The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has completed its evaluation of government efforts for Umeå's year as a European Capital of Culture in 2014. Government efforts have consisted both of co-financing the event and of commissioning around twenty agencies and institutions to prioritise the Capital of Culture year.
The fundamental idea of the European Capital of Culture is to increase cultural exchange in Europe, to showcase and arouse interest in the wealth of culture that exists within the EU and to enhance the knowledge that citizens of the EU countries have of each other.
Government co-financing has been an important contribution
Statskontoret's evaluation shows that central government has influenced the scope but not the focus of the Capital of Culture year. The Government did not formulate any specific goals for central government funds, which were instead indirectly governed by national cultural policy objectives. The focus of the event was left largely to Umeå Municipality and the cultural actors.
Statskontoret notes that government efforts for the Capital of Culture year have been an significant complement to other efforts by the municipality, region, the EU and businesses. Central government provided one third of the total financing for the event, thereby making possible a large number of activities and projects that would have probably not otherwise been able to be carried out to the same extent.
Statskontoret assesses government co-financing to have been an important contribution to the Capital of Culture year.
The collaborating agencies and institutions have strengthened the implementation of the Capital of Culture year
According to Statskontoret, it was appropriate to commission a number of government agencies and institutions, mainly in the area of culture, to collaborate with the Capital of Culture year. This made it possible to utilise all of central government's resources. Statskontoret also finds that the commission to the Swedish Arts Council to collaborate with these agencies and institutions was appropriate.
Statskontoret's assessment is that the collaborating agencies and institutions strengthened the implementation of the Capital of Culture year. The agencies providing funds have been involved to the greatest extent possible. Otherwise, the agencies and institutions have organised a large number of activities in Umeå, including conferences, seminars and exhibitions, often in collaboration with local cultural actors and other actors.
These activities have also led to new and expanded partnerships between government agencies and institutions and between central government and local government actors.
Earlier commission and funding decision would have facilitated efforts
Statskontoret notes that the decision on government co-financing was made at a late stage. According to Statskontoret, this led to uncertainty and made it more difficult for the municipality and cultural actors to implement the Capital of Culture programme. Cultural activities could ultimately be carried out well, but an earlier decision would have meant more favourable conditions for planning the projects.
It is also Statskontoret's assessment that it would have made matters easier if the commission to the collaborating agencies and institutions to prioritise the Capital of Culture year had come earlier. This is particularly true for the larger cultural institutions, which need long planning periods.
Government funds have contributed to the promotion objectives of cultural policy
Statskontoret's evaluation shows that the Capital of Culture projects that received government co-financing have contributed to the promotion objectives of cultural policy. The projects have contributed to some aspects of the educational objective, i.e. to promote gender equality among cultural workers and to promote the culture of national minorities, in the form of Sami culture. The projects have also contributed, to some extent, towards promoting the participation of persons with disabilities in cultural events.
According to Statskontoret, the projects have also contributed to the cultural heritage objective by promoting Sami and Västerbotten cultural heritage. The projects have also contributed to the internationalisation objective by promoting international exchange and collaboration between cultural workers.
Finally, Statskontoret assesses the projects to have jointly contributed to the objective regarding children and young people by promoting the access of children and young people to culture.
Government efforts have contributed to some growth policy objectives and the promotion of Sweden abroad
Statskontoret also makes the assessment that government efforts have contributed to some objectives of growth policy and foreign policy.
Tourism statistics for example show an increase in flights to and from Umeå, ticket sales for the major ticketing actors in Umeå and accommodation revenues in the Västerbotten region. Statskontoret assesses these results to indicate that the Capital of Culture year has contributed to the growth policy objectives. It is therefore probable that government efforts have contributed to the objectives since they constitute a significant part of the total efforts.
As regards foreign policy objectives, it is Statskontoret's assessment that the objective of promoting Sweden abroad is relevant to the Capital of Culture initiative. According to Statskontoret, the results of government efforts and the combined efforts indicate that the Capital of Culture year has contributed to this objective by increasing knowledge and interest in Sweden abroad. The Capital of Culture year and individual cultural projects have received considerable attention in the international media, and several international cultural partnerships have been brought about.
Skills transfer should be secured ahead of the next Capital of Culture year
Statskontoret's report points to the importance of skills transfer between Capitals of Culture. Experiences and lessons learned from the Capital of Culture year in Umeå can be of benefit both for future Capitals of Culture and for the next time Sweden hosts a European Capital of Culture year.