As a first-timer at the EFC Annual General Assembly and Conference in Bruxelles, I get a small sticker on my badge to symbolise my status. It’s an eye – but it could also have been an ear.
In fact, that’s what I feel like for these three days: Big eyes and big ears. Well, and a mouth too – because I’m not sure if the small sticker makes any difference – it seems like my presence and the conference badge itself opens doors – and mouths. Everywhere I go I find myself drawn into openminded and interesting conversations. On foundations, on politics, on common grounds, on Brexit… yet oddly enough not very often on the topic ‘culture’. Why, I wonder?
The 2018 conference is about culture. And I’m facing an array of interesting sessions all somehow covering aspects of European culture and the role of the foundations. In the conference brief, culture is described as ‘one of the most valuable yet often least appreciated commodities we have’. And during the conference it occurs to me why it is so difficult to grasp and understand the concept and the impact of culture: Culture is ingrained in everything we say and do. It’s everywhere!
Yet, when addressed in general, culture is often confined to the bricks of a building (‘Restoration made possible by the A and B Foundation’) or the tones of the precious Stradivarius (‘Bought by the X Foundation and put at the talented musician Y’s disposal’). Commodities. And a heartfelt thank you to the foundations.
In this context, culture is often perceived as something for the chosen ones, the ones with means, connections and a university degree. Cult. But culture is far from cult. As I see it, culture is everything that goes through the hands and mental processing of human beings. Culture is the opposite of ‘nature’. It is created by man – developed, explored and exchanged by man.
Therefore, even though there are many interesting sessions at the EFC Conference in Brussels – the real culture, to me, is what happens when people see my conference badge (with or without knowing the meaning of the little beginner’s icon) at lunch time or at the coffee breaks – and we start talking about, well, foundations, politics, common grounds, Brexit…
Culture does matter! Thank you to the EFC Annual General Assembly and Conference in Bruxelles for facilitating the exchange of thoughts, ideas and experiences. I’ll be back. See you in Paris next year – without a beginner’s sticker on my badge…
Charlotte Korsager Winther is Head of Communications at The Velux Foundations.