The Role of Cultural Observatories
The role of cultural observatories is vividly discussed and explored in numerous international conferences and through many international projects. In this framework, let us take a look at the activities of the European Network of Cultural Administration Training Centres. In September 2010 the Think Tank organized by the ENCATC policy working group Cultural Observatories, took place in Bilbao, Spain aiming to reflect on the role of cultural observatories in the future in Europe. Their results were presented at the 18th Annual Conference of ENCATC at the beginning of October 2010 in Brussels, and will be included in the final publication of Monitors of Culture.
The observatories for cultural policies in the world today differ significantly by their geographic setting, from continental, such as, for instance, the observatory that encompasses the entire Africa, and those of inter-regional character, especially in Latin America; to the majority of very heterogeneous observatories on national and regional/local levels, primarily in Europe. Some of them do not mention the word "observatory" in their name but by their activities and functioning, they can be regarded as such.
Why is the interest for cultural observatories growing today?
Europe, but also the world as a whole, needs new cultural policies, a 'new configuration' of cultural policies (Tyler Cowen) and a new engagement on local, national and international levels with the aim of creating partnership and cooperation. The establishment of innovative methodologies of observation, comparison and evaluation relating to the main challenges of the 21st century, i.e. cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and digital culture, as well as convergence of cultural markets, new technologies, etc. (as opposed to 'classical' methods of collecting, analysing/interpreting and disseminating updated information/data), is actually a demand faced by the entire international community. Those methods mostly depend on active participation of civil society, researchers, professional organizations that support the better understanding of the rapid changes and specificities of cultural expressions, but also the introduction of a European dimension to regional/local cultural policies.
Education and training of professionals in culture are of significant importance for the observatories to expand knowledge and serve the interests of cultural workers in practice, cultural communities/wider public, as well as of the decision-makers.
The exchange of experience, dialogue and coordination of activities, in short, cooperation among different countries/observatories at the international level, are of crucial importance in overcoming methodological difficulties. In the process, however, the weak presence of developing countries on the international market of cultural goods and services, i.e. cultural expressions, should be taken into account.