Escalator 2021 developed projects from culture and creative industries despite the pandemic


The eighth year of Escalator was again unique, thanks to the diversity of participants from the sphere of culture and creative industries. Nine organizations from all over Slovakia decided to stop and think about how they could develop themselves and their organization and impact the world even more. What did Escalator 2021 look like during the pandemics, and what are the participants’ takeaways from the project?

Out of 22 applications we received through the open call for Escalator 2021, nine of them were given a chance to develop during the following months of intensive program training. This year it was:

Custom-made program

After the kick-off meeting in September, the thorough audits of each organization called “stocktakes” followed. Thanks to this step, the program is custom-made each year for the individual needs of the participants. The audits were led by mentors Paul Bogen, John “Sandy “Fitzgerald a Birgitta Persson from Olivearte Culture Agency. Their role was to cover the topics online training and mentor the participants during one-to-one meetings.

As the pandemic didn’t allow us to attend the common training in person, we were meeting with the participants on weekly online training from October to February. They could gain there new information from topics such as strategic planning, finances, fundraising, teamwork, or leadership and share their previous knowledge with others. Besides the official online training, they could also meet during the thematical study groups to discuss the chosen topics in more depth. The final meeting was devoted to introducing their strategic plans, created during the whole duration of the program. 

So what did this year’s Escalator look like? 

The aim of the program is to develop and help move forward organizations and projects from culture and creative industries, and at the same time to support the cooperation between them. The bigger the impact of Escalator is on its participants, the bigger their influence is in the sphere they work in, said Michal Hladký, director of CIKE, during the final presentations. Participants’ words say best whether we have achieved this goal:

Barbora Rusiňáková – Park of Culture and Recreatio Prešov 

Escalator was crucial for us to start thinking deeply and systematically about the long-term development of our organization. It was also a great space to develop my soft skills in leading a team with a long-term vision. The initial “stocktake” was an important moment since we defined all the problematic areas and named those which work well. I really appreciated space for personal mentoring with an expert from the field.
The results can be seen in the first specific steps we are taking – implementation of the internal economic system, online ticketing, defining our vision and mission, raising our awareness about the program areas, and determining the priorities. Escalator is a program that offers: an opportunity to broaden your expertise, gain a bigger perspective, be part of the cultural-creative community, understand the problems of others, and get recommendations on how to solve yours.

Noemi Ráczová – Múzeum Vojtecha Löfflera

I had an opportunity to meet amazing people and inspirational organizations here. Despite the pandemic times and many restrictions, we could meet virtually on regular training and get to know each other better. During the participants’ presentations, I got different views on many areas of management, leading, and problem-solving.

The thorough initial analysis, so-called “stocktake,” was one of the crucial moments of the program for our museum. After a few hours of discussions with the colleagues and the mentor, we had every area we needed to work on the paper. I had a feeling like when you have a giant puzzle, and finally, you can identify some parts and thus have a chance to finish the puzzle. In reality, it meant that my colleagues and I reconsidered our activities and processes and created a strategic plan. I recommend the program to all managers working in culture, no matter if they are just starting or have a well-established project.

Róbert Furiel – Saplinq, o.z. 

The program Escalator brought me to the state where I focus more on the organization’s development. It helped me identify areas we need to improve and realize the flaws and whitespaces. It offered us an education on topics we had dealt with intuitively before, but educating ourselves in them definitely pushed us forward. I consider a community created during the program one of its most significant benefits. Many unique stories and views were very inspiring, and they made me think about our situation from a completely different point of view. During the program, we started to deal with the areas we had neglected in the previous years due to our rapid growth. Personally, I received new inspiration and grew my network of contacts. 
I recommend the program to organizations that focus on culture and the creative industry. Ideally, it should be someone who already has a few years of experience to build upon. Thanks to this, the program can better identify the areas with the most significant potential for development.

Veronika Poklembová – ETP Slovakia – Centre for Sustainable Development 

Escalator helped us create and devote time for team thinking – what has been our story in ETP so far, what we are doing now, and where we are heading. The top moments were team plannings with our mentor Sandy Fitzgerald. We spent two weekends outside of Košice, and we reflected a lot; we planned and worked hard to prepare new projects. 
This year we celebrate the establishment of our civic organization. I think it is important to celebrate it outside of the organization as well as inside; to build relationships and learn from each other. The program brings new impulses and inspiration from other participants; it helps to reflect what we do. Therefore, I definitely recommend it to others!

Zuzana Eliášová – Sewn bag s.r.o.

Participation in the program has provided us with an excellent overview of how a company should function. I got to know people I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to meet, and they are wonderful. Professionally it helped us not to neglect any area of business. Our company didn’t have a clear vision or know which way to take before. After completing the program, we have clear priorities, know how to achieve them, and cooperate together.

Daniela Danielis – Textilné remeselné centrum Čadca

The program has decoded important non-functional settings of the Textile craft centre. This has brought and even will bring a lot of work but a more transparent future. Last year, I was in survival mode, and I realized that I could survive only thanks to my inner peace. This acknowledgment brought me the top moment of the program: it is important to look where the centre is heading from the external point of view while looking at its inner model of functioning as well. Suddenly, I paid more attention to deciding which activities were vital for us, prioritization, and calming down. All of this made me realize the organization’s value. We cannot have many small activities but instead focus on one “event” that would bring financial and energetic stability.

Tereza Sejková, Zuzana Kutašová – BRUT.TO

During Escalator, we have found out all the things we need to really work on, but at the same time, it has strengthened us to realize our skills and possibilities. We are more confident in business, full of determination, enthusiasm, and last but not least, plans we want to turn into reality. We have a clear vision and mission, which has pushed us forward a lot; and I think it even will in the future when the hard times come. We are also more organized, have regular meetings, we sort out the tasks and responsibilities. We have set a working regime and plan to get more people into our team from both sides – employees and clients. 
I think we don’t even have to talk about the amount of information that a person is confronted with during the project. But I am sure it can strengthen you in many areas, whether you are a well-established business/organization or just at the beginning of your journey!

Jana Hanzelová – Diera do sveta

Escalator was a 4-months long journey full of inspiration, creativity, reconsideration, and despair. I cannot even count how many times I have told myself: “If only have I participated in Escalator earlier – three to four years ago. Diera do sveta and I could have avoided so many mistakes.” I hope this clarifies that Escalator is a unique program I recommend to every organization that wants to pursue long-term financial sustainability while keeping its goal and vision.
There were many unique moments, but deep conversations with my mentor Birgitta are something I will never forget. There were also memorable moments with other program participants. Their stories, projects, and shared problems were as inspirational as the training program itself. The team of the cultural centre Diera do sveta could critically reconsider its functioning so far and start to think about the future from scratch. Thanks to this, I hope we will be able to rediscover, recreate, and define a new Diera do sveta.

Mia Ilavská – EZOPO

Escalator has given us more than it had promised. Besides high-quality workshops, experienced mentors, and other participants, it has also brought us some “aha moments” which directed us n a completely different direction as a company. It was not only about getting new knowledge. The main principle was getting that information in a group of people from a creative environment under our mentors’ lead. These were the moments we all had to get out of our bubbles and actively listen and be vulnerable to uncover the weak sides of our organizations/companies. 

Our goal was to ride the running train of EZOPO publishing house while heading towards new collaborations. But thanks to Escalator, we realized it is maybe needed to slow the train down, get to a new rail and start all over again. We spent the last months analyzing all our activities and thoroughly looking at our basis and direction. We have gained enough courage to stop the train. Currently, we are happy about our improved portfolio, having new spaces soon, and new opportunities that are waiting for us. 

Basically, it is an international training led by real professionals, accessible to anyone. It only costs you your time, and I think every company should find that time if it has plans and wants to develop them. On our last video meeting, we all agreed that the program could even last longer. If there was an opportunity to participate again, we would definitely do it.

Escalator was supported using public funding by Slovak Arts Council.