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UNESCO conducted the socio-economic impact assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic on the cultural sector in Serbia, in collaboration with the National Platform “Serbia Creates” (established by the Prime Minister’s Office), Ministry of Culture and Information, Institute for Cultural Development Research as research support, and the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (Association of Creative Industry) as organizational support. The purpose of the assessment was to gathering information on public measures and decrees for support to cultural institutions, artists, culture and creative industries, to determine the systematic impact of the crisis on these groups. The research covered new ways of producing, expanding, and consuming culture. The methodology consisted of gathering quantitative and qualitative data through desk reviews, interviews with state institution representatives and culture sector representatives, as well as two surveys: a survey on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on cultural institutions and research on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on culture and creative industries. The assessment took place between April and June 2020, and it focused on the cultural sector’s position during the emergency state in Serbia. The major findings reveal that the epidemic accelerated the digitization of cultural content at an unprecedented rate, often with little prior preparations. 73.1% surveyed cultural institutions and 53.3% surveyed companies from the culture and creative sectors said they adapted to the new situation by shifting to online business activities: offering online cultural content—recorded material (theater plays), digitized material (libraries, archives, museums), as well as live performances (concerts, reading books). The key factors that enabled cultural institutions to adapt was maintaining existing online content (77.7% responses), the existence of a rich digital archive (54.3% responses), changing employees’ tasks (27.1% responses), while 1.2% institutions even hired new employees capable of using information technologies for preparing and filming new digital content, such as virtual tours, exhibitions, programs in digital forms, etc. 60.3% institutions created new material while closed, which included 3D virtual tours (museums, film production companies), websites with contents on measures and activities to raise awareness of sanitary risks (graphic design companies), book sales (publishing houses), as well as filmed film and music material (music production companies, film distribution companies) and educational film workshops (film institutions). While most institutions easily adapted to the new reality, due to already existing methodologies such as virtual tours of museum exhibitions and digitized material in libraries and archives, this was not possible for 26.9% of the surveyed institutions due to limited capacities or digital infrastructure. This emphasized the importance of creating new digital cultural spaces for accessing cultural content via technology.
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- The analysis of the gathered data is an integral part of the socio-economic assessment and the UN Team in Serbia’s response to the consequences of the pandemic. - With the goal of conducting the research and creating the assessment, a cooperation between the public and private sectors in culture was established, in collaboration with UNESCO. - The conclusions of this assessment’s recommendations are critical for the culture sector’s adaptation to new working conditions. They underline the importance of including those that have been harmed the most in the recovery process. Therefore, when introducing sustainability in programs for cultural and creative recovery, it is important to remember that sustainability cannot be achieved unless all groups in a society are covered by the new design. It also states that technical equipment investments are critical, as well as the that professional profiles in the cultural and creative industries demand new skills for urgent actions and participation in the recovery process.
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