The objectives of the new cultural policy in Germany largely reflect requirements and aims corresponding to the Council of Europe’s definition of “social cohesion”. In addition, they are of increasing importance with respect to equality of cultural opportunities, cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. In this context, the 1999 integrated Action Programme of the Federal Government and federal states (Länder), which has been given the title Social Town (Soziale Stadt), is also of interest. Up to now 934 comprehensive measures in 533 cities and municipalities were admitted to the federal-state programme in order to counteract social and spatial division.
Concrete areas of activity include Urban District Culture (Stadtteilkultur), Social Activities and Social Infrastructure, as well as Different Social and Ethnic Groups Living Together. In 2014, the federal funds for the programme have been increased from 40 million EUR in 2013 to 150 million EUR. In 2017, the financial aid provided by the federal government for the Socially Integrative City funding programme was increased to 190 million EUR. The Federal Government also made the same amount available to the Länder in programme year 2018.
The positive impact that culture and the arts have on the process of cultural integration and social cohesion is increasingly being acknowledged. Only a few local or federal state (Länder) authorities, however, run concrete programmes and projects. Some federal states (Länder), such as North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), have special funding programmes. Local authorities and public or private cultural institutions (like cultural centres) continue to be the main actors in this field. Beyond that, foundations become more and more active. The Federal Cultural Foundation (Shrinking Cities) and the Cultural Foundation of the federal states (Länder) (Kinder zum Olymp) may be highlighted in this aspect, both co-operating with civil society institutions. The cultural activities of the churches are growing in significance as well.
Exchange of experiences and best practices between actors and institutions (also online) helps to accelerate communication and adoption of new ideas and conceptions. Addressing audiences, especially those rather remote from the arts, is at the heart of projects that have a major concern with social cohesion. Programmes such as employing artists in public schools (e.g. with the project Cultural Operators for Creative Schools in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Hamburg, Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia and Thuringia) or projects by theatres or orchestras working in social contexts, such as town districts, residential homes for elderly people, hospitals etc., are examples which are seen as both innovative and effective. There has been a certain revival of social and cultural ideas of the seventies and eighties, where cultural policy had a focus on the social impact of culture and arts as it is expressed with the term “Socio-culture” (“Soziokultur”).
Themes linked to a value-based cultural policy are – among others – being discussed in the so-called “guiding culture” debate (“Leitkultur”-Debatte). This has an impact on the formation of public opinion. Themes like trust, respect, appreciation etc. play a major role here. Discussion, however, is only just starting. A debate, which is already more advanced, concerns topics like voluntary work, empowerment, participation, etc. Another focus of research and debate has been on the question of whether it is necessary to promote social cohesion even more than prescribed in the Constitution and laws of the country; the latter stating the values of society including the tradition of Christianity and Enlightenment.