Cross-sectoral cooperation: a challenge during COVID-19

Our third project workshop was centered around how our project partners – past, present and future ECoCs – processed, adapted to, and reinvented themselves to the “new normal”. 

Cross-sectoral cooperation seems to be the key issue in Rijeka, Timisoara and also Matera. In the situation caused by COVID-19, cross-sectoral cooperation has even increased in relevance as there is a need for innovation (new products, services, approaches, formats), but also because there is scarcity of financial resources and decreased political and financial commitment from the public sector amidst the crisis to invest in the cultural and creative sector.’ 

Nevertheless, the question is there to seriously consider: “Is it necessary to apply an entrepreneurial mindset in the CC sector?” What do we gain and what do we lose? 

The Timisoara experience shows that SMEs are indeed interested to get on board with ECoC – yet they need clearer messages, more transparency as well as more pragmatism, incentives to actually get involved. Their engagement should also be more systematic and organised, otherwise only few of the smaller businesses would participate on a more random and individual basis (esp. when there is a lack of clustering in the region).

Timisoara is seeing a model incorporating the focal points of “capacity”, “relations” “physical infrastructures” and a “systemic, strategic approach” necessary for structuring legacy and providing clear ideas to businesses concerning the entrepreneurial ecosystem and start-up commons.

Transformative tourism and cross-sectoral cooperation

Transformative tourism is travel that is motivated and defined by a shift in perspective, self-reflection and development, and a deeper communion with nature and culture. It is small scale tourism that often combines authentic cultural experiences and travelling.

Transformative tourism and cross-sectoral cooperation especially between CCI and tourism sectors can be one solution to recover and start business again in post-COVID world. Besides the Pandemic, transformative tourism and cross-sectoral cooperation is an important factor in the ECoC setting. The titles are going now to smaller cities and regions, who quite often cannot bear mass tourism.

This has been understood in Matera during ECoC preparations and the ECoC year. As part of their legacy work, Matera is working in TraCEs project, to actively develop cooperation between CCI & tourism sectors with other ECoC cities. Matera’s experience reveals that it is important to work together with different actors (CCI, tourism actors, destination organisations) to have common values and goals. Matera launched already in their bid book a concept of temporary citizenship which meant that tourists were taken to be a part of the community when travelling to Matera, and this way makes them value and respect the city more deeply.

Timisoara had already taken advantage of interregional exchange and shared the idea of transformative tourism in one of their Local Learning Labs (LLLs), which had impressed at least one entrepreneur, who now in post-COVID times has launched a new tourism product combining small scale travelling and authentic cultural experiences (e.g. trying out local food products) aimed for local people and regional travellers.

CCI and tourism are very important sectors for not only Leeuwarden and Friesland but also Drenthe. The two sectors, backed with examples from other partner regions, make a great match for collaboration. An interesting practice adopted by both Matera and Leeuwarden is to invite bloggers and vloggers to their region and making promotional contents for the areas.

Leeuwarden’s good practice Launch Game could, with small changes, be utilised to enhance cross-sectoral cooperation, e.g. creating new kind of business or products. There is also going to be a Launch Game app which will make the use of it even easier.

In Rijeka, the concept of transformative tourism and experiences from others raised a lot of interests and ideas for future development as well as for cooperation possibilities with close-by ECoC sister cities to offer staycation experiences or small scale travelling in neighbouring countries post-COVID.

From the very first LLLs, Rijeka stakeholders emphasised the lack of productive collaboration between the cultural and SMEs sector. Open Design School – good practice shared by Matera, is the potential participative platform to overcome this gap.

At the end of the discussion, one interesting example from Lake Saimaa Finland, of how to survive the Pandemic by combining transformative tourism and virtual environment, was presented. A company called Saimaalife is now, when travelling from Asia to Finland is not possible, offering virtual tours that combine local culture and nature tourism experiences for Japanese travellers. The first five two-hour tours are already sold out.

Photo credit: Anna Shvets from Pexels