Cultural Participation: Stories of Success, Histories of Failure
Keywords:Cultural participation, Cultural Policy, Policy learning, Policy failure, Policy narratives
This editorial introduces a special edition of Conjunctions that explores how cultural participation policies, projects, and practices could be improved through recognising the pervasiveness of past failures. It introduces current policy debates on cultural participation and posits that the dominant focus on ‘cultural deficits’ and ‘non-participants’ rather than on how activities are currently funded has resulted in a failure to increase the number and diversity of people participating in state subsidised cultural activities. It further suggests that a culture of evaluating success, rather than critically reflecting on failure, results in cultural participation policies and projects that replicate past failures and maintain an inequitable status quo.
This special edition attempts to challenge existing narratives of unqualified success by offering alternative narratives that consider failure from different perspectives and at different points in the design and implementation of cultural participation policies and projects. In doing so it highlights the extent to which success and failure coexist and the richness of insight that comes from considering both. This matters because it is only such open and honest critical reflection that has the potential to facilitate the social learning needed for those who can exert the most power in the cultural sector to acknowledge the extent of the structural change required for cultural participation to be supported more equitably.
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