How “Creative Europe” helps Ukrainian cultural projects

Yuliia Fediv, executive director of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation and Head of the National Bureau “Creative Europe”, during conversation with the editor-in-chief of the “Antiquar” magazine, talked about the peculiarities, the current state and the immediate prospects of the two grant institutions.

Mrs. Yuliia, let’s talk more about what you encountered on these two very respectable posts and why there are two of them.

Both of these posts I got on a competitive basis, so I cannot simply abandon the directorship.
We wrote a letter to the European Commission and received an official reply that they did not mind that the bureau was deployed in the “Ukrainian Cultural Foundation.”  Both the EU’s representation in Ukraine and the European Commission have confirmed that it is appropriate that two grant programs will be under one roof. A separate section “National Bureau of Creative Europe” will be established and its activities will be aimed at conducting consultations, training and informing about the possibilities of the Creative Europe program. Similarly, in other countries, it is often compatible posts.

Does the Ukrainian cultural foundation have more extended tasks than the “National Bureau of Creative Europe”?

Yes, and one of these tasks is to supporting of international cooperation projects and participation of Ukraine in international programs. Therefore, the Creative Europe program is also well suited for the fulfillment of one of the tasks of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, which is set out in the Law of Ukraine “About the Ukrainian cultural foundation.”  Officially Ukraine joined the “Creative Europe” program in 2016, while the program itself runs from 2014; it is designed for
7 years.

Tell us about the precedents in obtaining grants for really effective projects among the Ukrainian culture operators?

As of today, we have five successful cases. In 2017– there are four projects of international cooperation, grants up to 200 thousand euros. This is Ivan Gonchar Museum with the “Polyphony” project. They submitted for grant in cooperation with Hungarian and French partners. The purpose of the project is to create an interactive map of Ukrainian folk music in order to promote ethnic motifs. The main coordinator is the Hungarian organization, and Ivan Gonchar Museum acts as a partner. The second is the social organization “MistoDia” – a public organization in Kyiv, an interesting project for creation of cultural spaces, and their partners are also from the countries of Central Europe. The next organization is the Tustan museum complex, a joint project with partners from Slovakia and Estonia. The goal is to involve communities in preserving and promoting the local heritage. Charitable Foundation “Our Visions”, Lviv oblast, within the framework of the program, implements the children’s art project “Bravekids”, where they organize festivals according to “Peer Support” principle. Children from different countries meet in one city and show elements of their national culture. This year this festival will be held in Ukraine, Lviv oblast. And the last successful case is the contest of literary translations. The publishing house “Astroliabiia” (Astrolabium) won the contest for translation in Ukrainian of European literature, in particular of Irish and Polish authors. These are all five of our successful cases.
In 2017, several other Ukrainian organizations submitted for a grant. The results we will see in May and June. I hope that there will be further more successful cases.

In total, about 350 projects from 41 countries were submitted.

So, is the European Commission distributing the funds?

Yes. We do not affect the results at all. What is the principle of the “Creative Europe” program? The European Commission is the main body that shapes the policy, defines a strategy and develops a program. There is an Executive Agency for Culture, Education and Audiovisual Industries, whose staff members accept all online application forms, register them and send them to experts. The base of experts is more than 12 thousand people from different countries, from different sectors. According to the project application, two experts are appointed who, in parallel and independently from one another, read in their countries the application and set the scores according to the specified criteria. Then the rating is formed, and the one who gains the most points within the limits of the defined budget goes on and gets financing.

In addition to the executive agency, there are national offices. They exist in all 41 countries. Our task is to inform about the program throughout Ukraine, to conduct trainings on grant management, on communication strategies, on financing, budgeting, etc. And also, the “face-to-face” consultations, during which people can receive individual consultation on their specific project application. And the last thing we are helping is finding partners, because most of “Creative Europe” projects require the presence of partners. We have our own search engine. Accordingly, there is a standard application form for finding a partner. That is, any organization sends us an application and we place it for all participants from the 41 country.

In the application you have to indicate your status and with whom you want to speak: the main applicant or “I have no idea and I want to become a partner.” Also on our site there is a list of requests from European countries, and it is written there: we are looking for a partner, for the main applicant. Even if you want to find a partner not only for the “Creative Europe”, we also assist, because we have a broad base. We are generally looking for partners for interesting projects.

In addition, if we see that the application does not fit the criterion of the “Creative Europe,” we can advise partner grant programs. These are similar grant programs to all cultural institutions in Europe, and not only, that are the very programs of the “Renaissance Foundation,” i.e. our internal fund organizations. That is, we serve as a consultative bridge for potential applicants. But we never factor into a decision, so we can advise from A to Z. In addition, legal entities of any form of ownership can apply to the “Creative Europe.”  This is our plus. The only minus – individuals, unfortunately, are not eligible for financing from the “Creative Europe.” We then transfer them into the “Cultural Bridges” program, where there is a possibility to provide travel grants for individuals. Therefore, if an artist wants to apply for the “Creative Europe,” he has to look for some kind of affiliate organization, through which submit an application form, and he can act as a coordinator.

So, is it possible to send you project descriptions in any form and get advice on where to submit them better?

If we see that this does not match with the “Creative Europe,” we will advise you another grantor. Or just render assistance to you in formulating the correct concept of your project, so you can continue to be able to find a grant. This is also our function. We are quite open to cooperation.

Let’s return to the “Cultural Foundation”. Creating this structure has become quite a resonant event in the information space. There are negative claims regarding the creation process. But… In essence: what are the upcoming plans, what events to expect? Our magazine is especially interested in the Year of Cultural Heritage. Moreover, this year is going on already.

You correctly said: it is difficult for us to exist in a certain information field that is not always positive. Therefore, we need to work not only on content, but also on our image as an organization, because criticism is a good thing, it is peculiar to the Ukrainian society. But one may not criticize an institution that did not even begin to work. When we start work and you will see the first steps of our activities, then we will be ready to listen to criticism. According to the Law “About the Ukrainian cultural foundation,” we have a number of tasks assigned to us as an institution. Our main mission is to provide financial and advisory support in the field of culture and arts. This is a fairly broad concept. We can support both legal and natural persons, as well as implementing of their artistic and cultural projects. To do this, we are now setting up a regulatory framework. That is, my job as an executive director is to actually launch this institution, namely to solve all the bureaucratic processes: to register, open accounts, call a team, solve a prеmіsеs issue, with equipment, that is, to create normal working conditions. The next important step is to develop a strategy. Determine the priority directions of the Foundation’s activities for this year and afteryears. To do this, we need understand what we stand for, namely – the peculiarities of the budget legislation of Ukraine and the possibility of financing certain items of expenditure. Based on this, we will determine, within the framework of the contests, what exactly we can support.

The year of cultural heritage continues, which means very high expectations from the community that works in the field of protection, preservation and popularization of Ukraine’s cultural heritage, and most of these inquiries really need support for infrastructure projects, that is, restoration and reconstruction. Unfortunately, as of today, the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation cannot provide support for infrastructure projects. We will support, within the fiscal legislation of Ukraine, more soft projects associated with popularization of the cultural heritage. As soon as we receive all the confirmations from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Culture relative to items, which we really have the right to support according to current legislation, we will immediately launch our competitive procedures. In parallel, we issue instructions for applicants, typical application forms, typical grant contracts, standard cost sheets. That is, we need to develop the entire procedural part from scratch, so that potential applicants will understand what to do to get financing from the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation and what should be submitted within the framework of the existing financial capacities of the Foundation. We will launch the first contests at the end of May – in early June. Another “leg” that we have to revive is the Councils of Experts, because project applications should be evaluated by experts in accordance with the Law of Ukraine “About the Ukrainian cultural foundation,” therefore we are simultaneously developing the Regulations about the Councils of Experts. We are planning to launch expert selection competitions in April. Therefore, I appeal to the professional community to enter the councils of experts, because it is really a critical issue – who will become our expert.

On a voluntary basis?

No. This is a feature of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation and this is stated in the Law – 8% of the budget of the Foundation is made for functioning of the experts. We also now think of the most beneficial modalities of cooperation with experts, so that their pool would be wide, so that we would be able to get a really professional council of experts on different areas of culture and arts, as well as councils of experts on managerial issues. So that we would evaluate the project not only from the point of view of importance for a particular sphere of culture, but also from the point of view of working with social capital and with the expansion of the audience, so that there would be experts who could evaluate the project from the point of view of cultural management, etc. We will try to diversify existing competitions, so there may be involved both the legal entities such as representatives of the public sector, representatives of the non-governmental sector and individuals, because one of the objectives of the Foundation is also the supporting of young artists. As well, a separate line will be devoted to innovations. This is also clearly stated in the Law “About the Ukrainian cultural foundation,“ and we will promote the creation of new ideas in the field of culture and arts. We also have the support of the Ukrainian diaspora. We work closely with the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economic Development, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order to build in cooperation with them a model close to the ideal. Of course, in the first year, it will not be perfect, and I ask for an understanding of the cultural community, because it takes time to pump the system that we are developing and then make adjustments to it. We also plan to meet with the professional community in April to develop the Foundation strategy. We already have a certain base, but we want to hear the opinion of experts, professionals – cultural figures, so that our contests would meet the real needs as much as possible. One of the contests this year will be devoted to the issue of cultural heritage. We understand that a lot of time has come to pass. But, unfortunately, we cannot turn back the time. Hopefully, we will have time to announce competitions with the deadlines for the end of July –
the beginning of August, so that beginning from early fall there would be an opportunity to implement these projects, because budget funds should be used by the end of the year. This is also our limitation.

Keep up with our news.

According to your expectations, when the information space will be shaken by the news about some positive and effective step of the Cultural Foundation due to all these technological, bureaucratic scenarios, etc.?

In fact, somewhere in the twentieth of April, we plan to make an informational event, invite the public, representatives of media and announce a competition for experts. At the same time, we plan to present the first steps of the Ukrainian cultural foundation activities and the expected competitions. We plan next bursts by mid-May, as soon as we enlist the councils of experts –
we immediately announce competitions. And in the fall, when the first projects will be supported by the Foundation – you will see whom the experts will choose, who will be the pioneer in the context of the Ukrainian cultural foundation. The more qualitative projects we select, the greater the trust in the Foundation.

How is your interaction with the Head of the Supervisory Board of the Foundation, Maryna Poroshenko, as far as she is involved in this preparatory stage?

The Supervisory Board function is more advisory and controlling. That is, we are the Directorate: we develop a package of documents, which are clearly stated in the law. As soon as we develop them, we will initiate convocation of the Supervisory Board, which should consider these documents and approve them. After the voting takes place, the Supervisory Board approves these documents and we continue our work. Currently, the main operational work lies on the shoulders of the Directorate – on me and my team. I have a certain amount of tasks, there are deadlines, and as soon as I executed them, we plan a meeting of the Supervisory Board, it will make its comments, a vote will be taken, and documents will be approved. After creating the site, all documents will be published there.

Just now we do not have communication channels, so we are perceived rather negatively, because they believe that we are closed. And if you want to do everything right, then it takes time. And in our country it requires a lot of time resources, because any decision, while it will pass through several ministries and departments…, it may take several weeks on solving one question. In the context of the Ukrainian cultural foundation, the month is perceived as a year. Therefore, we now receive a large number of emails, phone calls with almost threats, because everyone is waiting for contests. Therefore, I ask for understanding and patience.

And in fact, the most important and most effective product to be supported by the Culture Foundation is the creation of an effective transparent procedure for distributing these funds.

So. And then we will also work to assist you in making your applications more qualitative through trainings, consultations. I think if we are in a hurry now, then it’s logical that we will get stuck, so it takes more time to make qualitatively all these procedures, and to make your work with us more convenient. And budget funds require well-written procedures, so when anybody applied for any grant program, he faced with stacks of papers. In general, for such organizations, in fact, only for the launch and release of all these documents there should be given three – four years. And we have a whole year and 200 million hryvnias, which we have to spend during this year. However, I am confident that worthy projects will receive support.

Hanna Sherman carried out the interview

The original article is published by Antikvar