Culture for Resilience Forum: Fostering Community Strength and Connection

In a world where resilience is increasingly vital, the inaugural Culture for Resilience Forum held in the welcoming town of Jakobstad/Pietarsaari on 7-8 May 2024, marked a significant step forward.

More than 100 representatives from municipalities, NGOs, and various stakeholders across the Baltic Sea Region converged at the Culture for Resilience Forum in Jakobstad/Pietarsaari, organised within the BSR Cultural Pearls project and funded by the Interreg Baltic Sea Region. The participants explored the transformative power of cultural engagement in strengthening communities and making them more resilient to external shocks.

“Resilience is not only about defence and crisis preparedness. It also means social connections, trusting your institutions, it might be democratic participation, and having an engaged local public that makes your society more resilient. Cities have a role to play in creating the conditions for communities to feel a stronger attachment. Culture is one way of doing it,” emphasised  Felix Schartner Giertta, BSR Cultural Pearls Project coordinator in the opening speech at the forum.

Keynote speakers of the forum – Stefanie Raab (coopolis), Ramon Marrades (Placemaking Europe) and Jaakko Blomberg (Helsinki Urban Art) –  set the tone for vibrant discussions, underscoring the importance of prioritising community needs in cultural initiatives. Blomberg, renowned for pioneering inclusive events like Helsinki Sauna Day and Dinner under the Helsinki Sky, highlighted the simplicity and joy inherent in such endeavours. These events, rooted in communal necessities like socialising, exemplify how cultural activities can bridge divides and foster unity. 

“This is the power culture – with the medium of the pictures, beauty and joy we can go into the visionary society we all want to live in. Culture is the basis for developing common values, cherishing each other, being curious about each other… Everyone needs to have a home, and it cannot be only your own living room; it has to be also your city, your region, your area,” highlighted Stephanie Raab.

During the event, four workshops took place, focusing on real challenges faced by cities and towns participating in the BSR Cultural Pearls programme. Issues such as multilingualism, inclusivity for special needs individuals, and intergenerational engagement took centre stage. In Jakobstad, where the integration of Swedish and Finnish communities poses a unique challenge, plans are underway to repurpose the historic Old Fire Station into a vibrant cultural hub. Crucially, this redevelopment prioritises input from all stakeholders, ensuring inclusivity and representation.

Moreover, the forum illuminated the reciprocal nature of knowledge exchange. As one of the workshop leaders, Ramon Marrades, observed, both the young and older generations harbour a desire to learn and share skills, from mastering mobile technology to rediscovering analogue photography. By facilitating intergenerational learning opportunities, communities can tap into a wealth of untapped potential while fostering meaningful connections across age groups.

At its core, the Culture for Resilience Forum embodies the ethos of collaboration and innovation. In essence, the forum serves as a rallying cry for cities to embrace culture not merely as a form of entertainment but as a catalyst for social change. By nurturing creativity, fostering inclusivity, and prioritising community empowerment, we can forge a path toward a more resilient and interconnected future.

The Culture for Resilience Forum is part of the BSR Cultural Pearls project, co-funded by the EU’s Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme. The project, implemented by a consortium of 12 partner organisations, aims to strengthen social resilience in Baltic Sea Region municipalities by harnessing the potential of local assets of culture and creativity.