Kreatopia – “Co-Create Work”

Kreatopia – “Co-Create Work”

South Baltic Creative Cluster – Annual event – 18 November 2020

Do’s and Don’ts of co-creative work

Expert talk with Phillipp Hentschel, cofounder of, with Veronika Busch, cofounder of

About – summary: The initiative was started in 2010, when Philipp graduated and started to work as freelance. Out of his first working experience, he decided not to cooperate with others in a “traditional” company, but in a network of freelance persons who cooperate on eye-level instead. Later in the process, the initiative also established a jointly used co-working space. These days, considers itself as part of a national and international development, representing a sector that is no longer invisible, but has an own roof-organisation – the freelance creative industry. This sectors working mode can be considered as well-established and based on a widely accepted principle now. itself has, after ten years of operation, a very stable working situation. There is an ongoing flow of projects and the structure is still flexible and open to new contributors, different from companies that are more “closed units”. 

Opportunities / advantages of this co-creative work concept indicated by Philipp Hentschel:

  • Being a “freelancer by choice” offers a lot of freedom, as it allows selecting the partners and projects that suit you best. 
  • High level of flexibility 

Challenges Philipp of this co-creative work concept indicated by Philipp Hentschel:

  • Freelancers need to be very well organized – he experienced it sometimes as hard to start a project in due time;
  • Freelancers and persons working in such networks have to be able to “sell” / “market” themselves;
  • Lack of shared working time and „coffee breaks“, i.e. habits that significantly contribute to social cohesion need to be actively organized;
  • Long-term projects need a stability of cooperation, which cannot always be harmonized with the flexibility of freelance works, i.e. partners stepping in and out.

Advantage of this co-creative work concept indicated by Philipp Hentschel: 

  • High level of flexibility, i.e. it allows to decide from project to project to what extent one wants to contribute;
  • High level of input for a constant exchange of information, best practices and new approaches;
  • Open for cooperating with each other from different locations (in, freelancers from different countries cooperate).

Recommendations to the conference consortium:

  1. Directly starting the freelance work after studies is not the optimum path. A designer career should be started with a 2-3 years employment to gain experience and professional self-confidence first. 
  2. Projects implemented in freelance communities need a careful and detailed documentation stored in shared working spaces (Trello or others).
  3. The organisation of money flow in the freelance team is needs clear agreements ( joint budget and agreed fixed percentages).
  4. If you lack close cooperation in a consortium that mainly communicates digitally, a closer cooperation with a “proper company” or part-time employments could be alternatives. Combination of different working modes can be tested. 
  5. Where suitable formats are needed to keep the team together, there are new digital tools available that offer related opportunities.
  6. Informal working exchanges are mainly enabled by local networks and creativity space (easier to implement in larger cities).
  7. Price structures and levels are an important topic for exchange between freelancers. 

Asked for if a joint working space (one building or similar) for the network members would be advantage, Philipp weighed the arguments. A core-team that works also physically together seems to be beneficial and also important to run a lively exchange. It keeps up the inspiration and the social cohesion as the core team can also actively integrate the other members. 

10:35 o’clock

Cultural sensitivity for successful collaboration projects 

Keynote of Monika Tomczyk on aspects that differ from culture to culture and have an impact on cross-border cooperations

The following aspects have been experienced as relevant when organizing cross-border cooperation over the coming years. Their different handling might cause conflicts, but could also be a source of mutual inspiration and creativity instead:

  • Different perceptions of time;
  • Success as driver and element of self-conception; 
  • Dependence on phone/WiFi that destructures meetings (lack of WiFi as the new luxury); 
  • Digital world is strengthening “making people see what they want to see”, increases the risk of confirming stereotypes and not perceiving a person with his/her complex personality and motivations;
  • Different levels of hierarchy (less from country to country than from institution to institution – significantly differing procedures e.g. in universities and NGO)  projects that involve organisations with different working principles require a high degree of flexibility. 

Summary: In international environments, we need to be more sensitive to cultural differences, e.g. social habits, modes of communication. These also impact on our expectations and working as well as our general approach to life. Recommendation: Creation of a related problem awareness. 

11:00 – 12:00 o’clock Speed dating session

In this session, participants from different countries were randomly mixed for cross-border exchange. They exchanged on their mutual backgrounds, key competences, learnings from the keynotes, current projects and future projects as well as latest needs and challenges. The participants reflected in the end, that the following topics were discussed in these group meetings:

  • Current projects related to creative industries
  • Future / planned projects related to cross-border topics
  • The key notes
  • A project on art installations in different partner locations 

In the end of this session, Veronika indicated that the lunch break can be used to scribble down and hand in an idea the participants would like want to work on together. With this submission, the participants got the chance to win travel voucher for visiting a co-workation space in San Sebastian, Spain (best practice place identified in the project “South Baltic Creative Clusters”).

12-14 o’clock | interactive lunch break | Ted Talk + speed dating documentation

Parallel to the opportunity to continue and deepen the speed dating conversion and submitting a project idea for winning the journey to St. Sebastian, a series of TED talks was presented as follows: 

All over the morning session and during the lunch break, the conference participants were asked for inputs via the two offered mentimeter feedback tools:

14-16 o’clock | afternoon session | „places & infrastructure” best practices + stakeholder-panel

14:00 o’clock – Co-working best practices from the South Baltic Region

Presentation of four different co-working best practices from different countries, covering questions as follows: 

  • What was the need for such a place in your region?
  • Who were the main drivers of the project and why?
  • What was their strategies? What made them successful? Where did they have to learn?
  • Who supported the project? Who not? Why?
  • What were the greatest barriers/catalysts in the development of the place?
  • What is the financial structure of the development project? How was it financed? How were the funds raised?
  • What is the business model? What is the financial structure of running the place?
  • What is the status quo of the work? What’s next?

1) The Cultural Incubator in Szczecin – Presentation by Monika Tomczyk, Szczecin, Poland

The Incubator, often informally referred to as a “cosmic station”, was established from 2009 on with the intention to boost creativity and raise awareness on creativity in Szczecin region. This resulted from the understanding that there are many creative people from various backgrounds who still lack a body that supports them with growing, interacting with each other and acquiring further professional knowledge. In 2011, a proposal on how to run the Incubator was submitted to the City of Szczecin (in the context of the application for the City of Culture status). As a result the City of Szczecin provided a building and a stable (comparatively small) funding of 70,000 Euros for the project. The financing of the activities in the building beyond this basic budget has been the sole responsibility of the operators since then. A financing system comprising of low rents (1 Euro/m²) and project funding (national and international projects) was established. The Incubator building became a location for co-creation, workshops and events. It hosts a cinema and presentation areas. In general, it developed into a joint basis and representation of the creative cluster in Szczecin The current activities have the following focus: 

  • Networking of companies
  • Support of companies in internationalization
  • Support of companies in cross innovation processes
  • Workshops and support
  • Matchmaking of companies with different expertise

Specific projects that are currently implemented via the Incubator are: 

  • Interconnecting creative industry and traditional industry towards cooperation
  • Creative Ports: Testing and using internationalization tools for the creative industries
  • South Baltic Creative Cluster: Transferring the local creative industry clustering concept to an international/cross-border context
  • CTCC Promotion of Creative Industry: Implementing the creative industry congress “Design Plus conference” towards raising the awareness of importance of the creative industry (  
  • Participation in the Global Jam for creative industries
  • iEEER: Improving entrepreneurial ecosystems for better supporting the needs of creative industry start-ups

Asked how the initiative managed to convince the city about the project, Monika emphasized that the elaboration of a comprehensive business model and a presentation of relevant best practices were strong arguments. Furthermore, the city had to be aware of the fact that they would run an experiment as the Incubator was one of the first initiatives of its kind. In general, the support was higher than expected, but it needed a process of about 3 years in total to get the Incubator practically started (talking, organisation, strategy development) that involved a significant amount of people. The main challenge was the creation of trust (the city did not want to make a mistake) and the development of the Incubator project as a win-win-constellation.

2) Small but sound: The Rietavas Centre for Tourism and Business (RTVIC) – Presentation by Rasa Baliuleviciene & Laima Dockeviciene, Rietavas, Lithuania

The RTVIC was established as a regional development institution addressing a situation in a small municipality with shrinking population, low investment level and a related community attitude of resignation and low local self-confidence. The institution aims at counteracting to this by restructuring elements in the municipality (“not solving the problems with the same structures that caused them”), i.e. changing the local mind set. It works on building networks, interconnecting local and cross-border initiatives, facilitating co-creation and growing the capacity of local organisations and the competence of citizens. It was provided with a small municipality budget, but the implementation of international projects is the main financing source. In 2018, a horizontal plan activity was initiated for the RTVIC work aiming at integrating entrepreneurial thinking into public sector organisations. The process was implemented following the Nine-Step-Process methodology by Scherdin, which aims at finishing every working step, even if chaotic in itself, with clear results and at encouraging people to co-create. An involvement of about 15% of all municipality inhabitants has been reached here, which has included municipal organisations, companies, associations and active citizens. One approach that turned out to be efficient and successful was the work with the historical DNA of the town (central element in Rietavas: the Oginski family).

3) The Kreativum in Karlshamn / Blekinge Region – Presentation by Matthias Roos, Karlsham, Sweden

The Kreativum is a science centre and, thus, mainly an educational facility with the regional mission of promoting the STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). In this context, it works on increasing creativity and innovation skills, considering creativity as the key, the fingerprint of human spirit that should be embraced and encouraged. It is located in a restored old manufacturing site (cotton mill) and hosts indoor and outdoor working and meeting areas with a creative atmosphere (4,000 square metres in total). The Kreativum was founded in 1999 and is fully municipality funded. It is an address for the creative sector in Blekinge region (thus, for 1,143 companies and an annual turnover of 2 billion SEK – status 2017). Kreativum works in close cooperation with regional companies, the regional technical university as well as with schools and artists. It has turned into an established tourism destination and has 15 employees, resp. 40 seasonal employees. The location is open all year long, but mostly frequented during main tourism season. The arena for co-creation established there is enabled mainly by: 

  • Strategic openness – open for paid and unpaid collaboration
  • Providing infrastructure for the whole society (everybody is welcome)
  • Availability even outside the normal operation hours
  • Stable public financing that allows to be strategically open (currently: 1/3 municipality budget, 2/3 income from commercial activities, e.g. café and events)
  • A business plan that allows pro bono activities, i.e. were commercial activities support others that cannot finance themselves

As the Kreativum concept is very much based on human interaction (getting together, meeting, interacting) it is currently severely impacted by Corona. Thus, the current work focuses on “Human interaction 2.0”, i.e. the question, how the social effects created by this can also be achieved digitally. This covers questions as:

  • What do travel restriction mean for international cooperation?
  • How can the swing and carousel strategy be strengthened?
  • How can these social effects be described and “quantified”?

Asked about how the establishment process looked like, Matthias explained that it was started in 1996 as a bottom-up process (citizens’ initiative). The motivation for this came from the observation that young people lost interest in the STEAM subjects and need related encouragement that should and has to go along into an addressing of general skill like problem solution competences. 

4) House of Culture and Initiative STRAZE in Greifswald – Presentation by Maria Moynihan, Kultur & Initiativhaus STRAZE, Greifswald, Germany

The history of the STRAZE started with a ruin. It had been a popular place in the past (former public house and inn, very popular in the early 20th century), but was no longer operated from the 1990s on. Development process of the STRAZE was characterized by Maria as a rollercoaster ride. First attempts to establish a project in this building failed when it was sold to a private investor. So it was only in 2014, that the group that was motivated by the identified lack of space for local NGOs and culture projects got the chance to buy the building from this investor for 400,000 Euros in total. These initiators were convinced that Greifswald’s public society needs an own, independent space, not enabled by private investors or municipality. The solution they found here was a cooperation with the “Mietshäusersyndikat” and, out of this, an orientation to the principles that prevent speculation. Following the philosophy “Create the future with your own hands”, they started to renovate this building with lots of voluntary work sessions, meetings, evenings and construction camps. The financing of the costly (6 million Euros in total) construction process was based on 4 pylons: bank loan, public grants, foundation grants, loans and donations from private individuals. Over the last years, various NGO have joint the STRAZE consortium and actively supported the project. 

Major problems faced during the construction period:

  • Rising construction costs due to a changed market situation, that resulted into a higher share of own contributions;
  • Related lost time for cooperation projects that caused a drop-out of some involved persons (some of them returned in a later stage of the project).

The future financing of the STRAZE operation will comprise of two elements: 

  1. provision of parts of the building as flats for rent (for 5 inhabitants in total)
  2. use of the rest of the building as sociocultural centre that generates income from its activities, e.g. the café, as rentable place for events, conferences, workshops etc. 

The 2nd element is based on the principle “pay as much as you can” – and in case the payment is too low, a collective search for refinancing will be implemented. 

Over the coming months, the project will focus on, increasing – despite of Corona limitations – the visibility and enhancing the connection into the region and beyond.

Asked for, what skills and resources are mainly needed for a project like this, Maria mentioned optimism, self-belief, lobbying and fundraising skills. 

15:00 o’clock – Stakeholder Panel 

Stakeholder panel dedicated to the key question „How can we develop an optimal urban environment for creative und cultural business in Rostock?” in reflection of the lesson learned so far and from the presented best practices. The panel was arranged as a presentation of four experts active in this field in Rostock (involved into relevant projects or with their institution’s perspective).                                                                                                        

Martin Zavracky – The project “Campus Altkarlshof in Rostock”

The project was presented in a small video. It described the establishment as an industrial site in the early 20thcentury that got heavily polluted by the tar manufactured there. The re-development of the site was started in 2010, when the municipality of Rostock launched a competition for creating a campus on a total area of about 2,000 square metres. The current project was developed with the intention to interconnect separate entities joint on this campus, enable cooperation and synergies. Thus, it aimed at creating a new quality working place that allows combining work and leisure time, but at interlinking the location with the other side of the Warnow, i.e. Rostock’s inner city (“manage the jump over the river”). 

Asked how this “mental jump over the river” can work, Martin Zavracky mentioned several factors: the combination of industrial and leisure function, the establishment of good and attractive paths from the campus to the city centre, the surrounding public area (i.e. public space attractive even for external visitors) and the intended BUGA partnership (national gardening exhibition that will take place in Rostock in 2025). He emphasized that private investors should be considered as valuable partners when planning such projects (PPP as a development option). 

Teresa Trabert – The project “Warnow Valley Rostock”

Teresa presented Rostock’s creative cluster Warnow Valley as a project that joins representatives of creative industries, NGOs and local initiatives. It is currently accommodated in three flat buildings close to the city harbour. It was established with a lot of voluntary work and currently involves about 100 protagonists from Rostock. Over the last years, the initiative has established several successful formats, such as, for instance an annual open air event on the surrounding parking lot, also presenting the site to the city (open door day principle). Currently, the initiative is suffering from the bad infrastructure and a lack of capacities – there is a long waiting list, so that Warnow Valley is not able to involve several interested – and interesting – people and projects. A positive latest development is a new little digital communication studio installed inside the premises. The limited space available has a two diverse effect: it creates social cohesion, but has also the potential to cause tensions. The initiative is searching for a new location – a future place where it can be operated – as well as for a suitable legal form (in sync with the requirements of the new operation space). 

Katja Riebe – The perspective of the Chamber of Commerce Rostock on “What is the potential benefit of a creative business hub for the broader local economy?”

The Chamber of Commerce is currently reflecting the question “How to develop an optimum urban environment for the creative industry?” In this context, the framework conditions and needed political support are discussed as well as what would be considered as a good infrastructure and a creative environment for a creative industry cluster or creative industry initiative. These considerations are also fed into two major city development processes – the preparation of the national gardening exhibition BUGA in 2025 and the development of the Rostock city harbour area.

Andreas Schubert – The perspective of the city administration’s urban development department on “What role could or should the development of a creative business hub/competence centre play in context of the broader strategic city development?”

Different from the situation in the city in the 1990s, Rostock is a wealthy city these days, with relevant budgets for promoting the creative industry as driving force of the post-industrial industry. Still to get a related project started, it would need something like a “quantum jump” that has to be started by an impulse coming from a joint initiative of creative industries sector representatives. This has to be addressed to the city, asking for local support. And it needs the political willingness to promote such a development – the basis for providing a related budget, but also for harmonizing the different local activities. With preconditions like this, a set of attractive and promising solutions to be implemented in attractive locations could be developed, also benefiting from the best practices and lessons learned in other places (as presented in this conference) and a close exchange between the different stakeholders. 

The article is part of the project South Baltic Creative Cluster, financed by South Baltic Programme.