Models for Culture in Transformation

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The Initiative

In close cooperation with partners on location, TRAFO aims to develop concepts for transforming existing cultural organisations in selected model regions. The focus is not so much on saving as many of these organisations as possible, but rather examining what kind of alternative role they could play: Who do they want to reach? What would an attractive cultural infrastructure in the region look like in the future? How can things be organised differently? TRAFO provides funding to projects and artistic approaches which have a pioneering function and point the way to new methods of cultural production.

For the first round of funding (2015-2021) four regions in Germany have been selected as examples of the diverse challenges facing structurally weak regions. Model projects in the Oderbruch region, southern Lower Saxony, in the Saarpfalz and the Swabian Alb demonstrate the potential that change can bring about. Applying participative, cooperative and identity-building approaches, they offer examples of how local and regional cultural organisations can reinvent themselves as modern and exciting educational and cultural venues.


In response to a growing interest in developing cultural perspectives in rural areas in Germany, the Federal Cultural Foundation has expanded 2017 the TRAFO programme to include more federal states in two phases. In the development phase of TRAFO 2, the nine states which have not yet been eligible to participate in the programme – Bavaria, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia – have been invited to recommend two regions in their respective states which have been adversely impacted by demographic change, but still maintain publicly funded cultural institutions. With the support of the TRAFO Programme office, these regions developed new ideas for their transformation projects, for which they received proof-of-concept funding of up to 40,000 euros. The regions could then apply for funding by summer 2019 to implement their transformation projects.

An independent jury of experts selected the conceptual ideas from seven regions in autumn 2019. The proposals from the following regions will be awarded implementation funding of up to 1.25 million euros between 2019 and 2024: Vogelsbergkreis (Hesse), Uecker-Randow (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania), Kusel (Rheinland-Palatinate), Köthen (Saxony-Anhalt), Rendsburg-Eckernförde (Schleswig-Holstein) and Altenburger Land (Thuringia).

Impulses & Knowledge Transfer

In addition to carrying out these concrete projects in the model regions, a primary goal of the TRAFO programme is to share gained experience and encourage further debate. How can an institution reinvent itself? How is civic orientation accomplished? How can municipal cultural programmes complement each other, and what alliances can be formed between cultural organisations, political bodies and administrative agencies to create attractive cultural institutions? The programme also includes a “TRAFO Academy” which spread the word throughout Germany about the experiences gained in these model regions. The Academy targets at institutional directors, administrative employees and cultural producers in the regions who want to learn from each other and apply these insights to their own situation.