A one-day online symposium

Date: 24 February 2021

Venue: Online

Organisers: Danilo Giglitto, Eleanor Lockley (Sheffield Hallam University); Eirini Kaldeli (ICCS, National Technical University of Athens); Luigina Ciolfi (University College Cork and Sheffield Hallam University)

Themes and Background

Cultural heritage is no longer seen solely as a safeguarding effort or an educational outlet but also as a form of civic and cultural representation and engagement that can contribute to social cohesion. The EU-funded collaborative project “CultureLabs” investigates and proposes the use of novel methodologies and digital tools for facilitating the access to Cultural Heritage through tailor-made novel experiences, creative reuse, enrichment and co-creation. As part of CultureLabs, this one-day symposium will discuss how digital ecosystems shape the dynamics between institutions (including museums and academic institutions) and communities, leading to new models of collaboration and interaction around heritage and culture.

We invite proposals from academics, researchers and practitioners who are interested in joining the organisers and an invited keynote speaker in discussing and exploring how digital technologies can support institutions to become more connected and open to different communities, and consider the challenges and opportunities brought forward by digital interactions in different settings. 

We welcome proposals on topics including – but not limited to:

  • Different approaches and digital tools that can contribute to both making cultural institutions more inclusive and encouraging citizens and communities to actively mould the way cultural heritage is presented and understood.  
  • Examples of projects or initiatives engaging communities at risk of exclusion, such as migrants and refugees, as well as other groups with distinct needs and characteristics that are often disconnected from institutional cultural heritage, such as youth communities, 
  • Insights on the practical dimension of how digital tools and interactions can be designed and used by cultural heritage practitioners, researchers, citizens, and communities 
  • Ethical considerations and reflections on the complex transformative processes these practices bring about, and the ways in which they influence the discourse around heritage, culture, and society.

Participation in the symposium will be free of charge but registration will be required. Full details will be disseminated in due course.

Submission Instructions

People interested in presenting at the symposium should submit a single PDF document including the following info:

  1. Their Name(s) and Affiliation(s)
  2. Contact email address
  3. Abstract of proposed presentation (300 words max)
  4. Short Bio (250 words max)
  5. A list of up to 5 relevant links (these can be links to a project, cultural institution, community organisation, etc.)

Submissions should be emailed to d.giglitto@shu.ac.uk no later than the 8th of January 2021.

All submissions will be lightly peer-reviewed by the organising committee, who will select a subset for inclusion in the programme of presentations and roundtable discussion. Please note that the presentations will be short to allow greater time for discussion.


  • Deadline for submissions: 8th January 2021
  • Notification of acceptance: 26th January 2021
  • Event: 24th February 2021

Outline Symposium Programme

10:00-10:10: Welcome from the Organisers

10:10-10:30: CultureLabs – Recipes for Social Innovation

10:30-10:50: Keynote Speaker: Dr. Jenny Kidd

10:50-11:00: Q&A

11:10-12:00: Short presentations

12:00-13:30: Lunch break

13:30-14:15: Short presentations

14:20-15:00 Roundtable discussion moderated by organisers

15:30: Closing and future plans

Follow-up Plans:

All submissions featured in the programme will be shared with registered attendees ahead of the event.

After the event, we will develop the symposium talks into a follow-up publication, for which presenters will be invited to submit article versions of their contributions. Details will be communicated in due course.

For queries, please contact D.Giglitto@shu.ac.uk or LCiolfi@ucc.ie*

*After the event, we will develop the symposium talks into a follow-up publication, for which presenters will be invited to submit article versions of their contributions. Details will be communicated in due course.


From 6th to 12th of December 2020, CultureLabs and its pilots will be showcased during the 3rd Annual Citizen Engagement and Deliberative Democracy Festival (3rd CEDD Festival)

It is an online appointment organised by the European Commission, devoted to analysing how democracy is changing and how citizens can participate in this change.

And again, this festival will address the question, how can we ensure that physical distance does not prevent the public from engaging, co-creating, or deliberating policies that affect them? How can we make the best use of online tools?

CultureLabs project and its 4 pilots have been selected to be part of the virtual exhibition: a selection of videos that showcase citizen engagement projects around Europe. CultureLabs and its pilots are part of these projects focused on ideas of deliberation or co-creation, which span art, science, and technology.

As part of the exhibition, the 3rd CEDD festival will award the project that incorporates the most innovative social approach to citizen engagement with a social innovation prize that will be announced on the 11th.

The agenda and the registration form are available HERE.

We are happy to announce that the CultureLabs digital platform is now available and ready-to-use! 

If you are interested in participatory projects that leverage Cultural Heritage for the inclusion and empowerment of communities CultureLabs is what suits you: a collaborative and free space where you can find helpful material and reuse it according to your needs. 

  • Discover material about past projects, methodologies, tools, and other resources that can help you in creating your own participatory project.
  • Share your own experiences of participatory projects and let other users be inspired by your expertise.
  • Upload supporting material that can be useful by other organisations who may find it helpful in their own venture.
  • Structure your initial idea for a participatory project in the form of a recipe? Following the template provided by the platform. 
  • Collaborate with others in order to gradually elaborate and improve your project via feedback exchange and teamediting. 
  • Reuse existing good practices and resources made available by other organisations and adapt them to your own needs.
  • Expand your network and find collaborators for your project.


The CultureLabs digital platform is designed for: 

  • Cultural Heritage Institutions who are interested in strengthening their social role 
  • Civil Society Organisations who are working for the integration and empowerment of disadvantaged communities
  • Researchers interested in studying participatory approaches
  • Public Administrations who are seeking to address challenges related to societal cohesion and  migrant and refugee integration
  • Community members who wish to raise awareness about grassroots heritage and turn their ideas into projects

CultureLabs is also the right place for any community member and individual who wishes to contribute with their own ideas for a project!


Subscribe for free to https://recipes.culture-labs.eu/ and start to use it!

CultureLabs pilot in Ancona: video feddback from the participants

The activities of CultureLabs project have been suspended due to the global health emergency of Covid19 but the needs, the challenges as well as the enthusiasm of the participants are still the same.

For this reason, we collected feedback from participants of “Bridging Culture through Arts“, our pilot in Ancona, as a wish to restart soon to cook up a more open and inclusive world!


The video is in Italian, the language that non-native speakers were practicing to get social involved. It collects the self-made videos of some of the participants, the reasons why they decided to participate at our pilot activities, their wishes and their expectations.

Benefits from "More in Common" pilot - CultureLabs

The way in which people continue to be inspired by Jo Cox to bring people together across divides more than three years after she was killed is testimony to the fact that those values are enduring and unshakeable.

Inspired by her ethos, PHM launched More in Common pilot activity as an opportunity to work with the residents of Greater Manchester and think about what it means to live in a multicultural Britain today and how Brexit has changed that dynamic and feeling in the country. Together, we will be gathering to celebrate diversity, challenge racism and xenophobia – removing barriers brick by brick. This project is an attempt to help bring communities together in the spirit of her ‘more in common’ values of unity, tolerance and respect. We hope to inspire more people to join us to carry Jo’s banner of love as now more than ever, Britain needs to embrace, celebrate and find strength in its diversity.

This is clearly demonstrated by participants’ motivation to sign up for this project:

“I had always thought that what is most special about this country is the way everybody can enjoy living together irrespective of where they are from. This, unfortunately, have been changing over the past few years and I think it is even more important in these times that people come together and spend time getting to know each other”.

Benefits from Helsinki pilot - CultureLabs

Zoom In On Heritage, by using pictures, brings the benefit of creating a comfortable and easy space where the participants can express their values, identities and thoughts in a group bringing the participants also to a more equal level in terms of language. The coordinators had a sense that women took part in an increased level of engagement or somehow opened in a different way.

The activities encouraged participants to make decisions on their own and to take the ownership of the project. For some of the participants this kind of decision-making power has been very pleased and they started voicing their own suggestions and wishes in terms of the project and the activities we could do.

One of the benefits has also been to visit the Worker’s Housing Museum and Picture Collections since the target groups, especially the women, do not usually get many opportunities to do such visits.

What Bridging Culture Through Arts brought to the participants? In general, a shared need to meet each other and to participate in the project, which is extremely positive. A sense of belonging is starting to emerge, which makes the group more solid and easier to work with.

Nonetheless, some physiological dropouts were recorded, due to almost obvious resistances immediately perceived in some participants. Some persons have manifested a certain uneasiness in joining theatrical activities (perhaps because they feel very involved), while others have expressed a great interest in such experiences. The confidence that is emerging will facilitate the understanding of what is needed and what is not, thus facilitating the co-creation of cultural initiatives.

The group is expressing the need to have a space of their own, where to store and exhibit their works and to personalize according to their wishes. These are encouraging signs of the participants’ creative attitude and needs to affirm their identity in a way that was previously not perceived like that.

There is still a lot to do, but it seems that the pilot is giving its first results, repaying the participants of the efforts done so far.

Benefit from so distant, incredibly close - CultureLabs

It is hard to define exactly what has determined what… But we are very happy to hear from the responsible of the associations we are working with that the visits sparked positive energy and the target group is now very cohesive and creative, more than ever.

As told by one of the founders and coordinators of Casa della Donna Association:

These women have spontaneously started a series of self-funded events devoted to their original cultural background and open to the citizens of Pisa: a series of meetings to show their origin country’s traditions, stories, and lifestyles, and their migrant paths by proposing traditional food and music, and telling personal stories and experiences”.  

Unfortunately, this lockdown we are all experiencing due to COVID-19, has stopped the activities.

WhatsApp chat is for us and our pilot’s participants the only communication means we can use to stay in contact altogether. We have noticed that for part of our participants that don’t have precisely a home to stay, chatting with us via WhatsApp is really important to keep a sense of normality in their life and to continue to maintain a link with everyday routine. It’s likely that So distant, Incredibly Close would have been a piece of normality in this breakdown.

The more we got to know the participants’ motivations, the more we were certain that More in Common is very much needed within our community.

From the stories and quotations we are going to tell it’s evident the huge need for people to meet with the ‘other’ person. Whether this otherness is defined by their country of origin, race, political affiliation or even anyone beyond their predefined social circles.

During one of group discussions, two participants got engaged in a side discussion around domestic violence. One of them is a white British and the other is a British of Pakistani heritage and wears a hijab. She was telling about her experience being a domestic violence survivor and how she managed to establish her life after the traumatic experience and is now trying to spread awareness around this topic. The ‘white’ women, was fascinated by her story and she honestly revealed her lack of knowledge around this and said that was the first time she’s ever been in an in depth conversation with a Muslim person despite being over 50 YO. For her, this was the reason behind her interest in the project. 

Manchester, like other area in the UK, is a hub for tens of community centres and refugee support groups. However, it is a rare opportunity for those active communities to meet each other’s. Even for whoever is receiving a service from a charity or a solidarity group, to get to meet people from beyond that group of service users which eventually strengthen isolation and loneliness particularly among those with limited financial resources. 

These are some quotations picked up by participants about their motivation to join More In Common:

“As I am not originally from the United Kingdom but have only been in the country since the last 2 years as well as I don’t have any other platform for now to meet new people, and help myself understand more about my surroundings, different cultures, what different people from everywhere might have got. This will give me a chance for networking with some beautiful people & I would feel more comfortable & confident having to step out on my own for any sort of things like studying, finding a job, exploring more options etc.”

“I am a local person who is interested in getting a view of Manchester from an outside perspective, and of the UK in general. In this increasingly rabid anti-immigrant society we live in, I believe it’s important for me to understand that there are many different people in this world and explore how to act together to resist hate and reconnect with the people around us.”

“I am looking for outlets to meet a mixture of people. I mainly only know white and straight people and I would like that to change.”

“I want to learn new things and want to learn about Britain”

A story from "More in Common" - storytelling

A story from "Zoom In On Heritage"

The early stages of Zoom In On Heritage were characterized by unpredictability about what kind of reflections and perceptions the group of women – who had different backgrounds –  would have about the collections that mostly represent the culture and history of Finland during the past centuries.

For this reason, we focused our first task to find an approach that would have helped us to understand what kind of thoughts or ideas of our collections would have brought to their minds…

During one of the first workshops we divided the group into two parts: people from the first part selected photos, and people from the second part put a photo upon the wall giving it a name. Our doubts were already overcome since many of the selected photos showed sceneries and lives in Finland 100 years or decades before us, demonstrating that the message and symbols of the photos go beyond the subject depicted.

A further episode helped us to create an emotional engagement. In the group there were women from various backgrounds and also Finnish women as volunteers. Some told their short story connected with their values (for instance related to the public library system), others talked about small observations such as coffee or tea missing in the empty cups depicted in some photographs, and some others shared personal memories evoked by the pictures of farm animals such as funny anecdotes about milking goats… These latter stories were a mixed of feelings, including the sadness of having lost that life they had had in their past.

When we moved to another exercise examining other photos, the discussion and sharing continued spontaneously for a long time, with very personal themes, memories and values.

In this way the pictures, even if they did not depict something strictly related to the lives of the participants, were a very powerful mean in creating a space for everybody to share and interact in the capacity and level they wanted. Pictures made communication easier for those who did not have very good language skill and, above all, helped the participants to share things that they wanted to tell but they did not find the space to do it.