Stakeholder Brief #5 | Unlocking the transformative potential of culture and the arts through social enterprise

This Stakeholder Brief summarizes discussions that took place during the first activity of the fourth Research Workshop of Working Group 2 “Social enterprise in industries” of the COST Action “Empowering the next generation of social enterprise scholars” (Empower-SE) held at the University of Malta in November 2019.

The main issues raised during the Stakeholder Forum revolved around the social rootedness of Maltese cultural organizations and initiatives. A particularly interesting outcome of the forum was the proposal to reframe such initiatives within the wider social enterprise debate and its challenges. The forum explored links between culture, the arts and citizenship to critically reframe them within a broader social and solidarity economy context.

The workshop, which serves as a framework for the Stakeholder Forum, focused on the role of social enterprises (SE), the social and solidarity economy (SSE) and third sector organizations (TSOs) in the overall sustainability of local communities and society:

“Art cannot change the world, but it can contribute to changing the consciousness and drives of men and women who can change the world.” (Marcuse 1978)

Local socioeconomic grassroots initiatives have recently strengthened links between artistic expression and global issues of environmental sustainability, human rights and participatory democracy. They address the recent economic crisis through solidarity economy activity. However, culture and the cultural and creative industries have simultaneously been reinvented and developed as tools to increase the global competitiveness of worldwide locations and cities and support economic regeneration and growth. While much attention has been paid to the latter, a gap in knowledge and understanding exists in relation to the dynamics and reach of culture and the arts in solidarity and civic socio-economic collaborations. In addition, precariousness and fragmentation persists in the sector. As research shows, TSOs in the field of “arts and culture” have to survive in a climate of permanent austerity as particularly in this area public funding is being scaled back. Working in the area of arts and culture can be very precarious and the field often lacks an encompassing umbrella organization and a sub-sectoral infrastructure (Zimmer and Pahl 2016).

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