Arts and Policy. Certificate for Cities

Bloomberg Center for Cities, Harvard University

“Our project is more actual and necessary than ever before. We have received so many impulses that we could use as a city administration to create opportunities instead of limits for artists and to use their impulses for us as an administration to become better.” Dr. Liane Schmitt,  Director of the Organization and Personnel Department, City of Mannheim, September 2022.

Report October 2023

Program July 2022

Program August 2022

     “Had I understood how participatory arts promote personal and public growth, I would have made different decisions as an economist.” This “aha” moment reported by José Molinas, of the World Bank and Paraguay’s Minister of Development, is the inspiration for our “Certificate in Arts and Policy.” It is a pathbreaking response to missed opportunities. Decision-makers can access abundant resources to advance a range of objectives through participatory arts. Security, mental health, school dropout rates, substance abuse, are among the chronic challenges of many cities today. They have not responded well to high cost and sometimes punitive interventions. On the other hand, youth orchestras, mural crews, dance troupes, theater groups, etc. bring results. They provide benefits at two levels: First, they keep youth and their families occupied with collaborative pro-social activities that reduce crime, depression, and dropout rates. Second, they articulate city agencies to improve public services. A youth orchestra, for example, engages transportation, security, health, education, etc. to keep young and older citizens occupied in pleasant activities. Compared to the high financial and emotional costs of addressing violent conflict and trauma with police, prisons, and emergency rooms, the arts represent significant savings to a city. Certification will improve policymaking when public service and private sector social impact effectively engage creative agents for civic and economic development.


     The Certificate bridges the needs of public policy and civil society with the creative energy of the arts. Together, we develop social capital and sustain growth in politics, economics, and culture. Economists and policymakers seldom factor arts and humanities into their recommendations and decisions. This forfeits significant resources for development. Art is an alternative to addiction, illiteracy, and boredom. And thinking about artistic choices develops the 21st Century skills that serve science as well as civics: Creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication sustain both technological innovation and democracy. People who do not enjoy thinking will hardly participate in the difficult deliberations that democracy requires.

     Until now, few policy makers have considered the ambivalent meaning of culture. It has two practically opposite meanings. For social scientists (policymakers) – it refers to a legacy of shared practices and beliefs. But for artists and humanists, culture is a platform to interrupt harmful practices. Without art, change is practically unthinkable. The difference in definition has meant that policymakers often ignore culture as fuel for development. We can change that.


  • The “cabinet” of a city government, as a working group.
    • To stimulate collaborations, not primarily to promote personal advancement.
    • A Human Resources officer, or City Manager coordinates and joins 10-20 participants in the Certificate program.
  • Private sector representatives for Social Impact investments
    • Business and industry will maximize their social impact investments 
    • Representatives participate in working groups to develop public-private teams.
    • Representatives monitor and support the development of prototypes. 
  • Local artists whose networks and experience support participatory interventions
    • The range of arts is site-specific. E.g.:
    • Directors of orchestras
    • Theater
    • Muralists
    • Poets,
    • Etc.



  • Four online seminars in Dialogue, 2 hours weekly. Programs are customized for the contracting partner. See an example from San Antonio, Texas:

1. Artists as Advisors: Peter Svarzbein in El Paso, Texas & Rainer Kern in Mannheim, Germany

2. Aha! Moment: Jose Molinas Minister of Development, Paraguay & Doris Sommer, Cultural Agents, Inc.

3. Adaptive Leadership as Jazz: Rob Austin of Ivy Business School & Tracy Calunga of Bloomberg Cities

4. Measure Up: Leandro Valiati, Economist University of Manchester & Jose Falconi, President, Cultural Agents.

  • Four in person workshops, 2-3 hours each. 2-4 days, depending on people’s availability.

1. Forum Theater: Each participants identifies a pressing professional challenge; groups form around similar concerns improvise tragedies that represent a deadlock; members of other groups are now “spect-actors” who intervene to play a character with a change in script. This session is an experience art as a vehicle for diagnosis and exploration.

2. Theory of Change: Groups with shared challenges map out roots of problem and branches of possibilities.

3. Exploration of possible interventions, asking for advice from members of other groups. Drafting a prototype.

4. Prototypes of interventions are proposed to the entire collective in a “crit” session for questions and advice.

The Framework   Faculty / Advisors