Source:Małopolski Instytut Kultury w Krakowie, Kraków (2014)
The research project Animation/Education. Possibilities and Limitations of Cultural Education and Cultural Animation in Poland pursued two major aims. The first was to conduct an extensive study of cultural animation and education in Poland: to determine who are cultural animators and educators in Poland; the models of cultural education and animation they prefer and practise, and the aims of such activities; the instruments they use and the scale and temporal logic they act upon; their relations with entities responsible for culture management and its financing, and their collaborators; the recipients and participants in cultural animation and educational activities, the methods and outcomes of their enlistment; the main types of resources at the disposal of entities involved in education and animation, and the obstacles and challenges they encounter in their work. The other aim was to evaluate the Programme of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage ‘Cultural Education’.
The starting point for the project was the repository of grant applications submitted under the MCNH programme ‘Cultural Education’ for 2012, and the main participants were the collective pool of grant applicants. The first stage of research focused on the characteristics and content of undertakings proposed in the applications and the features of applicant entities. The next stages were dedicated to the applicants, broadening understanding of their ways of thinking and activities and of the projects they carried out. The second stage consisted of in-depth telephone interviews and an online survey conducted among animators and educators representing the applicant entities under the Ministry programme, which were then subjected to an in-depth qualitative and statistical analysis. The third stage of research consisted of six case studies of cultural animation programmes in locations across Poland, selected from the pool of projects which were granted MCNH co-financing under the programme. It consisted of research carried out for several days during research visits to the localities where the selected applicant entities are based and where they operate: in-depth interviews with project executants and participants, with representatives of local cultural institutions, of NGOs and local government, development of visual documentation, and also collection and analysis of documentation drawn up by the project authors.
Research findings were collected in four interim reports and one final report. Here are the main conclusions from the project:
- Presence of strong metropolitanisation trends. Educational and animation projects such as those financed under the MCNH programme are developed and executed primarily in Polish regions with large urban agglomerations, and in particular within those agglomerations. Entities in major centres are much more efficient at obtaining funding than those in smaller centres, and they drain people and undertakings from their region. The threat behind this phenomenon is the deepening of social disparities and inequality through subsidised programmes. Metropolitanisation and suburban colonisation is also conspicuous in self-depreciation of own resources by the latter and their assessment through logics of thinking typical for large agglomerations.
- Low level of professionalisation in education/animation and blurred divisions between these fields of activity. Firstly, this is a very comprehensive category; applicants seek a capacious, all-purpose formula, while executants of those activities are people of various professions who receive different remuneration. Secondly, it is a field with a poorly delineated border from the world of art and arts education. Thirdly, cultural education and animation are rarely the sole field of activity for the persons and institutions involved in them; in many cases, they are practised as a hobby or on a semi-voluntary basis. An animator often turns out to be a positive madcap or professional amateur, and an efficient organiser. Of considerable importance are also charismatic leaders who gather a team of like-minded people around them.
- Cultural education and animation as an inhomogeneous and dynamic field. The field of cultural education and animation is highly diverse as regards the fundamental aims and philosophy of action. Three major trends may be distinguished among the projects carried out by the participants on a daily basis: art education, cultural education and cultural animation. An additional, separate field is educators’ education – educating those who are to be involved in the above described activities. Based on an analysis of entities active in the field of cultural animation and education, several ideal (pure) types may be distinguished, including inveterate enthusiasts, metropolitan professionals and guardians of culture. A strong differentiation is conspicuous in the proposed forms and methods of work. The MCNH programme ‘Cultural Education’ is a capacious umbrella which accommodates profound differences in the understanding and practice of educational and animation undertakings.
- Predominance of one-off and/or action activities. In the field of cultural education and animation activities are rarely based on systematic work rooted in a single place and community. This is not entirely intended by animators and educators themselves but often results from context specificity, with the prevalent tendency to finance one-off and spectacular events rather than more regular but less impressive activities.
- Problems with identification and enlistment of participants for activities. Animation and educational activities, also those offered and financed under the MCNH programme, are addressed to a wider public. They are intended to reach as many recipients as possible, and to increase chances of obtaining grants; they also result from insufficient knowledge about the potential recipient and a lack of coordination of animation and educational activities. A particularly problematic target group are socially excluded people whose participation in animation and educational undertakings is very welcome but enlisting their engagement in joint activity requires special, often lacking, skills and competences on the part of animators and educators.
- Complicated and difficult relations between animators and educators and local authorities. Problems in this field stem mainly from the fact that authorities rarely have any cultural policy, and their activities are highly personalised. Moreover, an additional problem is the treatment of culture as an unnecessary sphere of community life and an encumbrance to local budgets; if it is perceived to have any advantages, these are mostly seen in terms of the promotional and image-building potential. Cultural education and animation tends to be accounted for based on attendance and accuracy of invoices rather than content-based criteria.
- Problems in methods of financing educational and animation activities. These include not only the amount of funding available for these purposes but also: inadequate financing consistency; insecurity as to obtaining funding for long-term projects already in progress; unclear criteria of funds allocation; accounting for activities on the formal level (accuracy of figures and invoices) rather than content-based. All these problems are vital, and, even if they seem technical, they give rise to idiosyncratic adjustment strategies which determine the nature of animation and educational activities in Poland.
- Progressive reactionism. A phenomenon that may be termed progressive reactionism is observable in local government-run cultural institutions. Cultural institutions are increasingly undergoing transformations which influence their understanding and practice of cultural education and animation. The considerable dynamics of these changes, force of habit of longstanding practice and the local and political context to which they have to adjust give rise to a situation when old and new ways of thinking about culture and cultural education coexist in the places we researched, and institutions strive to reconcile contradictory roles and expectations towards them.
- Diversity of NGOs. There are several radically different types of non-governmental organisations involved in educational and animation activities. NGO is not a homogeneous type of organisation but a giant, intrinsically complex conglomerate of entities. These differ in various respects, including their methods of operation, horizon of activity and ability to collaborate with others.
The MCNH programme ‘Cultural Education’ is relatively highly appraised, particularly in comparison to many other grant programmes. Nevertheless, several improvements are repeatedly proposed and seem particularly needed: equalisation of opportunities for centres in localities of various sizes and for various types of entities; development of separate programmes for small and large projects; justification of the scoring system for each application; reorganisation of the types of tasks supported in the competition so that they better reflect the actual ways of thinking and working among educators and animators; refinement of instruments and methods, and increasing the importance of evaluation of activities in the programme; greater emphasis on documenting activities; greater emphasis on content-based evaluation of undertakings that have been carried out; rescheduling the dates of competition announcements, announcing them earlier and doing away with the dead season at the beginning of each calendar year.
The study was conducted by the Malopolska Institute of Culture in collaboration with the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities, AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow, and the Department of Visual and Material Culture Studies, Institute of Sociology, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan.