What is the best response local governments can have in today’s reality? How to find a balance between openness and responsibility?
The Cross-Border Cooperation Congress – Lublin 2020 will take place on October 6-9, 2020, online
At the Cross-Border Cooperation Congress, we will discuss the key questions of the present time: How to reconcile openness to people, change and new technologies and a responsibility for safety? This is a question about a new understanding of participation, both externally, from citizens, and internally, one that would maximise the use of resources within organisations, while empowering employees in the decision-making and strategy-building processes.
Today brings about a wave of changes with new dynamics propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our reality is now commonly described using terms such as volatility, uncertainty, complexity, or ambiguity. We are considering possible options to build and develop the economy without exploitation; without exploitation of people, excessive utilisation of dwindling resources, without the degradation of the environment. How to build interpersonal relations and local communities in such a polarised society when the imperative of social distancing does not favour the idea of community life and deepens isolation? What legal and organisational solutions can provide for the elimination of the existing inequalities? What about social solidarity and sensitivity; what kind of citizens have we turned out to be in the face of hardships? How will local governments, schools, cultural institutions, businesses and non-governmental organisations cope with new challenges?
These are the questions we are now asking ourselves. We want to discuss these and other challenges, as we have done for 10 years now, in Lublin, in a community of cross-border cooperation practitioners. Our meeting this year will have a different format. There will be no personal encounters, no hand-shaking, or no evening walks around the Old Town. What is certain, however, is that we will venture into an in-depth intellectual debate that the Congress has always been known for.
The nine previous editions of the Congress have so far meant hundreds of discussion panels in multiple programme lines, innumerable projects, business and social meetings, new acquaintances made and networks tied, transnational partnerships and friendships established and maintained. The city of Lublin, situated on the historical border of two great currents of European culture, with its genius loci, has always been an obvious host of the Congress that connects the European Union and the Eastern Partnership. We want it to continue to play this role in the current circumstances.
The world as we have known it will never return. We need to reframe and redefine the ways of thinking about the reality around us. This is why this year we decided to adapt the formula of the Congress to the new situation. When making the decision to go online, we had the safety of participants in mind in the first place. But we also wanted to talk about the challenges of the future in the conditions that the whole world is forced to cope with today. Zero air travel, no hotels; instead an opportunity to reflect on things stress-free and without worrying about facemasks and disinfectants.
We chose four key areas for the panel discussions and workshops: local government, culture, economy and society. We want to consider the time of the pandemic and the challenges ahead of us through three perspectives, as seen by the public, business and civil social sectors. First of all, we will focus on the perspectives of an individual, his/her worries, fears and uncertainties. We want to show how civil society takes action to provide assistance and support, pursuing the ideas of solidarity, community ties and empathy with those in need. We will talk about how to tap into the huge potential of grassroots civil initiatives and have it involved in the mainstream public activities.
Then, from the point of view of businesses, we will analyse the future drivers of development and growth, with a focus on whether and where it is to be measured, and on the limits, if any, it may have. The question of new business models in an increasingly digital economy is intriguing. Can we expect innovation in this area, with disruptive entrepreneurship flourishing? The local government faces a challenge to find a model that combines wise empathy with effective action. Therefore, in-depth consideration should be given to social innovation in the context of the search for a new management paradigm, embedding both the ideas of solidarity and performance. The answer to the question about crisis management and lessons learned for the future will be interesting. What is the position of the local government, given the inevitable need to economise (limited revenues), to pursue public tasks when the aspirations of the citizens are constantly growing? Perhaps an option is to reorient the processes and, drawing on the experience of the business sector, build competency models, calculate and track costs more closely, and be bolder in switching to remote work. The organisational and mental reconstruction of public institutions is of key importance. With a view to using the existing potential in the best possible way, human resources should be assigned tasks based on competencies understood as knowledge, skills and attitudes, combined with talents and professional experience. In the new model, accountability will rely not on the time spent, readiness to perform activities, but on delivery and outcomes.
Last but not least, there will be the debate about culture, an inseparable part of our Congress. Noteworthy, it was the Eastern Partnership Culture Congress in 2011 that inaugurated the practice of Lublin congress meetings “between the East and the West”. Challenges and problems in this area are plenty: How to perform and deliver in a time when funds earmarked for culture are bound to be limited? Which strategies should be pursued by cities which have bet on cultural tourism as one of the drivers of growth? Culture feeds on personal encounters, openness and spontaneity, how then to create a unique artistic proposition or a compelling experience in the virtual world? We will see it ourselves during the Congress through participation in cultural events, featuring a formula of streaming music and visual projects, contemporary art exhibitions via the Steam platform or literary meetings, all to feed inspiring discussions about not only the pandemic but also political circumstances and developments of today. Renowned cultural institutions of Lublin have undertaken to organize innovative projects, including the Centre for Culture, the Workshops of Culture and the Labirynt Gallery.
At the Congress, we want to discuss the key questions of the present time – how to reconcile openness to people, change and new technologies and responsibility for safety? It is a question about a new understanding of participation, both externally, from citizens, and internally, one that would maximise the use of resources within organisations, while empowering employees in the decision-making and strategy-building processes. In extremely difficult times, it is tempting to organise the decision-making process arbitrarily, behind the curtain, on behalf of citizens but without their actual participation. In the era of disruption and uncertainty, it is key that citizens clearly understand the complexities, the imperative to economise, the grounds of prioritisation (why we choose that investment and delay another, which institutions are considered “inferior” in funds allocation, etc.).
In view of these questions, this year we are organising a meeting of Councillors from various European cities. It is important to learn their perspectives on the current priorities and what problems their citizens are raising. The input from the two sides, the executive power (presidents/mayors) and local lawmakers (councillors) will provide a valuable outlook on the present situation and future challenges. Although we will find ourselves in a different, virtual space, we want to keep those components of the Congress that have always testified to its values, i.e. the Grant Fair, the Partners’ Forum and the Best Practice Contest. The Fair offers opportunities to learn about the options to source funds from selected support programs. The Partners’ Forum is a networking platform for organisations looking for partners in international projects. Networking in the remote formula is a big challenge, but with prior recruitment, it makes unique encounters possible.
An essential component of the Congress is the Best Practice Contest initiative, which will promote the most outstanding solutions for dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in five categories: Local government, culture and tourism, education, social assistance, and entrepreneurship. We want to showcase a broad landscape of original practices and innovative solutions. The invitation to take part in the Contest is extended to local governments, civil and community organisations, informal groups, schools, universities and businesses. The prize will be the CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION CONGRESS LUBLIN 2020 BEST PRACTICE TITLE, with a broad-reach promotion of the winners.