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2 minutes to read Posted on Monday September 27, 2021

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Shadi Ardalan

Shadi Ardalan

Head of Member State Relations and Governance , Europeana Foundation

Report from the Portuguese Presidency Europeana Conference

During the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Europeana held a conference to explore digital capacity building in the cultural heritage sector. Read the Executive Summary and download the whole report below.

A painting of a view of Lisbon with the St George Castle
Lisbon avec le Castel St. George prise de la Chapelle de Nossa Senhora da Monte
Hammer, Christian Gottlob
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek - Austrian National Library

This report presents proceedings, findings and outcomes from the Portuguese Presidency Europeana Conference ‘Towards recovery: digital capacity building in the cultural heritage sector’ on 3 and 4 June 2021. This digital conference was part of the Europeana DSI-4 Year 3 implementation plan. It was held under the auspices of the Portuguese presidency, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the National Library of Portugal. It involved 89 participants from 42 countries across the sector over two days. The event brought together policymakers from European ministries of culture, national coordinators, experts in the field, representatives of the European Commission and the Digital Cultural Heritage & Europeana (DCHE) Expert Group.

This report provides insights and a brief analysis with regards to the goals that Europeana and the Portuguese partners set for this conference. This includes a discussion on the meaning of digital transformation, exploration of the digital capacity building in the sector, and the aspirations for achieving that.

The conference aimed to stimulate reflection and dialogue around capacity building, to enable participants to make sense of their own contexts and experiences. The conference was part of a series of ongoing efforts to get a shared understanding of digital transformation and investigate digital capacity building across the European cultural heritage sector. The event provided an opportunity to help shape such understanding and  placed cultural heritage in the spotlight as part of Europe's recovery. 

At the conference, the participants exchanged views, successful approaches and common challenges around capacity building to deepen their understanding of capacity building for digital transformation across the European cultural heritage sector. 

Parts of the event were invite-only - aimed at cultural policymakers from EU Member States. Other sessions were open to the public. 

Four high-profile guests welcomed participants to the conference and shared their insights for how a 'digital decade' can ensure culture plays its role in Europe's social and economic development and recovery.  

A roundtable discussion on the meaning of capacity building saw the speakers Alek Tarkowski, Cosmina Berta, Jonas Heide and Susan Hazan explore and confront different perspectives. 

Four case studies reflected on digital capacity building and showcased opportunities for and inspiring examples of growth and positive action to build capacity: Brigitte Vézina and Eveline Heidel (Scann) introduced the Creative Commons training and certification programme. Elizabeth Rosenberg talked about a study by NEMO on the consequences of COVID-19 and building resilience in European museums. Adriana Nogueira presented the Algarve Digital Newspaper Archive to the audience and Maaike Verberk introduced the DEN Academy Leadership Programme Pilot.

Two workshops aimed to help participants and Europeana shed light on what we mean by digital capacity building and how it can empower the cultural heritage sector in its digital transformation.

For this report, we summarised, condensed and simplified notes, transcripts, recordings of the speeches, roundtables and case study presentations as well as data from the workshop Miro boards down to a summary. 

We learned there is no one-size-fits-all approach to capacity building. The needs, challenges and approaches, as well as the key components of capacity building models, outcomes from these models, and the road ahead for the Member States and their institutions are many and diverse. 

We found the following elements to be important in supporting digital capacity building:

  • integration of cultural heritage goals into national strategies 

  • clear policy direction 

  • advocacy for the sector 

  • allocation of sufficient funds to the cultural sector and its digital transition 

  • the European Commission’s support and leadership 

  • training 

  • multilinguality 

  • collaboration within the sector 

  • cross-sectoral collaboration at local, national and European level. 

The variety of these considerations from diverse perspectives reflects the multi-faceted nature of capacity building. 

The workshop process proved meaningful to the Foundation team. It helped us to better understand the problem space and shed light on how Europeana can support building capacity in the sector. The process proved to be a capacity building exercise in itself both for the Europeana Foundation and hopefully for many individual participants.

Next steps

The Europeana Initiative will continue to reflect on and facilitate conversations on capacity building, building on the outcomes of this meeting.  

A solid synthesis of the outcomes of the conference will inform the Europeana Capacity Building Framework for digital transformation currently under development. The framework models how we approach capacity building to harmonise activities - contributing towards empowering and motivating professionals, and driving a sustainable change. 

We will develop an impact model for our capacity building work and we will continue to interrogate the vision of digital transformation.

Using feedback from the conference workshop participants we have documented and refined the workshop exercises in a Capacity Building Playbook. The playbook supports a structured approach to capacity building and the development of a shared vocabulary for it. 

Download the full report below.