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Local consultations on the topic of arts-led SAP in Croatia

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Article by Urbani Separe

The Association Urbani Separe promotes active citizenship to bring about positive change in local communities, empowering social solidarity, encouraging personal development and lifelong learning; bringing experiential learning and effective practice from projects. Urbani separe aims to strengthen the capacity of communities in the city of Rijeka through participatory programs and activities that directly address their needs, and affect the quality of their lives, and enrich and activate public space through participatory cultural practice.

As part of the Motivate to create (M2C) Erasmus+ project, Urbani separe conducted local consultations (interviews) in November and December 2021 with various experts that operate as academics, artists, activists and community leaders with quite different educational backgrounds and work experiences, from all over Croatia. To get a broader view of understanding of arts-led Social Action Project (SAPs) and community art practices in Croatia, diverse profiles were involved in the consultations.

A SAP is an educational process implemented in a neighbourhood or community setting, with the aim of helping members of the community in need. It combines learning and social goals and frequently has ‘structured learning outcomes’ (SLOs), i.e., a detailed identification, in the design phase, of the learning that participants are expected to achieve throughout the learning process.

During the interviews, translating and explaining the term ‘arts-led SAP’ and the term ‘structured learning outcomes’ (SLOs) had to be assimilated to Croatian context.  The term ‘arts-led SAP’ was explained using a descriptive definition: a project that is participatory, brings social change, uses art as a tool, has SLOs. Our interviewees could relate to this definition, except for the part that refers to SLOs. In fact, all of them, except one that has extensive experience in social action working all over the world, stated they don’t plan SLOs, don’t see it as a priority, and don’t know how to approach it. This is due to the fact that in Croatia the term SLOs is associated with the formal education system or non formal education such as training courses. Through probing questions we concluded that the practitioners are aware that learning is happening in their projects, but they don’t approach it in a systematic way. There may be moments of reflection during a project lifetime when learning is addressed, but it mostly happens spontaneously without systematic planning. It is happening unconsciously, informally and not deeply enough.

The challenge of the M2C approach in the Croatian context is to raise awareness of the importance of having SLOs to identify the higher levels of learning that should happen from concrete action. The importance of conscious, systematic, explicit learning objectives is that it elevates the level of thinking above the concrete activity towards the dimensions of social action that have to do with individual behaviour changes, with collective relationships, with institutional changes, and relationships between individuals and institutions.

We would like to thank all interviewees for their contribution!

The Methodological Concept will be published soon, as a result of local consultations.