Watching the CINema Paradiso / Written by: Ahmed Eman Zakaria

September 8, 2017

To me, talking about the Cultural Innovators Network (CIN) is like watching a film in a dark room, with a sense of being part of the crew that produced it. At CIN’s three days Culture Open Source Forum 2017, which took place in Berlin at the end of August and the beginning of September, we, the CIN members shared ideas and tackled issues regarding the future of the network. Moreover, we had discussions with representatives of many other organizations, who were keen to transfer their experiences in the cultural field.

CIN has been a home for young women and men from more than 30 countries around the Mediterranean region – in Europe, Middle East and North Africa. It is astonishing and impressive to both observe the birth of a network in its early days and to live the process of its growth until it has become a five years’ entity full of innovators.

CIN succeeded in creating a bond among its members that sparkled from the first days of its birth. At some point, all CIN projects have an end but the human bond amongst us is more sustainable and with it, more projects could be produced.

The theme of this year’s forum was different from the years before. It was designed to be based on the participatory approach; as each member could participate with his or her knowledge and transfer it to other members. So, we had two aspects for the participatory approach, the internal, from the member to other members of CIN and the guests, and the external, to learn from the guests.

During the forum, we raised many questions. The discussions were full of enthusiasm and willingness to improve our home. Yes, I feel it is a home; however, it is essential to step away for a while from our home to see things in a clearer view. We criticized it heavily because we want it to be better.


It was extremely beneficial to learn from the members of CIN who have various backgrounds and expertise through many workshops offered to the participants of the forum. One of the workshops was about active participation, it was conducted by one of the CIN members. The idea of the workshop is to be involved with other participants socially, not just on the level of conducting a project but also on the human level.

Another workshop discussed the synergy among participants to create a joint cultural policy. It is interesting perspective to see how two or three participants attempted to envision a cultural policy that integrate countries together, not divide them.

CIN is a very serious and practical experience for any person willing to build his or her NGO. It teaches us how to think strategically, not only inside the network but also with the outer world. The mixture of workshops from policy advocacy to NGO management was something for everyone’s interest. This is something which we value since CIN was founded in 2012.

The Future

This forum witnessed the fifth anniversary of CIN, in which many projects were implemented all over the Mediterranean region. Such projects were established and run by the members with funding of the Goethe-Institut. Now, CIN has to be more independent and to find other sources of fund besides the partnership with Goethe-Institut, which will be a future partner on the eye level. This issue was one of the hot topics that we tackled in the forum.

We asked many questions about the future of the network, its members, the active ones and the absent: How can we revive the spirit of the absent and keep it up with the present members? How can we promote the network in a time many cultural entities have the same goals? How to fund CIN, considering its independence from any terms or conditions could be imposed by some funders or sponsors?

All these questions were discussed with the research team that was working on a strategy to sustain the power and sources of the network in a structured scientific way. Now, the research team is working on clustering and refining the ideas we came up with. And the team is expected to know the outcomes of their report in the coming few weeks.

A home for its tenants

At the forum’s last day, we had a cultural night, where we enjoyed our diversity through watching contemporary dancers from Romania and Syria, Oriental music, Balkan music, fusion DJ and many kinds of food that connoted for our integration and unity under one umbrella, humanity.

For the past five years, the CIN was a home for all its members with their very diverse cultures, this is the core of it. Now, I have many friends from all over the Mediterranean, we build our dreams together, we think of the future in an inclusive way. We make mistakes during working, we learn from it by experience. We criticize ourselves for the good of the network. I always believe that CIN is about the human power it possesses and nothing else would make it better but its members.

Talking about CIN is like watching a film in a dark room with a sense of being part of the crew that produced it. We live in the CINema Paradiso of CIN.

Ahmed Eman Zakaria