and their project proposals will be hosted on the Culture and the SDGs website until 2025.
For more information on the participant-led collaboration proposals, please click here.

Group presentations by the participants © Pravali Vangeti

Through the Programme, I was able to meet an amazing group of talents with diverse
backgrounds with like-mindedness and affinity in tackling the development issues through
culture as "means." I hope that we can expand our network to make a positive impact from
the ground-level on the possibility of utilizing culture to revisit what sustainable development
provides to the society.” – Aya Miyazaki

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This project is the result of the collective effort and collaboration of a wide range of organizations and professionals and the Culture and Sustainability Lab would like to offer its sincere thanks to everyone who has brought it to fruition. Our gratitude extends in particular to 
project team: Aleksandra Bajde, Pravali Vangeti, Saidakmal Ikramov, Nis Ashila Ghaisani (with the kind support of Kai Brennert) 
mentors: Katelijn Verstraete and Sudebi Thakurata 
facilitator: Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco 
experts: Anupama Sekhar, Jordi Pascual, Violeta Bulc, Julia Lagahuzère, Anaïs Roossens, Jyoti Hosagrahar, Lisa Russell, Johanna Kouzmine-Karavaïeff (Suo) 
participants: Magdalena Ayerra, Sneha Bhattacharyya, Alejandra Linares Figueruelo, Shatha El Sherif, Matic Gajšek, Liyuan Gao, Nadia Jmal, Aya Miyazaki, Nadia Pérez, Razcel Jan Salvarita, Virginia Sanfelice, Sifiso Skenjana and Marta Szadowiak
venue: Austrian Cultural Forum Istanbul 

About the project

This project was funded by the European Union through the Cultural Relations Platform and hosted by the non-profit organization Culture and Sustainability Lab. The residency programme of the project was organised with the kind support and collaboration of the Austrian Cultural Forum Istanbul. The Cultural Relations Platform is an EU-Funded project that connects cultural practitioners worldwide for dialogue, exchange and cooperation. It also provides expertise to the European Union (EU) in the field of international cultural relations. The Platform is implemented by a consortium of organisations: the Goethe-Institut Brussels (the consortium leader); the European Cultural Foundation; the International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts and the University of Siena.