Socio-cultural Activities and their Institutions - Project Outline


Socio-cultural Activities and their Institutions in Europe

Comparative research outline - version September 2003


Subject of research

There is a huge gap between the actual spread and effective role of socio-cultural institutions in practically every country in Europe on the one hand, and their reflection in practical or theoretical documents of cultural policy on the other. This research intends to help lessen this gap and to contribute to the fuller emancipation of socio-cultural activities and institutions.

Since the low level of visibility is an obstacle to full recognition, the dimensions of the phenomenon will be displayed country by country. A major source of difficulty is the variety of the underlying philosophies and backgrounds. Socio-cultural institutions have multiple affiliations, including in the administrative sense: they may gravitate to the social, the cultural, the educational sphere and/or to the political objectives of strengthening local, grass-roots democracy and local identity.

This variety results in the vast range in the names applied to both the institutions and the activities in every single European language: the parallel and contradicting efforts of translating them into English is a constant source of confusion and misinterpretation. Therefore one of the main intentions of the research is similar to that of early naturalists, who set order among the myriad of species by applying unified (Latin) apellations based on careful morphological descriptions. Until consensus is reached, the term socio-cultural will be used for the cluster that combines:

  • Non-professional (amateur) artistic and cultural activities;
  • (Certain types of) community or collective leisure activities;
  • (Certain types of) non-formal out-of-school training;



For the research surveys we wish to involve as many European countries as possible. The minimum number would be 12 countries, we can cope with 24 or 36 as well.


The research is aimed at getting an overall look at the general situation of socio-cultural institutions. Case studies will conclude this research, offering an illustrative look at the reality of the concepts explained previously at a general (national) and theoretical level.

Local contributors will be required to prepare condense (max. 4000 words) country profiles identifying the issue, based on the following types of factual information:

  • The typology and statistical number of institutions;
  • Their place in national cultural policy documents and in the ministerial structure;
  • Their place in the legislation for local governments (obligations and competencies);
  • The main characteristics of finances, etc.

The local experts will also collect cases which illustrate the typical and/or the most innovative features of the country profile on socio-cultural centres. This work will be facilitated by a template or questionnaire that could be the outcome of a preparatory expert meeting. Besides the descriptive aims, the case studies will have the function of highlighting problems that cry for solutions either on national or on continental level.

Management and funding

A preparatory meeting with 6-12 participants would entail the usual expenses.

For the country profiles (including case studies) local correspondents will be commissioned to do the work against a set fee.

The total budget of the project will have to cover the operative expenses linked to coordination, administration etc, including office costs and overhead.

A final, concluding meeting can be conceived somewhere between the same workshop character as the preparatory meeting, and a large event of several dozen international participants.

Publication of the findings can take place either before or after the concluding event, with the usual costs.

The Budapest Observatory feels adequate to do any of the managerial tasks, as a member of a consortium or on its own - provided it gets the required commission and resources.

preliminary report illustrates our aims.