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Lithuanian Council for Culture Forum discusses expert assessment and future visions

22 June 2023
Lithuanian Council for Culture Forum discusses expert assessment and future visionsLCC Forum 2023, V. Budrys photo

Ten years ago, on 31 May, the Lithuanian Council for Culture (LCC) saw the approval of its first term. To celebrate the occasion, the LCC invited the cultural community to attend the new format of the LCC Forum. This year’s theme is Culture is You! The cultural community discussed the expert assessment of the applications and developed a vision for the future of the Lithuanian Council for Culture 2033. The event was moderated by Julijus Grickevičius, Head of LRT KLASIKA.

Project value is the most important criterion for assessing applications

The debate Expert Assessment – What’s Next? saw the participation of Director of the Visaginas Cultural Centre Audronis Imbrasas, artist Agnė Jokšė, radio host and jazz expert Laima Slepkovaitė, and LCC member Dainius Vaitiekūnas.

Jazz expert L. Slepkovaitė noted that in her assessments of applications, she pays a lot of attention to the overall context: “We assess against the criteria, but it is not a formal assessment because we have to see the whole context of the applications and rank them.” A. Jokšė agreed, noting that just as important as the overall context is the applicant’s previous experience, their activities, the added value they create, the potential of the project under assessment, and the provided cost estimate: “If an organisation has little experience but asks for a huge budget to implement an idea, even if it is a wonderful idea, it often struggles to compete with organisations that are stronger and have more experience.” Director of the Visaginas Cultural Centre A. Imbrasas noted that the most important factor in the assessment process is what the project would bring to the cultural sector, to the applicant. However, he stressed that experts use their overall knowledge to select certain projects: “You not making it means nothing. It just means you were not allocated funding.”

LCC Forum "Culture is You!" 2023, V. Budrys photo.

How do the experts decide the estimate is accurate?

A. Jokšė and L. Slepkovaitė said they first look at the fees provided. Artist Jokšė said: “Being a part of this field myself, I cannot imagine how any type of cultural event could take place without remunerating the artists.” Slepkovaitė stressed the estimate being highly detailed is very important: “If the only provided figure states it is “for the artistic programme,” all I can do is guess and estimate how many participants there are and how much they are paid.” A. Imbrasas said that in his previous work as an expert he had paid a lot of attention to the adequacy of the estimates and their relation to what was available on the market. D. Vaitiekūnas agreed, stating that common sense, trust, and the overall context of the estimates for all the applications are very important in the assessment. He stressed that the experts trust the applicants and the Council trusts the experts. The panellists agreed that market prices also depend on the rates for the same services in other project estimates, and by comparing them, you can determine whether the estimate is accurate.

What makes consolidated comments so important?

Jazz expert Slepkovaitė said consolidated comments are there for the applicant as well as for the panel of experts who justify their decisions. Imbrasas opposed the practice of consolidated comments, stating that some foreign funds do not require them, and stressed that “the application has not been rejected, but other applications have been selected and funded. These are different things.” Jokšė noted that it would be useful if alongside the published results of the funding there was also a more detailed presentation of the projects selected for funding and the overall context because “It is not just a line we have drawn; we had discussions and contemplated, we got into arguments over what should be funded. We make that list deliberately.” Vaitiekūnas stressed that the consolidated comments promote consensus in the expert working group.

LCC Forum "Culture is You!" 2023, V. Budrys photo.

Expectations for expert work – more involvement and ongoing work

The session concluded with a discussion on the attractiveness of expert work and possible changes. Imbrasas proposed strengthening the institution of experts and reducing bureaucracy, he also suggested the cultural community should discuss the changes and consider the possibility of an expert as a permanent position for a certain period of time. Jokšė agreed, saying she could imagine the tenure of an expert, detached from other activities and working full-time. She believes this would help understand the wider context and learn more about the applicants and their projects. Slepkovaitė said the current system was functioning just the way it should, but wished applicants to step up their applications. Vaitiekūnas would like to see experts becoming more involved in the cultural field, improving their qualifications, and going on professional traineeships.

LCC 2033 – from employing experts to increasing LCC prestige

In the second part of the LCC Forum, the cultural community discussed the arts, strategic and regional funding, the principles for assessing applications, and their expectations of the LCC. The Working Group on Arts discussed changes in the merging of fields, emphasised the promotion of diversity, and discussed the proportions of expert assessment. They questioned whether the number of experts in the merged fields could determine the funding opportunities in the different fields. The group agreed with earlier discussions on the possibility of experts becoming LCC employees and sharing their experience with other experts, and encouraged wider publicity and dissemination of information on the current selection of experts.

LCC Forum "Culture is You!" 2023, V. Budrys photo.

The Strategic Funding Working Group has put forward its ideas for the current LCC strategic funding model. They mentioned it would be important to align the expectations coming from organisations and LCC, whether it is partnership-based long-term investment or project management. They suggested introducing new assessment principles – not only submitting applications to present the applicant’s ideas but also having an in-person interview. 

The Working Group on Proposal Assessment Principles discussed the complexity and ambiguity of the assessment criteria, the qualitative concepts of impact and value, as well as project estimates and their possible limits. It raised questions about the objectivity of the assessment and considered how to balance the expertise and impartiality of the experts. The group also endorsed the establishment of a permanent expert working group.

The Working Group on Regional Funding raised the issue of attracting professional art to the regions and encouraged the LCC and municipalities to seek closer cooperation. It also stressed the balance between regional identity events and new production, suggested strengthening the competencies of applicants, and paying more attention to the impact of projects. The representative of the Group mentioned that the vision for LCC 2033 could be: “At least a quarter more regional funding and the content of the applications clearly indicating the impact of the project.”

LCC Forum "Culture is You!" 2023, V. Budrys photo.

The Working Group on the Expectations of the Cultural Community discussed more publicity for the LCC’s activities, more targeted cooperation, and a greater focus on regions. The discussion focused on the work of experts and consolidated comments, the lack of professionals working in the regions, publishing issues, artists’ fees, the project application form, and the problems caused by the absence of phased projects. The panellists suggested strengthening communication between the Regional Councils of Culture and the Board of the Council and having more discussions about expert evaluation, they also suggested the members of the LCC should be more involved and participate in the public arena by announcing their position on issues of interest to the cultural community.

The LCC hopes to start implementing the ideas put forward by the working groups as soon as possible and transpose some of them to the working groups that would include the participants of the LCC Forum who proposed the said ideas. LCC also hopes to later introduce the ideas to other institutions and plan for implementation.

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