Vision for the Future 2016-2020

The Prince Claus Fund: A Network Organisation

Since its establishment in 1996, the Prince Claus Fund has been a pioneer in global cultural practice. Over twenty years it has continued to campaign for culture as an integral part of development, and shed light on how culture and development interact in a globalised world. Today the global landscape is more fractured, complex and uncertain than it was in 1996, and while information technologies have made us ever more connected, those connections often tend to be superficial and self-reinforcing. In a globalising world, misinformation and prejudice have proliferated rather than receded.  The Fund believes that the prospect of a peaceful and prosperous global future does not lie in military or economic interventions but in cultural ones. As opposing beliefs clash violently, censorship silences dissent, and economic inequality divides individuals and nations, the need for open cultural exchange and understanding has never been more urgent.

The Prince Claus Fund has always been a network organisation. In the course of two decades of supporting, awarding, collaborating, advising, and seeking advice based on trust and mutual respect, the Fund has developed a unique web of relationships with the most influential, relevant and innovative artists, curators, academics and cultural practitioners in the world. The Fund is nothing without this network, which enables it to have a broad international reach, to engage directly in times of crisis, to rely on local expertise, to function as a cultural broker in connecting partners to each other, and to interact with, and learn from visionaries across the world. 

The Prince Claus Fund believes that, following the words of philosopher Edouard Glissant, it is possible to “change in exchanging without losing oneself”. In Glissant’s spirit, the Fund nurtures and facilitates the development of relationships that enable exchange and understanding through culture. The ability to learn, and be transformed for the better through understanding and exchange, is vital to the Fund’s mission, for its stakeholders, its network and itself. This analysis of our core strengths and mission underpins the main changes in the Fund’s objectives: greater focus on the network and an emphasis on cultural initiatives that foster an environment of understanding.

• From culture and development to cultural exchange: When the Fund was founded, it focused on development in terms of “developing countries” and operated within a conventional aid paradigm (Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries). Today, development is situated in a global context characterised by circulation and migration. Thus the Fund will move beyond this framework by stressing the importance of exchange and developing understanding within a cultural context (or country), rather than development within borders.

• From “developing countries” to a more open remit: In 2016, it is clear that it is not only in countries where financial resources are extremely limited that cultural expression is threatened. Whilst the Fund currently works in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as some areas of Eastern Europe, over the next five years it will engage more deeply with countries in these regions where the average income may be higher but income inequality is extreme or increasing and freedom of expression is limited or nonexistent (eg. Saudi Arabia). Furthermore, the Fund seeks to respond to the need in the Netherlands and Europe for access to international and alternative narratives, perspectives, and realities by creating opportunities for exchange in Amsterdam, the Fund’s city, and beyond.

• From a funding organisation to a network organisation: The network is the Fund’s most important achievement and remains its most powerful asset. The Fund is shaped by its relationships with the cultural leaders it works with both in and across countries. Looking forward, the network will take an even more prominent position in the heart of all the Fund’s activities, offering a space for the creation of new, alternative connections, narratives and visionary ideas.

The Prince Claus Fund’s diverse network challenges and provokes, bringing attention to alternative perspectives. Over the next five years the Fund will focus on supporting alternative narratives from its unique network – that is to say, narratives, which run against prevailing discourses that stand in the way of positive forms of exchange, foster prejudice and limit mutual understanding.

Conclusion

In accordance with the views presented above, and the fundamental values which the Prince Claus Fund cherishes, it is imperative for the Fund to remain flexible and quick to respond to a rapidly changing global landscape, as well as to urgent crises that arise in volatile areas. The next five years seem far more uncertain than the future has for some time. Yet for the Prince Claus Fund, this presents an opportunity as much as a challenge. In a world of uncertainty, alternative narratives have more power than ever to shape our global realities. Working through, and expanding, its resilient and flexible network across the world, the Prince Claus Fund seeks to energise exchange, empower understanding and amplify the transformative power of culture.