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Cultural Adaptations: using creativity to transform our cities for an adapted, sustainable future
Organisation : Creative Carbon Scotland / Glasgow , United Kingdom

Climate change impacts will change our cities and our culture. Cultural Adaptations is a highly innovative project with partners in four EU city-regions, exploring creativity in urban adaptation. Combining research, practice and policy through a series of activities, collaborations and digital resource development, the project is creating free-to-use toolkits to guide creative, socially transformative adaptation for city-regions across Europe. 

Partnerships of municipalities and cultural organisations embed artists directly in adaptation processes, exploring how creative approaches can create more effective solutions to climate change challenges,  and how adapting cities’ cultural SMEs can connect community and regional-level adaptation within existing strategies.

Agendas addressed
Greenfield land and natural spaceClimate changePublic space
HousingLocal economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Prepare policies for socio-cultural changes due to innovation
Context
New ways of navigating the river (Credit: Cultural Adaptations

Cultural Adaptations’ transformative actions take place in Glasgow, Ghent, Gothenburg and Dublin, with each city applying their expertise to develop a shared methodology appropriate to local contexts and political frameworks. The city-regions share some commonalities (historic centres, industrial pasts, vibrant cultural economies) and similar challenges resulting from projected climate change impacts (rising temperatures, increased rainfall, sea level rise and increasing storm intensity). 

Adaptation involves complex and multifaceted problems that require innovative solutions. Artists and creative practitioners often work in a different way to established institutions in other sectors. These cultural methods can therefore bring a new perspective, new skills and new knowledge to help problem solving in climate change adaptation. Additionally, to be socially, environmentally and financially resilient to these changes, culture must adapt. Well planned, early adaptation action saves money now and lives later, and cultural organisations play a key role in place-making and city economies of our future.

In Action
Creative sketching of adaptation (Credit: Cultural Adaptations)

The transformative action implemented in Glasgow led by Creative Carbon Scotland (delivering the Cultural Adaptations project) and Climate Ready Clyde (the cross-sector strategic partnership creating a shared vision, strategy and action plan for the Glasgow City Region). 

1.8 million people live, work and play within the Glasgow City Region (an area of 3,400 km2), but risks to infrastructure, the built and natural environment, health and the economy from climate change are expected to cost the city £400m/y by 2050. These risks can be managed, and adaptation can even create positive opportunities for the city and residents, but doing this in a socially just and sustainable environment is challenging and requires new ways of thinking, working and engaging. 

There are two primary pathways through which the transformative action is being undertaken:

  • Embedding an artist within Climate Ready Clyde. The embedded artist leads and supports conceptual change within adaptation processes and policy making. In this case, over one year, theatre producer and writer Lesley Anne Rose worked directly with the board of directors of Climate Ready Clyde (15 partner organisations, including municipal governments, universities, health board, transport providers) to affect their participatory thinking whilst developing the action plan for the region. 

  • Developing a methodology for adaptation with cultural organisations. It is estimated that 90% of the Scottish population participate in cultural activities, all of which are led by cultural organisations. Thus, in engaging the city’s cultural organisations and adapting them to the impacts of climate change through workshops and guidance, we can increase the resilience of this sector of the local economy and their role as key social influencers within the city. 

James Curran, Chair of Climate Ready Clyde said: “Building resilience to the impacts of climate change requires us to think very differently about the way we approach the development of the City Region, to ensure we adapt in a way which supports the City Region to prosper and ensure that impacts do not disproportionately affect the most vulnerable. We’re looking forward to working with artist Lesley Anne Rose”.

Lesely Anne Rose, embedded artist said: “Through inviting artists to work with them, non-arts institutions, national bodies and local authorities can introduce different ways of thinking and creative perspectives into strategic development. All of which can ensure that inspiration to take action is not lost in translation when communicating the urgency of, and solutions to, the climate crisis.” 

Results
Project team in Govanhill Baths, Glasgow (Credit: Cultural Adaptations)

Cultural Adaptations is a participatory action research project, with full results expected in spring 2021. Interim insights and results are captured in this report into the Glasgow Transnational Meeting Report and through participant blogs on the Cultural Adaptations website. Activities undertaken in Glasgow have been, or will be, adapted and replicated in each of the partner cities (some activities in Dublin and Ghent have been disrupted by COVID-19 impacts). 

In March 2021 a final three-day project conference will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, to present the results of the project and connect to other initiatives exploring the links between culture, creativity and adaptation. This follows the delivery of four complete embedded artist projects and four multi-day transnational workshops undertaken within local cultural organisations and adaptation practitioners, one in each partner city. 

Expected results:

  • A co-developed toolkit for city governments and cultural actors on how to undertake, manage and evaluate embedded artist projects and integrate this form of engagement and conceptual ambition into local adaptation visioning, planning and strategy.

  • A co-developed toolkit for use by any cultural organisation in Europe to prepare for the projected climate change impacts in their region and how they can connect to regional and national strategy.

  • A digital resource, providing research, evidence and practical materials to support those working in adaptation or culture. Already available at www.culturaladaptations.com are more than 20 free resources on culture’s role in climate change adaptation and how cultural organisations can adapt, including a number of videos we have created to capture results and learning as the project develops. 

The results of the transformative action tested by Cultural Adaptations are designed to be replicable so that other city-regions can create more robust, connected and accepted adaptation plans, leading to socially just, economically prosperous and more environmentally sustainable adapted cities. 

Impact

As Cultural Adaptations is not only highly innovative but also actively progressing, the long-term impacts of its transformative action are still to be realised. However, positive impacts are emerging.

In Glasgow:

  • As a result of this project, Climate Ready Clyde has added an additional and expanded cultural programme of work to a previously planned European (EIT Climate-KIC) Deep Demonstration project to develop a transformative adaptation strategy for the city-region. This involves co-designing elements of the programme and ultimately innovative adaptation actions with cultural actors and the inclusion of cultural actors on the project board and team. Glasgow’s revisiting of the Cultural Adaptations approach and its expansion of cultural involvement in strategic and transformative adaptation initiatives demonstrate the positive benefits local strategists consider Cultural Adaptations has stimulated. 

  • Following a project workshop, participating Glasgow cultural organisations demonstrated how it had influenced them to adopt and communicate adaptation commitments by contributing to in-depth research reports, developing their own adaptation strategies and presenting at sector conferences. 

In our partner cities: 

  • In Gothenburg, the project was extended with additional investment from the municipal housing partner, demonstrating collaboration between different government departments and additional funding commitments to adaptation initiatives. 

This project aims to contribute to the hitherto under-explored field of recognising and evaluating the value of cultural interventions in city planning and adaptation. Two academic researchers are working with all participants throughout the project to undertake formative and summative evaluation of activities. These evaluations, alongside theoretical literature reviews, participant observation and interviews will be to add to the body of knowledge on ways to measure the success of transformative actions.

Challenges and lessons learned
Example of sustainability initiative in Glasgow (Credit: Cultural Adaptations)
  • Recognise the new and unexpected skills that can contribute to city resilience and adaptation planning from other sectors. We expect adaptation practitioners or local governments to be the ‘experts’ but other sectors have valuable knowledge, expertise and networks to contribute. 

  • Truly transformative action requires trust, time and a shared commitment. This project encourages and requires participants to co-develop activities outside of their area of expertise, which can be challenging. 

  • Small interventions can have a big impact. Although Cultural Adaptations initially set out to work with a relatively small number of organisations, the project has initiated much larger projects and collaborations. 

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Fax: +49 (0) 761 – 368 92 19

E-mail: info@sustainablecities.eu
Website: www.sustainablecities.eu

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