Three models of cultural relations

Three models of cultural relations were identified during the course of the research:

  • Network model: Some cultural relations focus on particular individuals and their networks. Mobilising the networks of ‘influencers’ can be a highly pragmatic and effective approach in some contexts. However, this network model (working in a horizontal fashion around key nodes in a non-hierarchical network) may come at the expense of sacrificing deeper and longer-lasting relationships with organisations and may lead to a perception of exclusivity – no matter how unjustified. Non-hierarchical models allow for diffuse forms of power and influence but can become inefficient with no central lead organiser. (Luhansk’s ART & FACTs)#
  • Diffusion model: Partnering with strong and stable local and national institutions reaps benefits in terms of sustainability and longevity. It can allow for a diffusion of key values over time that serve the strategic interests of cultural relations. Such a diffusion model of cultural relations (working in unilineal fashion) from institutional centres to peripheries, however, can be perceived as neo-colonial and may unwittingly support what are perceived as entrenched hierarchies and power relations in legacy cultural relations organisations (Al-Azhar).
  • Cascade model: Training programmes, like British Council’s Active Citizens, that involve a cascading of knowledge and skills via a system of local and regional, peer-to-peer support work very well. This cascade model (that works in top down fashion) helps increases the impact of a project or allows a programme to grow organically. Trainees become trainers and pass on skills to other local participants and even across regions.

In practice, these models of cultural relations are not mutually exclusive but they forge different relations of power and influence. Active Citizens for example involves a hybrid network and cascade model that avoids the pitfalls of both models.