VUB master’s thesis examines how more young people can become cultural entrepreneurs

VUB master’s thesis examines how more young people can become cultural entrepreneurs

Good communication, authenticity and clear added value are essential

The Flemish cultural sector has undergone many changes in recent years. In 2006, the economic aspect of culture was recognised. Since then, cultural entrepreneurship has played an increasingly important role in the cultural landscape. But many young people – the next generation of entrepreneurs – experience barriers that prevent cultural participation and entrepreneurship. At the request of Pilar, VUB’s House for Art and Science, psychology master’s student Paulien Herck investigated how it could be encouraged among young people.

Herck: “To stimulate young people to become cultural entrepreneurs, it is appropriate for an organisation to respond to the needs of this group. The main reasons young people cite for engaging in cultural activities are their need for experience and their search for kinship with like-minded people. What is crucial here is that cultural participation takes place in a fun group atmosphere in which one can develop as a person and that one has the opportunity to network with others.”

The research mapped out various factors that can encourage engagement, such as the social aspect, personal aspect, communication, accessibility and alignment. Inhibiting factors were also examined.

Communication, authenticity and value

Communication appeared to be a major inhibitor; young people experienced long texts, technical terms and detours as particular barriers. Another inhibiting factor is when an organisation does not live up to its mission and vision.

Herck: “The most important thing to take away from this research is that permanent communication with young people is necessary. Above all, young people want to be heard. And in order to get young people excited about cultural entrepreneurship, a good relationship between them and the organisation is essential. This is something that must be taken into account permanently in order to safeguard the quality of one’s own cultural organisation. Therefore, as a cultural organisation, you should continue to make an active effort to listen to young people.”

If an organisation wants to attract young people, it is important to look at their needs and respond to them, says Herck:

“An accessible organisation that communicates clearly and personally to young people will appeal to a larger target audience. Young people want to be able to coordinate their expectations with the organisation and count on good interaction between them and the association. An association must evaluate its projects and demonstrate that it can offer them added value. Only when young people know their qualities will be put to good use will they take the step to cultural engagement.”

The research

The master’s thesis research under the supervision of Prof Dr Tom Vanwing was carried out with Pilar, a cultural organisation aimed at young people, through mediation by the Wetenschapswinkel project. It investigated how Pilar can attract young people by mapping their needs and the factors influencing them to engage. The data was collected by means of a qualitative research based on a comparison of online conversations of two focus groups. Each focus group consisted of half VUB students who had not yet engaged in cultural entrepreneurship but were interested in it and half young people with experience in cultural entrepreneurship and the operations of Pilar. The answers from the two groups were compared to create an overall picture. The needs and factors raised form the basis for a toolbox for Pilar and other organisations to actively use in order to stimulate young people to become cultural entrepreneurs.

This research contributes to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by emphasising the importance of partnerships and communication with an organisation’s target group. Engaging in equal partnerships and collaborations ensures quality assurance within the organisations and community.

The thesis “How to stimulate cultural entrepreneurship among young people?” is available from the Wetenschapswinkel.


Paulien Herck

+32 (0)499 47  4625

Prof Dr Tom Vanwing


The Wetenschapswinkel (Science Shop) is a project of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven. It offers support to non-profit organisations through scientific research, carried out by students in the context of a project or thesis. The students answer the research question with the organisation and under the guidance of an experienced researcher. It brings together students, organisations and supervisors and mediates between these parties. The result is scientifically substantiated and usable research for the organisation and socially relevant research experience for the student. The student also gets to know the professional field and builds up a network.

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