Cultural cooperation Carter for a sustainable city of Lyon

1. Context

The City of Lyon, 500 000 people, is the central city in the “Lyon Metropolis” community, which brings together 59 communes and 1.4 million people. This is an economically dynamic region, with a strong university presence and a pleasant quality of life. It is a region where populations converge, with several migratory waves. A city of history and heritage, a UNESCO world heritage site and a region of innovation, it offers a rich and varied cultural landscape.

Alongside the metropolis, the city is involved in regional administrative rebuilding, and faces major urban, social and environmental challenges in its development, as well as the new budget constraints of local communities. Lyon have been involved in policies regarding urban and social cohesion and solidarity aiming to resolve these regional disparities for 30 years, and it has been involved in local sustainable development strategies in order to deal with modern challenges for 10 years.

The Lyon Cultural Cooperation Charter was born as part of a mobilisation of public policy towards priority regions in the City in regards to social, economic and urban criteria: the “City Policy”. It then evolved in response to all elements that may contribute to the collective construction of the sustainable city. Culture has always held a unique and steadfast position in these policies.

The network of great cultural establishments cannot be considered outside of this dynamic, and has a significant role within it. They were called upon and had to learn to direct their know-how and skills towards the most precarious regions and communities. Policies of social and urban cohesion, as well as cultural and festive policies, worked together. The positive impact of art and culture on the city’s development was shared amongst stakeholders.

Moreover, city services organised a group for discussing sustainable development, focusing first and foremost on energy and environmental issues. These issues grow, and days for discussion entitled “Culture, city policies, sustainable development: towards a common horizon” set the transition in motion. In 2012, the 3rd Cultural Cooperation Charter increased demand for the involvement of cultural establishments in all issues relating to sustainability. Local reflection led to a range of commitments that were very close to the new Agenda 21 for Culture ones. In 2013, 18 districts of the metropolis signed a declaration of cultural cooperation in order to develop this tool on a wider scale. 2017 will witness the 4th Cultural Cooperation Charter generation.

2. Lyon and culture

With the conservation of heritage, the meeting between works and communities has long been, and remains, at the heart of this policy of “cultural democratisation”. The cultural landscape of Lyon has been historically shaped by its industry and commerce: printing, spreading of knowledge, silk, Fine Arts, chemical industry and cinema. It is characterised by a rich and varied network (structured sectors, training, distribution: dance, theatre, fine arts, music, books and knowledge), a high level of commitment from the city (20% of the budget), events to bring people together (Festival of Light, Musical Events), and meetings (European Lab, Heritage Workshops, IFLA and Lyon’s declaration on the Right to Information). This heritage is a communal asset, but must revolutionise itself and contribute to meeting the City’s various challenges.

The Culture section of the Lyon City Contract, approved by the Municipal Council in November 2015, states “Culture 21: Actions” as a frame of reference. The general strategy is presented as follows:

  • Accompany the development of priority regions and their urban renewal and residents with culture
  • Create the conditions for connecting stakeholders and for cooperation on projects,
  • Increase the knowledge of a wide workgroup,
  • Focus on the “common law” of culture,
  • Improve citizen participation in all levels of work,

The main principles of action are:

  • Improve citizen participation
  • Both promote and act in the name of Equality, Discrimination Prevention, and the consideration of diversity
  • Share information and knowledge
  • Contribute to the education system
  • Take environmental and plant-related issues into account
  • Build new economic models, inspire the creation of partnerships
  • Integrate digital tools and perspectives
  • Account for specific and priority communities within the city policy: “youth” communities, jobseekers and people in the process of social integration, seniors


3. Objectives and implementation of the project

3.1. Main aim and specific goals

Culture, creation, and heritage are at the heart of the Sustainable City. All participants in culture, along with residents, are invited, to shape it every day. In Lyon, the cultural and artistic “major institutions” bring together creativity, expertise and public resources. They are a legacy of successive national and local cultural policies, and should be a communal asset.

The objective of the Lyon Cultural Cooperation Charter is to organise the involvement of this network, in the name of public service missions, for the Sustainable City.

3.2. Main steps

The implementation of the Cultural Cooperation Charter can be described in five actions.

1. Policy declaration

This is signed by the City and Metropolis of Lyon, the Rhône-Alpes region, the State, and the directors of cultural establishments who solemnly declare together: “To bring to fruition the shared ambition and desire to inspire cultural and artistic policies that are part of the human, urban and responsible development of the City and its territories. This sustainable city […] will know how to be balanced, and supportive of the most vulnerable regions and people, respectful of its children and elderly people, enriched by the social and intercultural relationships and the knowledge of each, and optimistic about the future… They do so in respect of their primary missions […]. Altogether, the aim is to continue to invent Lyon, a singular goal for a culture that is open to democracy, development And solidarity, and for an urban renovation policy that is fed by culture and art and involved in the city’s development.”

2. definition of the needs and expectations of the cultural cooperation community

Each multi-year work cycle is set off by the establishment of a diagnosis for each territory, and by sharing knowledge on different subjects. The cultural cooperation community is called upon to set out the expectations, needs, possible focuses for improvement in the districts (writing 12 Regional Cultural Projects), and the main principles of action. A general strategy is shared and collectively approved. The governance of the community is structured by a cultural cooperation project, co-mandated and co-financed by local people and the State, cultural committees in each priority district and thematic committees.

A website provides information on the programmes and actions currently underway and an e-newsletter sends news, introduces current projects, and inform on the various meetings and calls for projects. A Facebook page helps to build community spirit every day and annual event days bring the communities together in order to share and highlight collective approaches. External researchers, philosophers, experts or stakeholders are invited.


3. Co-production of projects, actions and services by the establishments involved

Based on the approaches, expectations and subjects discussed, the cultural establishments choose to commit, regarding the territories and/or subjects in question. In Charter #3, 184 commitments were proposed by the 20 signatory establishments. These commitments are varied in nature. They not only aim to facilitate access to the bid, but also to develop partnerships, co-produce new services. Dozens of actions are thus annually developed.

4. Qualitative and quantitative evaluation

Support, follow-up and qualitative and quantitative evaluation are implemented and organised by the Cultural Cooperation Mission (See 5.3).

5. The adaptations to be integrated for a new multi-year work cycle

The entire plan evolves every four years, a charter #4 for 2016/2020 will include 10 additional establishments, expanded on a metropolitan scale, and made more in tune with the new agenda 21 for Culture (See 5.5).

4. Impacts

4.1. Direct impacts

Impacts on the local government

  • Expansion of the scope of sustainable development policies
  • Intersectionality at the technical and political level
  • Territorialisation and proximity of the public project
  • Greater co-construction of the project
  • Better awareness of the territory and of citizen needs
  • Diversity is more effectively taken into account
  • Development of participatory democracy
  • Development of the approach at the metropolitan level
  • Set an example at the national level)

Impact on culture and local cultural agents in the city

  • Involvement of cultural actors in the reasoning behind cooperative projects
  • Increased open-mindedness
  • Development of cultural services in regards to the cultural offer
  • Reinforcement of evaluation practices for cultural policy
  • Better connections between cultural institutions and other cultural actors
  • Better understanding of the territory and of the needs of residents
  • Better understanding of the cultural practices of residents
  • Development of cultural projects that are “hybridised” with urban, social, educational, plant-related, and economic aspects

Impact on territory and population

For the city:

  • New reading grid for cultural policies
  • Reduction in inequality
  • Increased social cohesion
  • More participatory

For residents:

  • Greater participation
  • Mobility
  • Recognition and enhancement of practices, particularly for immigrant populations

For priority territories:

  • Greater integration of districts into the rest of the city
  • Image enhancement
  • Quality of living conditions (arts, revegetation)
  • Provision services
  • Multiplication and diversification of culture within territories
  • Presence of artists and institutions
  • Cultural services are increased and adapted to citizen needs

4.2. Transversal impacts

The organisation that has been set up, along with the Cultural Cooperation Charter, allows public cultural services to be observed more as a whole through their equipment. New approaches can be added to and integrated into the charter a posteriori. It has thus been possible to rapidly develop policies for accessibility (mediations, adapted reception services), and Gender Equality, as well as policies taking our seniors into account.

Today, participants in civil society have developed autonomous spaces for reflection, alternative debate, and counter-power. Themes such as the consideration of cultural rights, or the consideration of diversity are debated in these spaces. Certain cultural establishments, having developed and experimented with new skills, are called upon to develop actions beyond their usual territory.

4.3. Evaluation

The evaluation mechanism allows stakeholders to see the progress that has been made

  • 1 annual qualitative report for each cultural establishment: the extent to which commitments have been realised, successes, difficulties, repositioning,
  • One annual quantitative evaluation based on four criteria: portion of residents in priority districts benefiting from the new services, portion of human and financial resources assigned in the Charter, participation in partnerships, integration of Charter issues into institutional communication,
  • Creation of cartography tools for the geolocalisation of beneficiaries in order to visualise the teams’ zones of influence
  • Presentation of and debate about the actions in culture and territory committees
  • Presentation to the Municipal Council of actions carried out in the previous year, as part of an annual report on the situation in terms of the sustainable development of the City
  • Creation of collective thematic reports (Accessibility report, Gender Equality Report)


4.4. Continuity

More than continuity, which is desired and contractually ensured until 2020 within a “charter #4 for cultural cooperation for the Sustainable City 2016/2020”, development is expected:

  • In substance, by integrating the Agenda 21 for Culture approach even better, and by accounting for the impact of digital tools and practices.
  • By taking the number of signatories of the Lyon Charter from 20 to 30
  • By continuing to implement the Metropolitan Charter (more towns and cultural establishments involved)

5. Other information

The city of Lyon was nominated for the second 'UCLG International Award - Mexico City - Culture 21' (January-May 2016). The awards jury produced a final report in June 2016 and asked the UCLG Committee on Culture to promote this project as a practical example of the implementation of Agenda 21 for Culture, and as a special mention of the second edition of the Award.

Text approved in December 2016.

Good practice published in January 2016.

This factsheet was put together by Marc Villarubias, Mission Leader for Cultural Cooperation, Lyon, France.

Contact: marc.villarubias (at)

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Cultural cooperation Carter for a sustainable city of Lyon