The first scientific and practical conference for small towns’ mayors took place on November 9-10 in Vinnytsia

and was dubbed: “Town as a Dialogue. Four-dimensional Development Modeling: Society, Consciousness, Self-Realization, Subsidiarity.”

Experts from Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Georgia and Bulgaria arrived to Vinnytsia to convey, from their experience, to the heads of small cities of Ukraine how to develop a town, involve local citizens, and create new facilities for cultural and economic development of a territory. More than 70 mayors and heads of united communities participated in the conference.
“Although this is the first conference, it is still a remarkable one. As, probably, for the first time there is an event aimed at a specific audience – small towns’ mayors, who are responsible for the development of the country”, told Vice Minister of Culture Tamara Mazur. “I am very glad that there are so many people here, who came to learn how small towns find their development, how cultural industry can work together with the economy and what it could contribute to the economy. It is great that today the understanding of small towns as a basis of country’s development is being acquired.”
Adviser to the Minister of Culture and Head of the Institute of Cultural Policy, Iryna Frenkel, invited forum participants to join an active discussion during project presentations.   
“Today we have experts who are not just theorists, but practitioners and have achieved good results in transforming small towns, taking into consideration a territory’s resources. Those are not examples from Germany only. We also have here representatives from Lithuania, Georgia, Bulgaria, and Poland. I am grateful for the opportunity to congregate everybody here thanks to the support of our organizers and cultural institutions. Specifically, to our partners: Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, Vinnytsia Regional State Administration, Vinnytsia City Council, Association of Cities of Ukraine, Vinnytsia Regional Branch of Association of Cities of Ukraine, SE "ArtUkraine", Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Goethe Institute in Ukraine, Polish Institute in Kyiv, Embassy of Lithuania in Ukraine, Zhmerynka Town Council.” 
The main goal of this scientific forum is the discussion and practical assessment of the best European practices in small towns’ cultural transformation, where a larger part of Ukrainian population dwells. The key points were infrastructure development, international ties establishment, enhancement of culture and local citizens’ consciousness.
“In Germany, we have concluded long time ago that solely developing infrastructure and building new roads is not enough to create town’s image. Only the youth and active citizens, who work in a cultural sphere or belong to a creative class, can create this image”, told Beata Köller, head of Goethe Institute in Ukraine.
“The industrial economy is long gone”, claim the organizers, “now is the epoch of creative development.
“Living in big cities is the prerogative of poor countries. People in wealthy countries reside in small towns and villages. This is a European standard”, states Iryna Frenkel, Adviser to the Minister of Culture and Vinnytsia’s Mayor, and Head of the Institute of Cultural Policy. “Culture is a way is thinking, a dialogue, behavior, attitude to the town. We have to learn how to understand one another, and search for an idea that will help a town to get over its depressive state.”

“Vinnytsia does not belong to small towns. However, we have a certain experience, which during last couple of years, shows that city’s environment transformation leads to higher local budget incomes.”, explained Vice Mayor Halyna Yakubovych.  

During the first day of the conference Tamara Mazur, Vice Minister of Culture, Patrick Föll, Head of the Institute of Cultural Management (Germany), and Iryna Frenkel, spoke. The experts presented the real results of the pilot project “Plan Z”, which is taking place in Zhmerynka since 2015. The presenters where the participants of “Laboratory of Transformation” workshop, which had recently taken place in Zhmerynka.
15 Ukrainian small towns’ representative took part. The projects are planned to be implemented in 2017. Institute of Cultural Policy suggested interconnecting participating towns and vowed to help in establishing a network of participants. 

Transformation strategies from Bulgarian Gabrovo and Kostenets and Georgian Sinagi and Tshaltub were presented on the second day. Expert Petia Koleva (Bulgaria) noted, “The formation of a country starts with a person. Small towns, although neglected for a long time, are treasure troves of human resources. The situation is different now. However, the understanding from authorities is not always up to date with the tendencies”. 

The second day of the conference was dedicated to practitioners. “A Strategy of a Sustainable Community” was presented by Vice Minister of Culture Tamara Mazur. 
According to her, “The strategy of a sustainable community is aimed at the implementation of cultural policy in the period of transformation at regional, whole country, and international levels”.

Tamara Mazur visually presented the current state of cultural establishments in district and regional centers during her presentation and pointed out the absence of a complex cultural policy with central and local authorities. 
Five priorities of Ukrainian cultural policies were underlined: culture as a valuable foundation of the country;  culture as a reform within contemporary processes; culture as general knowledge development, enlightenment based on cultural standards; culture as an engine of society development; culture as an economic factor of countries development.
Both operational goals and tasks for each defined direction were defined in the presentation of the strategy.

“Cultural diplomacy plays an important role. Nonetheless, Ukraine is not properly presented in the world nowadays. Lots of institutions operate in our country and perform their main functions: presenting and spreading their culture, which promotes leaning their languages here. Ukraine does not have such mechanisms” told Tamara Mazur.
Iryna Frenkel, author of the document, emphasized that the solution of the strategy implementation lies in the creation of conditions for creative industries development, alongside with the establishment of different small towns as cultural/touristic clusters with a concrete specialization. Such clusters may include museums, recreational facilities, buildings, etc. into a network.  This can only be implemented if all cultural players have equal opportunities and shift from relying on a local budget to project financing.
Conference participants could also learn from experts Vitek Hebanovski (Poland) and Iurate Chernevichiute (Lithuania). Vitek’s practical tasks evoked great interest and avid discussion within the audience, since his experience perfectly fits for the implementation in Ukraine.  Small towns’ mayors eagerly started working on town development projects, where they could implement the knowledge acquired from foreign specialists.
At the end of the conference, a practical handbook was presentenced to the audience. This work had been created by ICP experts in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and called “Laboratory of Transformation. Practical Steps for Agents of Change in Small Town”. This one and a textbook “Plan Z. Small Towns”, which was elaborated by ICP and Goethe Institute, were given as gifts to each conference participant.