Cluj Future of Work Journal 3: get an update about Cluj Napoca project
Cluj Future of Work Journal n.3
UIA Expert Simone d'Antonio provides updates on the most interesting activities carried out in the framework of Cluj Future of Work.
Among these, the implementation of the Culturepreneurs program, the use of the Labs at CREIC, the laboratories on Work 4.0, the work readiness of the vulnerable community residing in Pata Rât and the role of Future of Work in the local public debate on jobs and skills.
The third Journal of Cluj Future of Work outlines the progress of the activities of the UIA project of Cluj-Napoca from January to December 2021. The last 12 months were particularly busy for the project team, which finalized the implementation of most of the actions initially planned by Cluj Future of Work. After having coped with the consequences of the Covid-19 emergency started in 2020, Cluj Future of Work addressed the employment instability for workers of cultural and industries with measures that fostered immediate trust towards the action of public and private entities, but which are also expected to produce an impact on the medium and long-term at urban level. The combination of material and immaterial actions promoted an open debate on what future of work means to different parts of civil society (employers and employees, potential entrepreneurs, students, deprived groups) in Cluj Napoca. These actions contributed to raising awareness on the need of reinforcing mutual collaboration on a stable basis, consolidating pilot initiatives and programs successfully implemented by the delivery partners of Cluj Future of Work in collaboration with the Municipality.
The content of this third Journal is based on the interviews carried out with all the project partners at the occasion of the site visits carried out on 28-29 October 2021 and on 2-3 December 2021, and on regular online meetings with the co-management team of the project.
Section 2 of the Journal contains updated information on the most relevant activities carried out in 2021 on the implementation of the Culturepreneurs program, the use of the Labs at CREIC, the laboratories on Work 4.0, the work readiness of the vulnerable community residing in Pata Rât and the role of Future of Work in the local public debate on jobs and skills.
Section 3 of the Journal presents the implementation challenges of the project. Even though the Journal registers good overall progress of the project, a higher intensity in challenges as Upscaling, Communication with target beneficiaries and users and, most of all, Monitoring and Evaluation is visible in the third year of implementation of Cluj Future of Work.
Section 4 of the Journal discloses the activities that are going to take place in the final year of project implementation, and the most relevant lessons learned by all the partners involved in the implementation of Cluj Future of Work.
The evolution of Cluj Future of Work in 2021 was characterized by a slow but tenacious recovery of onsite activities, which made possible the completion of many actions readjusted in 2020 after the beginning of the Covid-19 emergency. The community spirit revived among the delivery partners was particularly important to make Cluj Future of Work a ground for testing innovative actions to imagine the future of work in cultural and creative industries, but also to support the immediate recovery of a sector that was among the most hit by the pandemic emergency.
The lack of official figures on how many people work in culture and creativity at national level and the absence of measurable national policies to support cultural and creative industries to overcome the current crisis contribute to the perception of the weakness of a sector which is perceived by society as not completely essential in times of crisis . However, the opening of local and regional actors to internationalization and innovation was a decisive factor for Cluj Future of Work, fostering a constructive adhesion to the actions launched by the Municipality and the delivery partners.
“This project is an opportunity to work together and do the extra mile. The focus of the Municipality is to build capacity for the city, to deal with this kind of process. We are very aware that the Municipality can’t do everything on its own in the city, and we need to work with other partners. Also in the framework of the project, we are delegating part of the responsibilities and we are making partners more responsible for the actions” says Ovidiu Cîmpean, Director of Investment and Local Development Department and co-manager of Cluj Future of Work, City of Cluj Napoca
The extension of the project activities to 31 October 2022 led to a smooth implementation of the activities reprogramed in 2020. It gave more time to potential entrepreneurs participating in the acceleration program Culturepreneurs to refine their business ideas and make better use of the equipment installed at CREIC, but contributed also to make the activities on Work 4.0 and informal work more participative and able to adapt to an evolving scenario. At the same time, it consolidated programs and initiatives on re-imagining work in Cluj Napoca, paving the ground for the final event in October 2022.
“What happened in the last 3 years is that the future became the present, and quite a pressing present. When we co-designed Cluj Future of Work we wanted to prepare the city for the disruptive trends around work. With the COVID-19 pandemic, these trends became reality, making our work central for how the city will think on its competiveness concerning cultural and creative industries, but also revealing that a large scale effort is needed. And this is what FoW needs to focus in 2022: how to create the capacity for each partner to scale and how to keep these subjects at the top of the municipality’s agenda” says Anamaria Vrabie, Director of Cluj-Napoca Urban Innovation Unit and co-manager of Cluj Future of Work at Cluj Cultural Centre.
The business incubation program developed and coordinated by the Cluj Cultural Centre in collaboration with the delivery partners of Cluj Future of Work got into the thick of things in 2021. After the conclusion between December 2020 and February 2021 of the modules on Business Essentials (Systems Thinking & Open Innovation, Management and Strategy, Marketing and Communication, Financial and legal management) and two thematic modules (Digitalisation and Artistic thinking), which gave the basic entrepreneurial skills to 69 participants selected out of 109 applicants to attend the program activities, three thematic modules (Custom Design, Innovative Audiovisual Contents, Gamification) were delivered by different project partners in 2021.
The objective of the modules was to give specialized notions and practical knowledge to smaller groups of participants (20 participants on average per course) in order to refine their business ideas with fresh elements taken from the experience of teachers and tutors who are also practitioners in cultural and creative industries, as well as in the IT and design sectors.
The process of development of the modules’ curricula was particularly engaging for all the partners involved and for the Cluj Cultural Centre which led the action, stimulating an open discussion on the skills needed for the future of work in cultural and creative industries in Cluj Napoca and how programs as Culturepreneurs can influence a widespread culture of education to entrepreneurship and innovation at urban level , both in terms of connection with existing university courses as in terms of creation of brand new initiatives for different categories of residents. The first tangible results are already visible at local level, in both the fields. The Arts and Design University (one of the delivery partners of Cluj Future of Work, in charge of delivering the module on Artistic Thinking) is consolidating the inclusion of modules on cultural and creative entrepreneurial basic knowledge in its courses for masters students. At the same time, the Municipality launched the program Fix Cluj (Fund for Innovation and Experimentation), which is going to select 40 aspiring entrepreneurial teams composed of 2-5 participants from 16 to 26 years old, who will receive in 2022 economic grants to develop their business ideas and a program of entrepreneurial education and mentoring. Even though this initiative is not formally connected to Culturepreneurs, there is no doubt that the acceleration program of Cluj Future of Work is creating awareness at local level on the importance of launching similar programs to support the creation of innovative skills in different fields.
The specialized training modules of Culturepreneurs were delivered with online lessons for the theoretical parts and with onsite meetings at CREIC for the practical lessons, with the use of the equipment installed at the Labs dedicated to CGI&VFX, Design Development and Work 4.0 and Machine Learning.
The module on Gamification was delivered by Cluj IT Cluster, with a theoretical part delivered online and a laboratory section carried out at CREIC as soon as the equipment for augmented and virtual reality were installed and the relief of the Covid-19 safety regulation allowed participants to work together in the Labs. The module on Custom Design was delivered by Transylvanian Furniture Cluster, with the use of the equipment of the Design Lab, whose use was allowed also to employees of the companies which are part of the cluster, who familiarized with machinery which are able to test innovative uses and certify furniture (as chairs, etc.) produced by local enterprises.
The module on Innovative Audiovisual Contents was delivered by TIFF, with the use of the equipment of the CGI&VFX Laboratory which offered to the participants the opportunity to test technologies for editing, post-production and innovative digital storytelling.
The thematic modules were very much interactive and fostered new forms of collaboration among Culturepreneurs participants and with the tutors,
representing excellent experiences in their respective fields notable also to regional and national level. For example, the participant to CGI/VFX programme interacted with experts of films and cinematographic productions, who followed the transformation and the evolution of project ideas with a strong potential in terms of innovation of audio-visual products produced in the city. The quality of the interaction with the students was an element outlined by all the partners involved in this action, and the basis for further collaboration in the cultural and creative field.
“I had the chance to work with the participants very closely, and I saw that all the Culturepreneurs activities had a great impact on them, changing the way they think about creative industries and how they transform these ideas in business. It is something very new, we don’t have any previous path to go along so we had to adapt, but I saw their commitment, how excited they were when I was working with them. Thanks to this program, I have new friends: we communicate a lot, we created a lot of connections, I’m attached to these people and their projects and I keep asking what they are doing” says Cristian Hordila, manager of TIFF and tutor of the module Innovative Audiovisual Contents.
Participation in the thematic modules was important for the Culturepreneurs participants to refine their business ideas, which were judged by a Jury composed by the representatives of the project partners at the occasion of the second pitching session which took place on May 2021. The session followed a model similar to the first pitching session carried out online in December 2020 and rewarded ten entrepreneurial projects. Five of the team received additional support for supporting their scalability and promotion on the international market.
Here are the ideas selected:
• Velements - Born Again Clothing: Second-hand clothes upcycled with a design touch https://velements.ro/ (Culturepreneur: Adrian Vele)
• Lapage Lepage - Adaptable font creator inspired by the nameplate of the Romanian Railway companies’ electric locomotives https://lapagelepage.com/ (Culturepreneur: Sipos Geza)
• Catrinel Studio – Customized design bags https://catrinelsabaciag.com/ (Culturepreneur: Catrinel Sabaciag)
• Anadora Lupo – Unconventional metal chairs, which are stackable, foldable and mountable in different shapes and sizes https://anadoralupo.ro (Culturepreneur: Anadora Lupo)
• HIITS – Music app for trainers, combining high-intensity training and music hits for teaching classes https://drive.google.com/file/d/1d84I3muq5Ev9hSLGjNFnt6aKaeJsrC9D/view (Culturepreneur: Alexandru Voiina)
Each entrepreneurial project, selected by an additional jury composed of experts of marketing, public relations and communication but also designers and buyers following a series of criteria such as the potential in terms of internationalization and scalability of the idea, received support equivalent to 5800 euros which were used to improve the marketability of the entrepreneurial ideas. The aspiring entrepreneurs received by ZAIN (the delivery partner in charge of this action) a tailor-made branding and marketing strategy, as well as support for the creation of their websites, digital and social media plans, photo-shoots and 3D modelling for visual promotion. Furthermore, some of them will receive support to participate in international fairs and exhibitions at European level (such as the Milan Furniture Fair) in 2022, and accompanied in looking for additional sponsors who can support their action of international promotion.
The entrepreneurial ideas selected for receiving support for internationalization are exemplificative of the vibrancy of the new generation of cultural and creative industries based in Cluj-Napoca, which are reinventing traditional sectors and creating new tangible and intangible design products which are in line with the global trends of technological, economic, social and environmental sustainability.
After the finalization of the procurement process at the end of 2020, the Labs and the co-working space hosted by CREIC (Regional Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries) were finally equipped and made ready for being used by the Culturepreneurs participants.
The installation of the equipment, almost completed at the end of 2021 (only the last 3D printer recently purchased still needs to be put in place), in the three Labs created for Cluj Future of Work (CGI&VFX Lab, Design Development Lab, Work 4.0 and Machine Learning Lab) revealed the potential of a space that the Municipality intends to open to schools, universities, research centres and enterprises to be used as a laboratory for testing innovative ideas, services and products in different fields.
The aspiring entrepreneurs participating in the Culturepreneurs modules Custom Design, Innovative Audiovisual Contents, Gamification were the first ones to test the equipment as soon as they were installed, but soon after the students of the University of Arts and Design were allowed to use the machinery of the CGI VFX Lab for 3 days a week to work on their animation projects. This experiment, carried out between November and December 2021, involved 50 university students in total, with an average presence of 15 students per day in the Labs. This action paves the way to the introduction of a system that will allow students and potential entrepreneurs of Cluj Napoca to book through an app (to be launched in the first quarter of 2022) a slot to use the equipment installed at CREIC. The booking system will keep into account the capacity of the spaces (reduced compared to normal, because of the Covid-19 security regulations) and the possibility to use some of the equipment remotely, with the objective of making the Labs available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The objective of the Municipality is to promote the use of the equipment of the CREIC also to private enterprises active at local and regional level, as part of a wider strategy to make the management of the Labs economically sustainable on medium and long term. To this end, many public events were organized in 2021 to let residents, research centres, start-ups and private companies be more familiar with the Labs of CREIC. An Open Labs Day was organized on 18 November 2021 at the presence of the Mayor Emil Boc, while a 3-days hackathon was organized from 19 to 21 November with 16 school students to teach them how to program robots and use virtual reality in a creative way. More than 250 participants attended the series of events, that opened a series of activities to be continued in 2022 to give more visibility to the Labs at urban level.
The definition of a sustainable management system for the Labs at CREIC to be implemented by the end of the activities of Cluj Future of Work is currently under discussion among the project partners. The long-term management of the Labs at CREIC is challenging for different reasons. First of all, a team of technicians in charge of managing the Labs and supporting the users in utilizing the equipment needs to be trained: while the management of the Labs was until now ensured by the partners responsible for each Lab, this action needs to be undertaken by specialized professionals in the future: to this end, a small group of young professionals (two for the CGI and VFX Lab, one for the Machine Learning Lab, one for the Design Development Lab) is being trained to work as managers of the Labs starting from 2022.
Furthermore, the Steering Committee of Cluj Future of Work is evaluating different options to ensure a share of the costs among all the partners, but also to other stakeholders of the city, after the end of the project (the rent of the Labs at CREIC is covered just until October 2022, while the transfer of ownership and management of the equipment to the Cluj Innovation Park needs to be implemented with a legal solution still under definition).
The objective of the Municipality is to keep low or no costs for freelancers and students willing to accede to the Labs, whose costs of rental and maintenance will be divided among public authorities (Municipality and universities), industries and technological clusters with these latest which will have the opportunity to use the Labs for their educational programs or for testing new products and services. The model of sustainable management of the Labs at CREIC was the object of a series of internal meetings and workshops and, once defined, will be tested by the end of the project so to ensure a smooth transition once Cluj Future of Work will close its activities.
Training professionals of sectors at risk because of the rising of digitalization and automation is one of the main objectives of Cluj Future of Work. The Work 4.0 Program was implemented throughout the year, with the objective of encouraging technological development and automation of internal work processes but also the preparation of work strategies and administrative procedures improving the performances of private companies and public institutions.
Six companies were selected among the members of the industry clusters Cluj IT Cluster and Transylvanian Furniture Cluster (partners involved, together with Aries Transylvania IT and Cluj Cultural Centre, in the development and delivery of the training modules), and two trainings were organized respectively by Aries Transylvania IT in May 2021 and by Cluj IT Cluster in November 2021. The companies selected were able to register two managers or employees to the trainings on Creative Engineering and Industry 4.0, which were followed by laboratory activities still ongoing at CREIC.
The integration of digital solutions into the value chain and the creation of a strategic approach to the use of technologies were just some of the main topics of the training modules, which were designed by the project partners together with the companies involved, in order to foster the change of approaches of managers from different teams responsible for companies’ strategic orientation. The training was also opened to Culturepreneurs participants, who had the opportunity to deal with entrepreneurs, HR managers and professionals active in public relations, software testing or manufacturing in a vibrant environment, that stimulated the creation of a shared culture on Work 4.0 at urban level. The onsite activities, which were scheduled to be carried out at the Machine Learning and Automation Lab of CREIC in Autumn, were reported to 2022 because of the new wave of the pandemic emergency. However, even though the testing of automation solutions of some internal processes in the companies involved, the active participation of representatives of local industries of different sectors was relevant for bringing the reflection on future of work to sectors as design and technologies which play a decisive role for social and economic recovery after the pandemic.
The work readiness of the vulnerable community of Pata Rât
Creating the best possible conditions for the employability of the members of the Roma community living in the landfill area of Pata Rât is a challenge that Cluj Future of Work tackled in 2021 in the framework of its action on informal work.
After having installed Wi-Fi hotspots and sanitary infrastructures which contributed to improving the living condition in the slum during the first year of the pandemic emergency, in 2021 ADI-ZMC (the association of Municipalities of the Metropolitan Area of Cluj) continued in collaboration with the Municipality to implement some of the ideas that emerged from the participatory process which was carried out in the Pata Rât community in 2020.
The introduction of the public bus line 8L, running four times per day from Monday to Friday and twice per day in the weekend, which connects the area to the city center, and the purchase of 350 free monthly subscriptions delivered to the residents of Pata Rât were the most tangible results of the activities coordinated by the Cluj Metropolitan Association (partner in charge of the activities on informal work). The new transport line, implemented in collaboration with the local public transport company CPT, was introduced as pilot action for six months and then prolonged to reach different corners of the landfill. The enthusiastic reaction of the residents is probably going to make this line a stable part of the city offer in terms of public transport, while the connection with other lines and the introduction of financial mechanisms to ensure free transit to families in need as pre-condition of better access to work are currently debated. The consolidation of the measures tested in the framework of Cluj Future of Work can lead also to a better understanding of the needs of this specific group of residents by the rest of the local population, fostering a more harmonious coexistence on public buses and reducing any kind of possible conflict which may arise. Making public transport more accessible to the residents of Pata Rât on stable basis can be a powerful driver for better social and professional inclusion.
Another relevant set of measures fostering the employability of the members of the local Roma community of Pata Rât was aimed at supporting the launch of start-ups on informal work. Eight residents of the area were selected by a public call launched by ADI/ZMC to attend a series of learning modules on organization essentials, which provided them basic information on how to prepare the necessary documents for registering an enterprise and how to create a solid business plan. Through the support of the local consultancy company SIAB Development, eight aspiring entrepreneurs in different fields (construction works, delivery services, cleaning activities, car washing, fast food catering, florist shop) received mentoring and assistance for the creation of the start-ups, but unfortunately they couldn’t apply for any additional economic support due to the suspension of the national program Start-Up Romania (to which they were expected to apply) due to the Covid-19 emergency. Considering that most of the start-ups mentioned above need a consistent financing to take off (around 20.000 euros), it was not possible to initiate the activity of any of them, even though all the preparatory steps were completed and the companies will be officially registered as soon as a viable financing source will be available.
The online and physical meetings with the aspiring entrepreneurs and the group meetings with the local community highlighted some of the most relevant obstacles to having access to formal work. Among these, the hardship in acceding to a line of credit or in registering a company for who doesn’t have a permanent address, the discriminations faced by the Roma community, the hard conditions of living and working, or the lack of services for kids. The results of these meetings and the impact assessment of the pilot action on public transport, mentioned above, will be kept into account and discussed in view of the presentation of a public policy paper to the public authorities in 2022, which will be focused on how to assure decent public services to underprivileged communities.
Future of work as part of the local cultural debate
Reimagining work in cultural and creative industries is a challenge tackled by Cluj Future of Work with a series of actions covering different sectors, also intending to raise awareness among decision-makers, academics, experts, entrepreneurs and students on the impact that the future of labor market will have on social and economic cohesion in Cluj Napoca.
The use of innovative formats and styles to make different sectors of the local public familiar with the challenges of the future of work is a system that the Cluj Cultural Centre (co-managing the project together with the Municipality) is carrying out with activities involving different target groups.
In March 2021 a public call was launched to select 12 artists who created works of art on imagined future scenarios of work. The installations, performative acts and audio-visual ensembles selected were then shown in October 2021 at Work Upside Down, the exhibition curated by the Austrian association Time’s Up (which curates the activities on future scenarios in the framework of Cluj Future of Work). The objective of the exhibition is to present through different artistic languages how the work will change in the future, opening up the reflection carried out by the project to the general audience.
Imagining possible futures in an artistic way is an approach followed by Time’s Up with the workshops on Future Scenarios, organized in 2019 for local students, potential entrepreneurs, innovators and artists to help them in developing visions on how the work in different sectors will look like in the future.
In 2021 this methodology was applied also to the activities carried out by Cluj Future of Work on informal jobs, with the organization of two workshops opened respectively to kids and adults of the Pata Rât community. In each workshop the participants were asked to imagine the future at different scales, to see them as professionals in different fields and define the future they imagine for themselves, their families and the community where they live in. The workshops highlighted not only the current obstacles faced by the members of the Roma community in acceding to formal jobs, such as the persistence of racism and intolerance, but also their hope of living in a more inclusive and sustainable urban environment.
The challenges of the informal work were also represented with artistic productions carried out by the members of the community together with facilitators, photographers and sketchers. Five comic strip posters portraying “superheroes” of informal work were produced in a series called Workopolis between August and September 2021, to put under the spotlight five role models active in different fields , such as the collection of bulky and reusable waste, domestic work, flower selling and constructions. The informal workers were interviewed, photographed and then illustrated in the posters, that will be exhibited at the occasion of the final event of Cluj Future of Work.
In 2021 Cluj Future of Work involved also cultural organizations and local enterprises in experimentally rethinking the future of work with two initiatives targeting potential innovators.
In January 2021 the Cluj Cultural Centre launched the Cluj Innovation Fellowships, a process connected to the topics of Cluj Future of Work aimed at incubating public-value innovation through the launch of innovative forms of partnership with civic actors and research professionals. The objective of the programme was to support development and testing of interventions that can make local stakeholders more resilient to future systemic changes. The Cluj Innovation Fellowship provided knowledge resources, mentoring from experienced practitioners who supported the participants, selected after the launch of a public call, in developing their proposal’s fields of intervention as well as in testing innovative solutions, in collaboration with public agencies.
The re:form program is addressed to cultural organizations and assists them in rethinking work practices with support in terms of facilitation and micro-grants aimed at experimenting internal organization changes. The innovative program, whose activities will be finalized in 2022, is tackling some of the challenges that emerged from the evolution of cultural practices after the pandemic emergency, offering a tangible opportunity for testing innovative solutions which can foster the debate on new ways of working and producing culture and creativity.
All the implementation challenges were addressed by Cluj Future of Work in 2021, with different levels of relevance and intensity.
The co-management model carried out by the City of Cluj Napoca and the Cluj Cultural Centre proved again to be an effective system for coordinating the activities of all the delivery partners and involving them in all the steps of the project.
The monthly Steering Committee meetings carried out online and onsite, contributed to improving the collaboration among the partners and to creating a climate of mutual trust that all the partners recognized as a characteristic element of Cluj Future of Work, also if compared to other innovative projects in which they are involved.
The transparency in the process of decision-making and the delegation of part of the operational responsibilities from the City to the delivery partners are also positive elements to be taken into account in terms of inclusive leadership of the project. These aspects are particularly important in view of the decisive steps to be undertaken for ensuring the sustainability of the Labs at CREIC also after the end of the activities of Cluj Future of Work. The organization of thematic workshops on the matter for the members of the Steering Committee in October 2021 is an interesting example of how an integrated model for the management of innovative structures can be co-designed including inputs from organizations and experts that collaborated with the Municipality since the beginning, from choosing the equipment to be bought to managing the daily functioning of the Labs.
After a very intense year in which all the public procurement procedures were launched while the first wave of pandemic hit Romania and considerable delays were accumulated because of changes in national legislation, in 2021 all the procurement procedures were completed smoothly and the equipment was finally installed at the Labs and co-working space hosted by CREIC.
The procurement process was sped up after the reception of the certificate of the Agency for Digitalization of Romania, received by the City of Cluj Napoca on 31 December 2020, which is mandatory according to the national legislation for procurement procedures exceeding 2 million Lei (410.602 Euros). The effective collaboration with the procurement office of the city allowed to finalize in the first months of the year all the procurement procedures and to finalize the contracts with the suppliers of the machinery which were rapidly delivered and installed at CREIC by the first half of 2021.
Even though some technological equipment were delivered from abroad with some delays, because of the Covid-19 emergency on the supply chain in the ICT sector, all the procedures were completed on time to enable Culturepreneurs participants, students and aspiring entrepreneurs to use the equipment installed at the Labs hosted by CREIC.
Organizational arrangements within the urban authority
The collaboration among different offices of the City of Cluj Napoca was particularly positive, especially with the procurement office which supported the realization of the project activities (such as the completion of the procedures for equipping the Labs at CREIC) and the financial office, which supported the financial sustainability of some of the delivery partners of Cluj Future of Work.
The unexpected pandemic situation led to a series of problems in terms of cash flow for some of the partners involved, such as Cluj Cultural Centre and ZAIN. The Cluj Cultural Centre had to take up a loan to secure funding in the short term while the Municipality offered its support to solve these issues. This support is not only an example of the climate of mutual trust among the partners, but it is also a positive example of collaboration between different departments within the urban authority. At the same time, this action creates positive conditions for the full inclusion of the Urban Innovation Unit, created in 2017 by the Municipality of Cluj Napoca and the Cluj Cultural Centre, in the Municipality’s organizational structure by the beginning of 2022.
The city offices collaborated also with some of the partners involved in actions on the ground, such as the Metropolitan Association of Municipalities ADI/ZMC which is dialoguing with the Social Assistance Directorate, the Public Transport Company and other public institutions for delivering tangible services for the Roma community in Pata Rât and creating more inclusive public policies for deprived groups to be implemented at urban level.
Participative approach for co-implementation
The active involvement of the local community is very limited, even though the general audience was targeted for the first time since the beginning of the project by specific actions, such as the art exhibition Work Upside Down, which paved the way to open the reflection on future of work to different local stakeholders.
Each delivery partner acted on different segments of the society: the University of Arts and Design experimentally allowed its students to use the CGI/VFX Lab at CREIC, while the clusters ARIES Transylvania, Cluj IT and Transylvania Furniture Cluster advertised the training opportunities on Work 4.0 and the equipment available in the Labs installed at CREIC to their members, in order to promote its use on the medium and long term. These targeted actions and the activities open to the students such as the Hackathon for kids organized by the Transylvania Creative Industries Cluster made different parts of civil society (families, students, entrepreneurs, innovators) aware of the actions carried out at urban level on future of work.
This action was particularly relevant also for the target groups of other actions of the projects, such as innovators and representatives of cultural and creative industries involved in the Cluj Innovation Fellowship and re:form launched by Cluj Cultural Centre or the Roma community of Pata Rât which was consulted at the launch of new public services (such as the bus line connecting the landfill area to the city center) or in open discussions on the obstacles to access formal jobs.
Monitoring and evaluation
While the project activities are getting closer to the conclusion, the City of Cluj Napoca created a more structured framework for monitoring and evaluation. The Babes-Bolyai University was contracted by the City to carry on the evaluation of the project, which started with sending detailed questionnaires to all the project partners to track the progress of the actions carried out in the framework of the project and their impact at urban level.
Even though the indicators to measure the impact on medium and long term were designed very carefully, it was particularly hard for the partners and different departments of the City to find time to provide all the information requested and just a partial analysis was provided by the research team of the Babes-Bolyai University, which is expected to complete the evaluation in the first half of 2022.
The problematical relationship between the team of researchers and the practitioners who are implementing the project on the ground reveals how much monitoring and evaluation can be challenging in innovative projects such as Cluj Future of Work touching different dimensions of integrated urban development.
However, a first internal evaluation of a core activity as the Culturepreneurs program was already carried out, based on the information provided by participants and trainers. The results of the evaluation were overall positive, with a level of satisfaction relieved as particularly high by the participants: the insights collected will be used to improve the next editions of the program. The activities related to the other main strands of the project (Informal Work and Work 4.0) will be evaluated at a later stage, but it was not yet decided if the evaluation will be carried out by the University or commissioned to other entities.
Communication with target beneficiaries and users
The implementation of some of the most relevant activities of Cluj Future of Work in 2021 raised the attention of local media, which contributed to giving visibility to the project and informing the local audience on the actions carried out on the future of work.
The communication tools of the partners were important to inform target beneficiaries on training and opportunities offered by the project, such as the activities on Work 4.0, while direct forms of communication, with the active support of community facilitators, were important to stimulate the active participation of the residents of Pata Rât in the activities on informal work.
The organization of onsite events, such as the exhibition Work Upside Down or the hackathons for kids at CREIC, created important opportunities for meeting residents and beneficiaries and contributed to shifting the communication mostly from online activities (as it was in 2020) to onsite actions, which had an important impact on raising the attention on the topics related the future of work in the local public debate.
The digital and social communication tools of the City were used for informing the general public on the different activities of the project, but they will play an important role for communicating the actions that will target specific target audiences such as the launch of the app to book a place at CREIC to use the equipment of the Labs, or the final event to be organized as a Festival of Future of Work in October 2022.
Furthermore, combining the use of institutional tools to an activity of press and communication promotion towards national and local media can be also useful to attract the attention on a model which is potentially replicable by other Romanian cities, and as support to the upscaling action to be undertaken in the final phase of the project.
Upscaling and transfer were discussed since the beginning of the project with all the partners, and some of the aspects tested in the framework of Cluj Future of Work are currently replicated or prepared for replication at local level. The integration of the modules on entrepreneurship designed for Culturepreneurs in the curricula of the Arts and Design University is an important example of how an action created in the framework of Cluj Future of Work is already stimulating a stronger awareness of the connection between disciplines as art and design and the creation of new skills in cultural and creative industries of the future.
The creation of a shared sensitivity towards the education to innovative entrepreneurship is one of the most important legacies that Cluj Future of Work is trying to create in Cluj Napoca. The successful launch of Fix Cluj, which will be probably followed in the future by a similar program to test innovative solutions in the film industry, is a positive sign showing the considerable interest of local youth towards the topics raised by Cluj Future of Work.
Even though most of the challenging aspects relieved by the project in terms of access to decent jobs are not a strict competence of the local authorities in Romania, Cluj Napoca is using the project as a testing ground for elaborating and implementing policies and actions which can change how some sectors of the City work. A relevant example is given by the action of inclusion of deprived communities, where the launch of a new bus line and the collaborative creation of a policy paper can lead to concrete and systemic changes on the medium and long term.
Cluj Future of Work is serving also as a testing ground for measures of support to digital entrepreneurship that two clusters among the delivery partners (ARIES Transylvania and Cluj IT) are including in their respective candidatures as Digital Innovation Hubs. The implementation of these models, on which the European Commission is investing to support businesses in their digital transformation with training activities and innovation testing, will be based in Cluj Napoca on structures as the Labs hosted by CREIC and, in case of selection, will benefit of the knowledge gained in the framework of the UIA project.
In the final year of implementation, Cluj Future of Work will finalize all the activities still ongoing, such as the training of Work 4.0 and the monitoring and evaluation analysis, and will present the results of the project to the general audience with a final event scheduled for October 2021. Organized by ZAIN in collaboration with all the partners, the event will be a Festival of the Future of Work that is expected to raise the attention on solutions to be implemented at local level in order to make the transition to future work scenarios more sustainable and fair for all. Furthermore, at the beginning of 2022 the Urban Innovation Unit, which co-designed Cluj Future of Work, will be officially transferred from the Cluj Cultural Centre to the Municipality of Cluj Napoca, consolidating an innovative form of governance that is going to facilitate innovation sharing among city actors on a wide range of topics connected to social and economic growth of the city.
According to the evolution of the pandemic emergency, some of the practical activities that were delayed or reduced in terms of duration (such as the training programs at the Labs hosted by CREIC) could be prolonged in 2022. However, the shortage of financial resources available will not allow significant change to the schedule, but the positive climate of collaboration among the partners will probably push most of them to do an extra effort in order to continue most of the activities along the year. This commitment will be particularly important also to show the validity of the approach mixing theoretical and concrete knowledge, which is going to influence the debates on skill development and the future of cultural and creative industries in Cluj Napoca. At the same time, the international promotion of five winning projects of Culturepreneurs may contribute to showing the positive impact of similar programs in the creation of new enterprises and jobs at local level. These elements will be also studied by academics and researchers, with the production of three policy papers on Culturepreneurs, Work 4.0 and Informal Work which will update the studies carried out at the beginning of the project activities.
The creation of an online digital library which will make all the practices and works of art produced in the framework of Cluj Future of Work accessible at national and international level will be one of the main actions, which will give further visibility to a project that was widely promoted in 2021 also at the occasion of international events as the Capitalization visit to Venice and the participation to the International Architecture Exhibition in a panel event on community resilience organized at the Italian Pavilion, but also to the Social Affairs Forum workshop organized by EUROCITIES in November 2021.
The collaboration with other UIA projects, including the SPIRE project of Baia Mare which is taking inspiration from the model of CREIC to replicate similar incubation programs on post-industrial regenerative ecosystems, needs to be consolidated to promote at European level the main elements of the original approach followed by Cluj Napoca to promote an integrated action on future of work and reduction of inequalities in the access to decent work in different sectors of local economy.
As highlighted by this Journal, Cluj Future of Work is creating a tangible impact in different sectors of the local society of Cluj Napoca, from deprived groups to potential entrepreneurs. Making cultural and creative industries crucial for the long-term perspectives of recovery is an important aspect that emerges from the action of Cluj Future of Work. At the same time, the role played by technologies as accelerators of inclusive and participatory processes of social and economic development is another peculiar element, that is part of a shared culture of innovation that Cluj Future of Work is fostering at local level.