Emphos pilot course in Utrecht (The Netherlands)

January / February 2018
by Marjan Otter

Methodology / Brief results

Developing a course on cultural entrepreneurship that is applicable to all European countries is not easy. During the development process we discovered that there were quite some differences among the three countries from which the organising parties came. Those differences were, for example, in the didactical approach and in the preference for interactive or action-based approaches in a course.

During the development process it became clear that the target group for the course had different characteristics in different countries. The aim of this EU-funded project was to focus on the target group with EQF level 4/5. We therefore decided to focus on coordinators and middle managers of small and middle sized institutions, who had coordinating functions such as PR, volunteers, hospitality, security, administration and HRM; managers of small and middle sized institutions; independent workers (freelancers and start-ups) who work within the cultural sector; and board members of small and middle sized institutions. That being said, we recognize that in most EU countries many of them have had education above this EQF-level.

Another issue that came up in the development phase was that the phenomenon of entrepreneurship has many aspects. A course on entrepreneurship therefore needs to contain several crucial information elements, which were difficult to fit in the amount of time potential participants could spend on a course. After doing some research we found that in The Netherlands, the time the target group was able and permitted to spend on a course would be a maximum of three days.

Keeping the target groups in The Netherlands and in Italy in mind, we decided to make two different pilot courses addressing more or less the same content and focusing on topics we all agreed upon as essential elements of the course. In January and February of 2018 both courses were ready to be tested. One pilot course was delivered in Bologna (Italy) and one in Utrecht (The Netherlands).

In this brief report we will present some of our experiences, and demonstrate how the process helped us to adapt and change the course according to the expectations, needs and wishes of the participants as we delivered it.

The pilot course in The Netherlands

The training course “Towards a smart organisation” was organized by LEU (Landschap Erfgoed Utrecht, Arja van Veldhuizen and Cecilia Rasch) and delivered and coordinated by Drs. Marjan Otter, senior lecturer Management and Marketing and coordinator of the minor Cultural Entrepreneurship of the Reinwardt Academy. The course contained 6 seminars in 3 days, with an interval between the second and third day, in which the participants worked on their entrepreneurial plans and generated support within their organization. The pilot was organized on Monday January 22th, Tuesday January 23th and Monday the 5th of February 2018. It involved 10 cultural institutes 14 cultural professionals in total, coming mostly from the Utrecht region.

Aims of this pilot course

For the pilot course in The Netherlands we chose to stimulate commitment, creative thinking and the courage to step forward and present yourself and your ideas. The pilot aimed to empower participants with ideas and knowledge, support them to develop a pro-active attitude within their organisation and to work during the course and its intervals, on concrete plans for improvement.

Didactic methodology

The didactic methodology included a combination of training sessions, preparation assignments, group discussions, self-reflections and brainstorming sessions, training for use of the business model canvas and the customer journey model, presentations of the new developed plans in front of the group and feedback sessions. Interesting practices of their own organization were combined and benchmarked with case studies both national and international. In this way participants could learn, discuss, exchange views and work in cooperation on concrete plans to improve the entrepreneurial attitude of themselves and their organizations.

Adaptations to meet the needs and expectations of the target group

Dutch cultural institutions often hear that they should become more entrepreneurial.

This has been said so many times in the past years that using the term entrepreneurial in the title of the course was not attractive to the target group. Since the target group of this course was the people in the workplace and the term entrepreneurship is associated with management at the highest level of the organisation, we decided to change the title of the course to Towards a smart organisation.

Participation in the pilot course was free of charge. Participants came from different cultural institutions: archives, museums and historical societies. That proved to be both valuable and problematic at the same time. Voluntary organisations, like historical societies, have their own specific issues and not all solutions are applicable to their situation. The positive side was that interaction between voluntary organisations with hardly any financial means and organisations with paid professionals and some budget for activities was very inspiring. Both sides experienced uplift by sharing their experiences and plans for solutions, for example because one side was accustomed to a focus on cost reduction and the other side was more focused on income growth.

Did the pilot succeed?

Introducing the pilot to our potential participants we wrote:

Cultural institutions need to focus more on the managerial aspects of their organisation. In this context very valuable ideas can be found in the workplace. Employees and volunteers involved in front desk tasks are the ones able to detect where e.g. costs can be limited or how the visitors’ experience can be improved. This three-day course has been developed especially for these valuable staff members. During this course participants get a better understanding of organisation processes, they draft concrete proposals for improvements of their institutions’ performance and get guidelines on how to stimulate implementation at their workplace. As a result they will become more involved, develop a constructive and positive attitude and know how to contribute to institutional goals.

Evaluation during and after (three months) the course showed that most participants were still actively working on the entrepreneurial improvement of their own tasks and of their organisation in general. They felt empowered and, most of all, stimulated to continue this work after participation in the pilot course.