Art-Connection Synopsis

New Connectome, Tomás Saraceno, 2013

Allow individuals, across ages and values, to share experiences, emotions, without linguistic, social, ethnic barriers, as a global strategic issue to re-establish a virtuous circle between social solidarity and economic progress

The logo-symbol of the project

Inspired by a creation by Dutch artist M. C. Escher, known for his mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints, the Art-Connection logo depicts two hands that draw themselves. It thus symbolizes the development of individual and collective skills based on cultural situations. The logo also evokes how cultures are inextricably intertwined and influence each other to act on the transformation of individuals and more generally on the evolution of the world.

Le logo du projet Art-Connection

A humanist problematic

Although identified and defined by the European Commission as a “European Key Competence”, culture too often proves to be “the great forgotten” of education and training policies.

Yet, artistic sensitivity and cultural heritage, in the broad sense, are universal pillars that allow individuals to connect with themselves, others and their environment, and in this sense drive a creative process of self-training and developing capacities to learn and open up to differences.

If culture is a fundamental dimension of the human being, its translation in terms of key competences is difficult. However, this has to be addressed when it comes to setting up systems for the recognition and validation of skills. This difficulty is accentuated by utilitarian considerations, often opposing economic level and sensitive/creative level.

What is it to be culturally competent? How is this channelled? How does being culturally competent allows everyone to reclaim humanist values and develop eco-responsibility?

“Competence in cultural awareness and expression involves understanding, and having respect for, how ideas and meaning are creatively expressed and communicated in different cultures and through a range of arts and other cultural forms. It involves being engaged in understanding, developing and expressing one’s own ideas and sense of place or role in society in a variety of ways and contexts”. The 8th European Key Competence defined by the European Commission (May 2018)

In 1982, UNESCO introduced the concept of intangible heritage and creative economy, based on the premise that culture is dynamic, evolving and that the transmission of tangible and intangible heritage will evolve between generations.

“Culture is the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a community, society or social group. It includes not only arts and literature, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions and beliefs. Culture encompasses the living or contemporary characteristics and values of a community as well as those that have survived from the past”. Mexico City Declaration on Cultural Policies, UNESCO, 1982.

The possible synergies between culture, in its anthropological sense, and education, in a dimension of holistic development of the individual, are indeed gaining momentum. The impact of these synergies at the country level is a growing topic (read article Retour sur la conférence européenne du 29 juin 2022).

The project partners aimed to bring out and enhance the cultural dimension as a human, ethical, aesthetic and solidarity experience, making it possible to mobilize everyone’s creativity, in the service of social cohesion and the development of learning territories.

They sought to formulate a number of proposals so that any organization would be able to engage with competencies relating to “cultural sensitivity and expression”.

The origin of the Art-Connection project

The Art-Connection project was born from another European project, the Eure.K project “Validating the 8 European Key Competences” (Erasmus+ 2015 > 2018) led by the CNAM Paris, in which a first study on the cultural dimension highlighted the intrinsic impact of culture and the 8th European Key Competence (8th EKC) relating to the cultural sensitivity and expression, on the development of the 8 EKCs.

But during dissemination event organized in Rome, it became evident that paradoxically, while proving to be the most essential of all, this competence relating to cultural and artistic sensitivity had barely been addressed in the Eure.K project.

APapp and ILS, partners of the Eure.K project, convinced of the importance of starting a real work of valorization of the 8th EKC, have looked for two other partners sharing the same values and the same vision of lifelong learning.

This is how the NGO CAI and Loughborough University have embarked on the Art-Connection adventure with APapp and ILS in order to offer any public or private, commercial or non-commercial organization, a series of recommendations and educational materials to support its access to pathways enabling the strengthening of the European Key Competences for all, based on humanity’s shared informal cultural heritage.

The roadmap (2019 > 2022)

Purpose of the Art-Connection project

Production of a European Memorandum and an educational toolbox to help make visible the common thread between individual creativity and social innovation, promoting sustainable job creation and economic growth.

The objectives

  • Provide elements to understand the impact of the cultural dimension on the development of individual and collective skills (1st deliverable).
  • Define a theoretical and methodological framework of Art-Connection participatory action-research (2nd deliverable).
  • Develop educational tools from cultural entering (3rd and 4th deliverables).
  • Propose and promote educational materials for all professionals and organizations in charge of education and pedagogical support for young people and adults (5th deliverable)

Three steps to achieving these goals

  • A first step to research, study, analyze the data and provide a theoretical and methodological framework for the implementation of Participatory Action Research (RAP). Period Dec. 2019 to Dec. 2020. (1st and 2nd deliverables).
  • A second stage of implementation of the RAP by the partners to co-build guidelines for the Cultural Connector completed with a toolkit aimed at the professionalization of actors in the field of culture and adult education and training throughout life. Period Oct. 2020 to May 2022. (3rd and 4th deliverables).
  • A third stage of consolidation of the project results. Period January to August 2022. (5th deliverable).

A project built on a Participatory Action Research approach (PAR)

After establishing the state of play and defining a theoretical and methodological framework for a cultural entry point, the four partners of the Art-Connection project have brought together professionals and various adult target audiences to develop a socio-anthropological tool through a participatory action research approach conducted at the level of the 4 European partner countries.

The cultural entry point, inducing non-formal and informal intercultural/intergenerational education practices and the project approach carried out in participatory action research, directly involving a large number of project actors-stakeholders, demonstrated that fostering appreciation of a shared cultural heritage and encouraging and supporting the engagement of individuals in a creative process of individual and collective self-directed-learning, was a powerful vector for accessing pathways to strengthening key competences, mobilising and developing cultural competences and soft-skills. This ultimately contributed to meeting the challenges of social inclusion in the territories, job creation, economic growth and social cohesion.

The participatory action research approach carried out at the level of the 4 European countries has made it possible to co-construct educational and pedagogical materials with the aim of encouraging public and private organizations, production or training, to mobilize the creativity of each to meet the challenges of innovation, the ability to learn and to be open to differences, in a context of globalization and of an intensified intersecting of cultures.

Three levels of impact

The common thread for the research axis of the Art-Connection project was to take, as a point of support, the innovative educational practices constituting the core business of the four partners, based on the accompaniment of adults in a research-training approach starting from the personal dynamics of individuals in their interaction with their socio-cultural environment.

The results of the project are described and explained in the framework of the pedagogical tools, containing case studies and UNhandbooks with several thematic entries, including many participants’ testimonies.

  • At the micro level, the impact of the project on the beneficiaries (target groups) who participated in the RAP conducted by the 4 partners of the Art-Connection project, was a greater awareness and enhancement of the transversal skills mobilized during the various activities.

The cultural entering allowed these target audiences engaged in the RAP, to formalize the individual and collective skills they identified, mobilized and developed, but also to contribute to identifying the skills required of the mentors accompanying them in this self-training process, and to become aware of how they themselves were able to in turn accompany their peers to develop individual and collective skills in their social and cultural environments.

  • At the meso level, the impact of the project on the recipients-users of the project results, professionals and organizations who participated in the activities carried out within the framework of the RAP, was the acquisition of greater professional standards and new skills enabling new educational approaches and practices.

The cultural entry point allowed these professionals engaged in the RAP, to identify through direct experimentation with the target populations, the knowledge-capacities and skills to be acquired or developed by the Cultural Connectors, the principles and pedagogical practices to be respected, the adapted educational tools, to accompany the target audiences in the development of individual and collective skills in a process of self-directed-learning.

  • At macro level, for other stakeholders, the activities carried out within the PAR have led to a real awareness of the importance and impact of cultural entering to develop all European key competences and as a factor of inclusion and social cohesion.

The cultural entering has allowed these organizations, cultural institutes or local communities, stakeholders of the RAP, to experience a real dynamic of creativity, structuring and territorial organization favorable to the development of partnerships on cultural learning territories to enhance and make visible the economic and social impacts resulting from this diversity of creative expression, appreciation of cultural heritage, participation and realization of works of art.

The Art-Connection project has had a real impact on the enhancement and visibility of the organizations carrying out cultural projects within the framework of the Art-Connection RAPs, due to the extremely positive testimonies of the people who participated in the various projects we carried out and the dynamics of partnership agreements initiated as part of the participatory action research approach.

On a more political and strategic level, what was verified at the time of the dissemination days, particularly in connection with UNESCO’s work, is the confirmation of the decisive place of cultural entry to meet the global challenges of sustainable development by promoting the emergence of organizations that focus on the quality of the socio-professional environment and human development as strategic levers for economic progress, technological, social and diffusion of innovations.

Project deliverables

  • 1st deliverable: State of play.
  • 2nd deliverable: Design of the theoretical and methodological framework for the implementation and evaluation of participatory action research to be carried out in the four partner countries.
  • 3rd and 4th deliverables: Co-construction of a Repository for Cultural Connectors and creation of a toolkit.
  • 5th deliverable: European Memorandum presenting a synthesis of and conclusion for the project by formulating a number of proposals so that any organization is encouraged and equipped to raise to the challenge of promoting and developing cultural competences.

Focus on: the State of play of the Art-Connection project (1st deliverable)

Objective: to conduct a study to understand the impact of cultural entering on empowerment and social cohesion, contributing to job creation and economic growth

The output is a study, based on a literature review and innovative educational practices already tested by the four partners of the Art-Connection project in the field of non-formal and informal learning, within the framework of European key competences and transversal competences, making it possible to understand the impact of the cultural dimension on a creative process from a systemic or holistic perspective.

Experiments and/or technologies and/or pedagogical practices developed around digital storytelling, digital badges, the mentoring method, the methodology of street social work, the pedagogical approach based on self-directed learning, were identified.

Focus on the theoretical and methodological framework of action research (2nd deliverable)

Objective: to define a theoretical and methodological framework for Art-Connection action research

The product provided is the definition of the theoretical and methodological framework for the implementation by all the partners of the Art-Connection project of a global participatory action research system.

The production also provides a theoretical and ethical framework for the concept of action research in the partner countries, based on documentary research and interviews with academic researchers, in order to determine its conceptual elements.

It proposes elements of method and actions to circumscribe a research axis to guarantee coherence and the co-construction of a global system for the establishment of a learning organization in a territory.

Focus on Art-Connection educational toolkit (3rd and 4th deliverables)

Objective:  to develop educational tools out of cultural entering

These two productions are in the form of a repository and a set of educational materials for the implementation of the repository.

They are aimed at professionals and organizations working in the field of culture and/or adult lifelong learning who wish to:

  • contribute to innovations in curricula, educational methods, training actions,
  • promote the voice of target populations, develop their capacity to act, engage them in a process of identity questioning in connection with one’s own culture,
  • make users express themselves on their identity, their place in society, the process of inclusion,
  • to make the cultural dimension and interculturality perceived as drivers of this expression,
  • to raise awareness and make the target populations actors of a positive approach to defusing exclusion processes,
  • encourage an approach of empowerment and taking a step back,
  • foster the promotion of socio-professional competences based on intercultural interaction as a bridge to have a recognition of acquired knowledge,
  • increase the participation of users and dialogue around the cultural dimension as a means to build a more active and participatory citizenship, ultimately promoting social cohesion in the territories.

Focus on the European Memorandum (5th deliverable)

Objective:  to offer and promote educational materials for all professionals and organizations in charge of education and pedagogical support for young people and adults.

The Art-Connection project has produced a European Memorandum which is the result of the results of all intellectual productions. It is presented in the form of a final document of studies and recommendations for pedagogical and political orientation, to encourage and allow any public or private of production or training organization, to seize the theme of cultural competences to meet the challenges of innovation, the ability to learn and to open up to differences. It is accompanied by its toolbox, consisting of all the project’s productions, including also a glossary of keywords and a bibliography.