Conference: Norm Critical Leadership. Challenging Norms and Nordic Exceptionalism

Time: February 8th–9th, 2023
Venue: Cultural Centre Caisa
Address: Kaikukatu 4, Helsinki, Finland

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, activists 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.


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

Program and speakers

The draft of the program is already published. 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.

The full program and the speakers of the conference will be announced by 19th of December 2022:

Program of the conference

Speakers and artists of the conference

Future Leaders workshop for students on 7.2.2023


Register to the conference through this Google form

Please note that the number of people taking part in the conference on site in Helsinki is limited to 120. We will, however, try to arrange a streaming of the conference.


Accessibility at the venue:

The accessible entrance to Caisa is from Kaikukatu 4. The main entrance to Caisa is in the courtyard of Leipätehdas. Caisa’s facilities are accessible: no barriers or height differences are present in rooms or corridors.

There are clear signs at the premises. In the auditorium, the seats designed for wheelchairs are accessible by elevator via the 3rd floor. The Festivity Hall, gallery and auditorium are equipped with a hearing induction loop. Assistance dogs are welcome. Read more about accessibility at Caisa.

Accessibility of the conference:

The language of the conference is English. The organizers will offer speech-to-text interpretation and International Sign interpretation if needed.


If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the event coordinator:

Ruka Toivonen (they/them)
Culture for All Service

Information about the network:

Nordic Network of Norm Critical Leadership (you will go to the website of Culture for All)

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