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Conference: Norm Critical Leadership. Challenging Norms and Nordic Exceptionalism

Banner: Norm Critical Leadership. Challenging Norms and Nordic Exceptionalism. February 8th–9th, 2023.

Many art and culture institutions and funders are now working actively towards more equal and inclusive practices. At the same time, the awareness of inequality in Nordic societies and in the Nordic art and culture field is increasing. Nonetheless Nordic art and culture organizations continue to be exclusive when it comes to working conditions, recruitment and curation practices.

In the conference Norm Critical Leadership. Challenging Norms and Nordic Exceptionalism we ask, how one can become a changemaker and dismantle discriminatory norms, normative structures and hierarchies within the arts and culture sector? What does norm critical leadership mean in different situations and contexts?

The aim of the conference is to critically analyze the rhetoric of and the passionate engagement with narratives of “Nordicness” and “Nordic exceptionalism”. Openness, equity, equality and sustainability are seen as the foundations of Nordic societies and Nordic cooperation and the keys to Nordic Exceptionalism. However, the positive narratives often ignore the existence of unjust structures in our societies, and art and cultural institutions, too.

What are the technologies that reproduce the discriminatory norms of, for example, whiteness, racism, ableism, sexism and homophobia? What does it take for the art and culture organizations to make the positive narratives come true? What kind of leadership is needed to put the diversity strategies to practice?  How to be accountable?

This two day conference is aimed at professionals and people in leadership positions within the arts and culture field in the Nordic countries. The conference will go beyond ‘talking diversity discourse’ and work concretely with the goal of creating a Nordic art and culture field in which accessibility, inclusion, participation and accountability are the starting point.

Conference venue:

Venue: Cultural Centre Caisa
Kaikukatu 4, Helsinki, Finland
Read about accessibility at the conference

Note: the conference on site is fully booked.
People on the waiting list will be informed in end of January if places are available.

Conference live stream:

Conference Live Stream: Wednesday 8 February

Conference Live Stream: Thursday 9 February

Live stream production by: Centre de Ville Oy


The conference is organized by the Nordic Network of Norm Critical Leadership and Culture for All Service in cooperation with Cultural Centre Caisa and the City of Helsinki, Goethe-Institut Finnland, IMMART, University of the Arts Helsinki, The Nordic Council and The Embassy of Sweden in Helsinki.

Program and speakers

The keynote speakers are Kathy-Ann Tan, curator, writer and independent scholar; Mindy Drapsa, Artistic Director of Riksteatern Crea and Christine Bylund, crip-femme-identified researcher, writer, and performance artist.

See the full program of the conference

Speakers and artists in the conference

The speakers at the conference will be artists, cultural workers, practitioners and researchers who work with accountability, questions of leadership, and practices of de-stabilizing current discriminatory structures within our institutions. All keynotes, artistic talks and panels will focus on which practices that have give impact, a critical approach to norms, leadership and – the role of vision strategies. One of the sessions will be arranged by the participants of the workshop Future Leaders. Changemaking and Challenging Norms. Read more about the Future Leaders workshop.

The themes – in relation to the art and culture – that will be present throughout the conference are:

  • Nordic exceptionalism and white innocence
  • Tackling ableism
  • Norm critical practices and challenging norms
  • Working across institutions and Civic organizations
  • Anti-racist practices
  • Queering organization
  • Practices of accountability


The accessible entrance to Caisa is from Kaikukatu 4. The main entrance to Caisa is in the courtyard of Leipätehdas. Caisa’s premises are accessible: no barriers or height differences are present in rooms or corridors. Caisa's Auditorium is has some seating accessible with mobility aids. Caisa's Hall, gallery and auditorium are equipped with a hearing induction loop. Assistant dogs are welcome. The language of the conference is English. The program will be interpreted to International Sign Language. The live streaming of the conference will have live captions in English.


If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the event coordinator: Ruka Toivonen (they/them) Culture for All Service ruka.toivonen@cultureforall.fi

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