European Creative Hubs Network was having CreativeFLIP P2P exchange program for creative hubs in 2019-2020. In the beginning of 2020, we sent an application and were planning to travel to Denmark. It was not commonly thought that a work exchange could be realised online. The end of the year showed us the quite opposite. In many countries, it was the only way of doing an exchange. For us in Suvilahti and Institut for (X), it actually proved to be more than just a substitute for a physical exchange. It was really worth all the time and effort used.
Suvilahti is one of the three hubs runned by Kaapeli, located in a former energy production plant area in Helsinki. Institut for (X) is a culture, business and education platform situated in a former freight train station area in central Aarhus in Denmark. There are some similarities between the hubs, e.g. they both consist of many different buildings. And the both are located in constantly changing areas of extensive city development.
We were planning a physical work exchange and travelling from Helsinki to Aarhus in the spring 2020. Because of the pandemic, the exchange was postponed to the autumn, and finally realised online in December. We also changed the thematic focus from our original topic "community resilience" to a bit more uplifting theme, because we wanted to spread positive thinking in our communities. Luckily we found a great new topic for the exchange.
The thematic focus of our virtual exchange was "social glue". We wanted to find out what makes our communities work, what was that magic glue or energy between people and where it came from. During the two weeks online exchange, we were studying the "social glue" in our communities by making interviews with community members. Because of social distancing and limited amount of time, the interviews were Zoom calls in Helsinki. But high quality video interviews were made in Aarhus. The Zoom call recordings and the videos were edited and screened in the final online event.
The online sessions between the core people of the exchange started on December 3rd. In the group, there were one hub team member and one community member from the both hubs (and some extra people from Denmark!). Anni Sundell and Juuso Partti were taking part from Suvilahti, from Institut for (X) Juul Wendell and Vivian Vesterager. We had four sessions that lasted two hours each. In the days between the online sessions, the video interviews were made. During the sessions, part of these videos were watched and discussed.
We also had the pleasure to hear the thoughts of Anders Freestone who is studying master in pedagogical anthropology at Aarhus University and writing a thesis around the subject of social glue. Also designer Elin Armannsdottir was taking part in the first sessions and made all the visuals for our final online event. We mainly planned the online event during the last two sessions.
The Social Glue - a Virtual Exchange online event on December 17th was open for anyone to join. It was promoted on our social media channels.
In the beginning of the event we introduced ourselves, the hubs and the network. After the introduction, we had the first interactive session under the topic "What is social glue to you?". It was realised in the online Miro board. The group was divided in two Zoom rooms using their own boards. It went surprisingly smoothly, considering the fact that many people had not used Miro before. The ideas on the board were discussed in the small group. The most essential ones were later shared with all the participants of the event.
In the second part of the event, we showed the video interviews made with community members of Suvilahti and Institut for (X). In the interviews, e.g. these questions were asked: What/how is the social glue in your community? (Physically or socially) What makes you stick to this place? What makes your community special? The interviewed people answered very differently, from daily habits to abstract values.
In the third part of the event, our guest speaker Anders Freestone (introduced abow) shared his ideas of social glue from a different, academic point of view. For him, materiality is the "glue" in the social. He also shared interesting ideas about learning and space. We are really looking forward to know more about his social glue study later!
We had ask participants to bring a physical object in the online event that represents social glue for them. In the end of the event, those objects were introduced. The items were keys, reflectors, coffee cups etc. This was a nice interactive way to end the event.
Actually, this virtual work exchange possibly made our connection even deeper than a normal work exchange could have done. Because of the restrictions, we were not so much tied to our normal daily activities. That’s why we possibly had more time for thinking and talking together.
During the pandemic it’s very nice, when the day starts with interesting discussions with smiling people in another country. It is an energy boost for the whole day. Actually, online work exchange is a good way to take care of your mental health! Especially in exceptional times like this.
This peer-to-peer exchange was made possible through the P2P program run by the European Creative Hubs Network and Goethe-Institut as a part of the CreativeFLIP project, with funding from the European Commission.
Text: Anni Sundell