Universal access to culture is a fundamental task of public administrations.  “The raison d’être of cultural heritage and museums is, among others, the possibility that society as a whole can enjoy them, understand them and thus appreciate them[i]”.  The role of Public Administration promoting culture is to put people at the centre and think about how to facilitate universal access to culture while ensuring cultural diversity. Therefore, it is very important that in cultural organizations, in addition to artistic directors that ensure the best quality, conservation and contextualization of the artistic fact, there are cultural managers wholook at this universal, diverse public with different cultural capitals. And this is all about audience development or community development: open culture to everybody: creation, production, access and participation.

According to Steven Hadley[ii] “the culture to be democratised is not a common, shared or popular culture but the culture of an elite.” In recent years, European institutions have turned to policies of democratization of the existing culture, forgetting other more popular cultural practices that allow citizens to engage with culture. Consequently, those policies pose questions related to diversity and inclusivity considering that democratized cultural practices do not always target different audiences.

Javier Callejo[iii] reveals an important exclusion in real access to culture that covers almost half of Spanish society (senior citizens, but also growing layers of young people): “far from meaning a small proportion of citizenship, the exclusion of participation in culture affects, to a greater or lesser extent, almost half of Spanish adults”. Thus, there is important work to be done in the design of cultural policies to break this disaffection towards culture and this inequality among citizens.

A public cultural institution cannot be managed as a private organisation.  Itneeds to address cultural participation from a holistic approach, tackling issues related to cultural diversity and equality. To involve audiences, public cultural institutions need to focus on two key ideas: On one hand, promoting access (democratisation of culture) and on the other, promoting participation (making culture more democratic). According to Francoise Matarasso[iv] the question regarding cultural participation is no longer if people should participate in culture but how. “Cultural democracy arises when communities produce and communicate their own forms of critical culture”, Steven Hadley[v] adds.

Cities can have a prominent role in leading change to increase cultural participation among citizenships and consequently, they need to explore new ways of creating meaning and community, but first of all they have to understand why culture is not accessible to all.

#ZGZesCultura is the cultural digital strategy of the Zaragoza City Council. It is a community of interconnected communities of people who like culture, whose mission is to connect citizenship and culture allowing the exchange of publics between cultural institutions and different public or private initiative programs, favouring areas of participation and co-creation with the community. We have been working on an Audience Development Plan for the whole city since 2015. “Audience development embodies the aspiration of cultural policy to deliver a different (more democratic) material reality in the consumption of the publicly funded arts[vi]”.

At the 2020 Adeste+ Online European Conference, Valentina Montalto[vii] pointed out the lack of interest as the main reason for non-participating in culture. In fact, this has been a key topic in the deployment of #ZGZCultura. In order to gather evidence, the first stage of the strategy was the review of pre-existing reports on cultural participation in Aragón[viii] and the launch of surveys to know better about the main barriers for participating in culture, and so we concluded that the barriers for non-participating in the Zaragoza’s cultural life were: (1) the lack of time, (2) the lack of information, (3) the lack of interest and (4) economic reasons.

Consequently, after the analysis stage, Zaragoza Cultural found out that the first step to trigger change was trying to make culture relevant to people by broadening the impact of communication and targeting different audiences. In order to do that, the cultural digital strategy of the Zaragoza City Council was based on two main components: data and content.

Firstly, #ZGZCultura was focused on the Zaragoza Concert Hall and afterward there was a second stage, when the strategy embraced Zaragoza City Council cultural activities as a whole. Finally, Adeste+ gave Zaragoza Cultural the opportunity to go further and include in the #ZGZCultura spectrum Harinera ZGZ.

The story of Harinera ZGZ began when a residents’ group in San José’ district asked the city council to turn and old flour mill into a cultural centre rather than demolishing it to make way for new apartments.

Harinera ZGZ opened in March 2016. Itis the first public cultural centre in Spain co-managed by citizens, the cultural sector and the City Council, a creative space devoted to community culture. Therefore, Harinera gives citizens a say in every decision, enabling them not only to consume but also to determine and produce their own culture.

Even though Harinera ZGZ has a shared governance model, Adeste+ has been the opportunity to find out that there were some segments of citizens Harinera didn’t reach.

Led by University of Deusto, people engaged in the management and programming of Harinera ZGZ started some workshops to implement and test the Adeste+ the Audience Centred Experience Design, a methodology designed by knowledge partners in the framework of the project.Through the implementation of this methodology, the project commission in Harinera ZG detected that young people and migrant women were not involved in the organization.

The Adeste Blueprint is a simple process model which whatever organisation can follow to design experiences and services with and for their audiences, visitors or participants. It will help cultural organizations to get closer to their audiences and make the most of your team’s creativity and ideas.  It follows the principles of human centred design and is adapted to the way cultural organisations work. It is being tested and developed by organisations all over Europe.

Adeste+ adopted this model after observing that some cultural organisations successful in attracting diverse people had instinctively recognised innovative approaches to their co-design challenges to good effect. Knowledge partners explored these practices of human centred design, recognising its potential to tackle many obdurate challenges of audience development. They then developed a model which put the philosophy and selected practices of human centred design into the context of a cultural institution.

Harinera ZGZ has been working on a collaborative process based on the principles of design thinking. In the first place, the group delved into the community structure and delimited three different layers of members according to their implication: Attenders, people involved in management and people implicated in programming. Consequently, three different approaches to work on the development of the Harinera project were established. From this point, the community itself was able to identify two specific targets to focus on.

According to the human centred design, the group defined a real person (PERSONA, a tool from our blueprint) to represent each target, and so the Harinera community visualized Fátima (a migrant woman) and Álex (a young person interested in undertaking a cultural project). Nevertheless, after validating ideas and assumptions, the community decided to focus just on Alex, and as a result, Lánzate con Harinera was born.

Lánzate con Harinera’s aim has been to enlarge the core community of Harinera ZGZ by involving young people (from 14 to 29 years old) in the programming. For this reason, Harinera ZGZ launched a call to select four projects to guide them by providing professional support, so they could get use to Harinera’s participatory model. Selected projects were:

  1. Black jacket: It is a project in which five 15 year old boys propose to make a thriller short film.
  2. Coming of age: It is a multidisciplinary project about growing up. It focuses on fashion as a way to build identity. The final outcome is a fashion film. Promoters are 18 years old.
  3. PreguntandoNóos: It is an action research project founded on dialogue. From a collaborative approach the project reflects on sex differences. There are two final outcomes, a fanzine and a multidisciplinary exhibition.
  4. Maños Music Festival: It is an urban music festival whose aim is to boost hip-hop music in Zaragoza and to give visibility to young musicians.

To sum up, Lánzate project has certainly been a success that has exceeded our expectations and above all, it let Harinera open up the community to new people.

In general, to undertake projects that address the problem of cultural participation, public cultural institutions need to face organizational change by implementing processes that stress the importance of mediation. As has been said, organizational change is key but decision makers need to understand that to be successful it needshuman and economic resources.

The importance of putting people at the center of cultural policies is the key to promoting a true right to culture for all: listening, co-creating and facilitating all kinds of culture.

Footnotes page

[i] María Ángeles Querol, Manual de Gestión Del Patrimonio Cultural, Madrid: Akal., 2010, p. 137

[ii] Seven Hadley, Democratising the arts: a never-ending task?, Arts Professional, 2016https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/magazine/article/democratising-arts)

[iii] Javier Callejo, El consumo cultural e igualdad: la exclusión cultura, in Enrique Bustamante (coord.), Informe del Estado de la Cultura en España 2017, Madrid: Fundación Alternativas, 2017 p. 60

[iv] Francoise Matarasso. 07/09/2020. Adeste Plus Online European Conference. 2nd episode: A new vision for culture? Integrity, direction and relevance. https://www.adesteplus.eu/online-european-conference/

[v] Steven Hadley, Audience Development and Cultural Policy, Palgrave Macmillan, Galway, 2021 p. 31.

[vi] Steven Hadley, Audience Development and Cultural Policy, Palgrave Macmillan, Galway, 2021 p. 5.

[vii] Valentina Montalto. 31/08/2020. Adeste Plus Online European Conference. 1st episode: Culture’s place in our lives. https://www.adesteplus.eu/online-european-conference/ June 22, 2021)

[viii] Granados Martínez, Gutiérrez del Castillo et al., La participación cultural. Relaciones entre la sociedad aragonesa y la cultura. Consejo Económico y Social de Aragón. Colecciones estudios, 2010, p. 229-278.


Text: Susana Pallarés and Sonia Sin Villanova







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