As the ultimate goal for “Creative City” has been culture change and shift of mindsets in public sector, designing, curating the content and organizing the pilot program acquired significant gravity. “Creative City” shouldn’t look like all other typical training modules that one meets in public sector, but it should be a creative-at-heart program that would rather inspire, ignite and engage its participants while prompting curiosity of the City leadership. To design such a program, the CIKE organization team collaborated with high-skilled and experienced external experts coming from high-profile institutions from the academic, business, and public administration environment.
Jana Knežová, Head of the Department of Culture and Tourism at Kosice Self-Governing Region, undertook the overall design of the methodology and the structure of the program. Jana has experience in both academia and public services in practice, her background is public policy and public administration, she had been working for 13 years at the Faculty of Public Administration at the Pavol Jozef Šafárik University in Kosice and during the last 5 years she is leading the Department of Culture and Tourism at Kosice Self-Governing Region. Together with her team she manages 20 cultural organizations in the region like museums, libraries, galleries, theatres, cultural centers. She has been a member of the Creative Industry Kosice board and has been working in the cultural sector for more than 20 years. Designing the program, Jana set high standards from the very beginning:
Main principle of the training program was to create and implement a unique program that would be different, innovative, impactful and replicable. I created the methodology and this methodology had been very important for its implementation.
Main goal was to achieve a change of mindsets and to give motivation and inspiration to employees in Kosice City. In Slovakia there is not a continuous education for local government employees. There are some kind of regional training centers but they provide courses on basic knowledge and the functioning of local government such as accounting, budgeting, local framework etc. This is the economic and legal minimum. There is a lack of programs that focus on new public management ideas, new quality of public services etc. In my opinion and through my experience I believe that this type of program that focuses on changing mindsets and deals with new approaches on public services is very important in Slovakia.
To achieve designing a state-of-the-art capacity program, Jana and the Kosice 2.0 team invested in the following six work streams:
1. Mapping the skills and the needs of municipal officers
2. Defining carefully the educational pillars
3. Inviting high-profile lecturers and course leaders
4. Selecting the right participants
5. Making use of contemporary digital tools during the courses
6. Organizing a careful evaluation process during and after the end of the training sessions
01. Mapping skills and needs
The team started with the circulation of an open survey and questionnaires targeted to all 400 municipal officers of the City. Although the team received back not more than 100 answers, it was quite clear that it would be impossible to address a large group of employees since the majority of the staff was lacking basic skills. Mirka Vargová and Denisa Draganovská, project managers at CIKE and Kosice 2.0 project, who co-organized most of the organization for the “Creative City” program, witnessed:
Most of the City employees do not have the proper education and also don’t participate into educational activities in their field. They have the opportunity to advance their skills with typical training sessions throughout the year but due to work overload they don’t participate at all. It is very important to provide an elementary educational program to the officers from the lower levels of the structure but it is also very important for each employee to have the opportunity to learn something new.
02. Designing the educational pillars
Having mapped the needs and skill level of the City staff, Kosice 2.0 team worked with their expert Jana Knežová to define the educational pillars of the program:
We used the following 3 dimensions to design the capacity training program for our City employees: what, for how much and how. We then planned 3 modules to run through the course:
(1) The Design Thinking module which is about what kind of services do we need
(2) The Value for Money module which is about how to deliver those services efficiently
(3) The Participation module which is about how to plan and improve our services together with citizens and stakeholders.
Those 3 pillars are directly connected to the City services and every course had been looking at the City services from a different perspective. - (JK)
03. Inviting the right course leaders and lecturers
To organize a state-of-the-art educational program the team invested in inviting experienced and inspiring course leaders. For the Design Thinking module, the team invited the Design Thinking Coach and Scrum Master from Deutsche Telekom IT Solutions Slovakia, Aida Némethová. Τhe Value for Money course was led by Eduard Baumöhl, researcher at the University of Economics in Bratislava and president of the Slovak Economic Society with lectures organized by representatives from the National Bank of Slovakia, the Value for Money Unit at the Ministry of Finance the former Director of the Implementation Unit at the Government Office. The course leader of the third Creative City course, entitled Participation, and Participatory Methods was Milota Sidorová and Lenka Kudrnová from the Office of Participatory Planning of the Metropolitan Institute of Bratislava.
04. Picking the right participants
It was not only about choosing the right experts to run the courses of the modules but also about picking the right City officers to participate. Someone would think that a program like “Creative City” would be for everyone in the municipality but as Michal Hladký states, the team thought that it would more valuable to work with people that have the capacity or the will to be the drivers of internal changes in the City government context:
To start building capacity in the municipality we started selecting specific attitudes and approaches. So we selected the people who we thought they could bring a change and it’s worth to invest in their capacity because they have influence or they could influence certain parts of the public apparatus within the municipality. This is also connected to a peer learning culture as the participants should be able to travel to other cities and see how other local governments are dealing with the same challenges.
05. Making use of digital tools
One of the main elements of “Creative City” was the use of contemporary digital tools to facilitate the new working methods that were being introduced. The design team invested in Miro platform to run participative courses and enable distributed teams to work together efficiently as well as the Moodle e-learning platform which is an open-source course management system that helped store all material to one place so that they could stay after the end of the program and more employees could have access. Jana Knežová states:
For this pilot program we recruited experts, we had video lectures, exercises, range of presentations etc. They are all available in Moodle platform and every employee from Kosice City can access to this material. In the digital age face-to-face or combined training are very important. But our Creative City program is developed to become a sustainable program and having the opportunity to use the Moodle platform is helping us in this direction.
The team found an unexpected accelerator in its effort to embed the use of those tools that were completely new to the City staff: the need to face the pandemic restrictions and work remotely at least at the beginning. Mirka Vargová and Denisa Draganovská testify:
Covid helped us and speeded up the process as participants had no other option but to work with tools and processes of the new culture, we bring onboard such as the zoom, the Miro boards or the Moodle cloud platform. For example, Miro is a tool which is extensively used by the design thinking approach. That was the start of a new approach for education.