There's a lot going on in the world right now. At the same time, we can't meet to talk about topics that go beyond our project during a coffee break or over dinner. We miss this exchange that brings us closer to each other.
That’s why we'll be posting articles about different topics that our Creative Ports partners are currently dealing with. Follow the hashtag #CPshortstories if you don't want to miss the articles. Today we start with a text by Amalie Pi Sørensen from Danish Cultural Institute in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania about sustainability and digitalisation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Have fun discovering!
Sustainability and digitalisation – during the COVID-19 pandemic
1 online event, 3 important lessons
Today, the calendar reads March 2021, and in Europe we are entering the second year of COVID-19, lockdowns and changed rules and behaviours regarding work, social life, travel and leisure. There is no doubt that the last year has been challenging, not least within the field of culture and creativity, and that we have had to rethink how we approach networking, event planning, international collaboration, sustainability and much more. In the following, I will introduce you to an activity that the Danish Cultural Institute implemented last year during the pandemic as part of our work on the Creative Ports project – as well as try to highlight some of the lessons we learned along the way.
A digital pitching event with a sustainability agenda
In October 2020, the Danish Cultural Institute hosted Pitching for a Better Baltic Sea, an event that let CCI start-ups and entrepreneurs from Denmark, Latvia, Germany and Estonia compete against each other pitching projects that work towards creating a greener and more sustainable Baltic Sea Region. The event took place almost completely online and – besides the pitching competition itself – included keynotes from the fashion and film industries, an online concert and an internationalisation workshop. A continuation of a ‘physical’ event from 2019, the planning and implementation of the project required a great deal of adaptation – and taught us many important lessons on how to work digitally with CCI, internationalisation and sustainability during a global pandemic. Here are 3:
1/Sustainability is still important!
While our newsfeed continues to be full of COVID-19 infection rates, vaccine programmes and tightened or weakened restrictions, all other topics can sometimes seem relegated to a very far behind second place. However, we are still living in a complex, global world facing a host of different challenges, and new developments and innovation are happening every day. Pitching for a Better Baltic Sea showed us that there is still a great will and desire to talk about sustainability and the importance of working towards a greener world, also while a pandemic is disrupting our normal everyday lives and making the future seem more uncertain than ever. Or perhaps, conversely, the fact that this is the case could actually be providing some fresh energy and urgency to the sustainability and climate debate: a pandemic is changing the rules on us – and in the process, it is showing us precisely that the way we do things is not set in stone but instead up for negotiation, discussion and change.
This leads us to the next lesson which is that…
2/ Forced digitalisation can be a strength as well as a challenge!
Rethinking a set of activities that had already quite successfully taken place in a physical, analogue format was not easy. It involved difficult decisions about what might be possible and relevant for our participants as well as an active search for alternative solutions that could help ensure that we would still be able to reach our goals. However, this search – being forced to scout the field of possibility and think in digital and virtual alternatives – meant that we now have a larger and stronger toolbox when working with CCI, internationalisation and sustainability. Virtual solutions might not be your first choice – but that doesn’t mean that they can’t end up being your best choice. Organising Pitching for a Better Baltic Sea during the COVID-19 crisis also highlighted how digitalisation can help you work…
- More sustainably – reducing the carbon emissions connected to e.g. travel, print communication, technical equipment, etc.
- More efficiently – giving easy access for your participants to use a host of different virtual tools
- And to reach more people – allowing participants and audience members unable to travel to take part
3/ Think outside the box – not only regarding how you do things but also what you do!
However, though digitalisation can be a strength instead of only a hurdle, it is important that virtual solutions are not employed simply as a plan b, but that the activity content is rethought in the new context of an online format. In other words, it is not enough to think in alternative, digital ways to do what you would normally do – you need to change what you do as well in order to reach the same aims. For example, a physical pitching competition allows audience members to directly show their appreciation (through applause) or engage with each other and the pitchers during coffee breaks, through a reception or similar. But instead of trying to transfer these real-world possibilities 1-1 to an online event, you should try to break down and identify the different functionalities or goals the activities were allowing you to reach. Making people sit in front of their computer, each with their own coffee, will never work to facilitate networking in the same way as a real-life coffee break. Playing an ovation-track or having your platform almost break down from 100 people all clapping through their open mics will never create the atmosphere that a standing applause can generate in a physical setting. But a digital platform allows people to very easily engage with each other in other ways: Audience members can be asked to vote for their favourite pitch, and an audience prize can be implemented next to the normal, jury-given prize. Audience members can be given 100.000 of a digital, fictional currency and asked to ‘invest’ them in the pitchers they like the best. Or audience members can be engaged in an online, cooperative game during breaks where they have to talk and work together.
So – what now?
Pitching for a Better Baltic Sea 2020 was to a very large degree a learning experience: while it was not perfect, it contained a lot of great elements – and perhaps more importantly, it generated a lot of fresh, new ideas and inspiration for the Danish Cultural Institute’s future work with internationalisation and sustainability in a new digital era. An in-depth learning module that will take you step-by-step through the process of organising your own pitching and networking event, both physically and digitally, will be published soon on Creative Ports' website. If you have any questions for us, feel free to write the CCI Secretariat at info[at]creativeports.eu.