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Cultivating Unity: A Call for Strategic Investment in Cultural Participation Across the EU



Introduction


In the heart of Open Paths Athens, a grassroots community-led organization, where equity and access are the guiding principles, culture and belonging intertwine to form the foundation of our ethos. In our pursuit of inclusivity, we advocate for equal access to all rights, emphasizing the pivotal role of cultural participation in fostering the growth of our communities. As we delve into the recently released Eurostat report on Household Expenditure on Culture in the EU (2020), our focus turns to the disheartening statistics, particularly in Greece, reflecting a mere 1.3% of household expenditure on culture, well below the European average of 2.6%.


Connecting the Dots: Expenditure and Inclusion


The glaring disparity between Greece's cultural expenditure and its ranking at the bottom of the table raises questions about the interconnectedness of these indicators. As a community-based organization grassroots, we firmly believe that integration and inclusion are inseparable. A society's investment in culture reflects its commitment to fostering a sense of belonging among its citizens, migrants, and refugees.


While it is a shared desire, especially for the Ministry of Culture, to witness an increase in culture's share of the national budget, the onus lies in convincing the Finance Ministry that culture is not merely a cost but an investment. The OECD encapsulates this sentiment in its publication, 'Culture Fix,' emphasizing the need to perceive culture as a driver of societal development.


Insights from diaNEOsis Report


The recent report on the Cultural and Creative Sectors in Greece by diaNEOsis echoes this sentiment by delving into various dimensions of the sector. It emphasizes the necessity for concerted policies that reinforce the bonds between culture and society. The report underscores the importance of broad societal participation in cultural and creative sectors, ranging from consumption of cultural goods to grassroots involvement in creative actions, breaking down barriers based on class, race, or disability. Moreover, it advocates for the systematic engagement of civil society in shaping cultural policies.


The Essence of Participation


In our report, we articulate, "Strong and dynamic Cultural and Creative Sectors are based on the broad participation of society." Participation, in this context, encompasses a spectrum of activities—from encouraging the consumption of cultural goods to dismantling barriers to participation. It extends to the active involvement of civil society in shaping cultural policies, enriching social and economic activities with the core dynamics of innovation and creativity.


Culture as a Pillar of Strategy


Looking ahead, our grassroots community organization envisions a strategic approach that leverages our culture to initiate dialogue between civil society, communities, and the state. Beyond the pursuit of a larger budget for cultural endeavors, we advocate for policies that reinforce the symbiotic relationship between culture and society, recognizing that the strength of a cultural sector is directly proportional to its impact on the lives of citizens.


Conclusion


As we navigate the challenges revealed by the Eurostat report, Open Paths Athens urges policymakers to view culture not merely as an expense but as an investment in the social fabric of our communities. By prioritizing cultural participation, fostering inclusivity, and shaping policies that reflect the diverse needs of our society, we can build a future where culture becomes a dynamic force driving innovation, creativity, and societal cohesion.


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