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Why do we need a re.volution?

Why do we need a re.volution?
Leaders of the arts and cultural ecology want an end to trying to do too much, with too little, too often on their own.
The human and financial cost of this over-extension and under-capitalisation is increasing, driven by accelerating change and uncertainty in the current operating environment. If the UK’s ‘creative core’ – a recognised major national asset – is to thrive and increase its contribution to the nation’s social and economic sustainability these systemic issues need to be resolved fast.

Despite many achievements, past efforts aimed at addressing these challenges (Such as Arts Council England’s ‘Thrive’, ‘Sustain’ and Cultural Leadership Programmes), which have been well documented over a considerable period of time (see MMM’s launch provocation in 2004 ‘Mission, Money, Models’, MMM’s 2007 report ‘Towards a Healthy Ecology of Arts and Culture’ and MMM’s 2010 ‘Capital Matters’ report have not delivered a consistent step change in individual and organisational capacity across the ecology nor built long-term resilience. Added to this current infrastrcuture for supporting business and organisational development is eroding, fragmented and patchy, and disconnected from the deep roots of expertise in the sector and best practice beyond.

MMM’s research over four cycles of work found that current issues facing the professional arts and cultural sector today with regards to business and organisational development are

lack of expertise to help identify and better deploy key assets
lack of expertise in key areas such as strategic finance and implementation of new revenue generating ideas
inadequate supply of change and/or development capital
insufficiently effective existing toolkits for help in organisational and business development due to disregard of user-centred design or insufficiently focused on the specificities of mission-led creative businesses
over emphasis on one size fits all approaches
insufficient support for peer networks that would allow knowledge transfer within and between sectors
lack of support in developing international markets
lack of holistic and systemic thinking
re.volution aimed to create a simple, but flexible and rich solution to this ‘wicked problem’*: a national (over time international) peer learning network which would draw together a passionate group of thinkers and doers from the arts, the broader cultural and creative industries and beyond, who wanted to transform the way organisations use their resources to support the creation and experience of great art. Offering an easy way in to tackling complex issues, it ained provide high quality, consistent, relevant learning, which had system-wide impact and value for money for peers and other stakeholders.

* “Wicked problem” is a phrase originally used in social planning to describe a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. Moreover, because of complex interdependencies, the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems. It seems an appropriate term for the organisational development challenges faced by the arts and culture sector.

Our Themes
Our name – Mission Models Money – recognised that these three aspects of any organisation – mission (programmes), model (organisational capacity) and money (capital structure) – are intimately related. Therefore any change in one inevitably has an impact – planned or unplanned – on others. Action is therefore needed on all three fronts at the same time to enable cultural organisations to flourish.
re.volution’s re.source library and the expertise on offer through the network was themed to pick up on the importance of this ‘iron triangle’ and the necessity for organisations to continuously adapt and evolve to the unprecedented challenges and opportunities presented by the current operating environment.

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re.volution

What was re.volution?
re.volution was a peer learning network which aimed to radically reconfigure business & organisational development support for cultural and creative practice in the UK.
Whilst primarily targeting leaders working in small and medium sized organisations, we welcomed people who were sole traders, acting on behalf of consortia or from larger organisations and were keen to encourage membership from across the spectrum of business models in use – social enterprise, community interest companies, cooperatives, charities etc.

The network was designed to help people solve the problems of trying to do too much, with too little, too often on their own. Free of charge it brought peers together from all over the UK and across the arts and cultural ecology, including museums and galleries, to share critical thinking and practical solutions.

A bespoke on-line and off-line learning programme was especially curated for the network which included a re.source library offering a range of tools and approaches relevant to the four core themes of the progamme:

renew mission
reconfigure business model
revise approach to money
Leadership, culture and values
re.volution also offered a brokering platform supported via the website and by the re.volution team whereby each peer offered up to three days of their time in any twelve month period to help fellow peers address challenges or work through opportunities based on those four themes.

Membership of the network was also available which allows access to the resource library.

The network was designed by MMM, in collaboration with Industry Lead bodies and many others working across the arts and cultural ecology. During the start up phase of the initiative (2011 – 2014), MMM’s role was to:

broker all the relationships in the network in order to ensure relevance and fit,
design and deliver the on and off line learning programme and resource library and
gather a range of new data through the network, especially around financial issues, that will enable arts and cultural organisations to develop their resilience.
A second stage of the network was also designed which will offered peers the opportunity to go on to deliver their business and organisational change goals with the best, most appropriate, most value for money expertise available in the market and share re.volution’s methodology and learning internationally.

After the start-up phase, which will ran until 2014, it was MMM’s intention to pass responsibility for the further growth and development of the network to interested parties in the sector.

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How Funders can encourage collaborative working

How Funders can encourage collaborative working
Date: 26/10/10
Author: Clare Cooper

Over the last two years, MMM has been supporting six groups of arts and cultural organisations in Scotland and the North East of England who have been piloting new ways of collaborating. Learning from the pilots has been turned into a suite of materials, the first of which Fuelling the Necessary Revolution has just been published. It has been written especially for public and private funders in order to persuade them to encourage and support more collaboration in the sector. This extract summarises what they can do to help.

Observations and reflections from the pilot participants and recommendations made in the wider literature of non-profit collaboration[1] offer a clear set of interventions that funders could consider in order to encourage and support collaborative working. All of these offer the opportunity for funders to take a leadership role in enabling new ways of thinking and new ways of doing which will evolve the way creative practice is valued, organised and financed.

Connecting potential collaborators through convening power As well as financial resources, funders have significant ‘convening power’ that can be marshaled to catalyse collaborative working. Creating opportunities for individuals and organisations to meet and explore new collaboration ideas through ‘bootcamps’ or other more traditional kinds of seminar and conference-style events can rapidly build new communities of interest and networks around areas of common interest or concern. Such events could be organised to enable participants to identify for themselves a possible focus for a collaboration, for example through ‘open space’ approaches, or be structured to attract those interested in something very specific, such as fundraising in a particular locality, or something universally relevant such as resource scarcity and climate change.

Building on existing assets and encouraging knowledge transfer Funders could identify where collaborative working is already happening well or beginning to emerge, and provide support to enable it to grow further or faster. They could incentivise knowledge transfer by financing peer-led knowledge networks that enable organisation leaders experienced in collaborative working to share best practice with others starting out. This would help to avoid the ‘re-inventing the wheel’ syndrome, and at the same time build the field in ways that make it easier for this way of working to become more mainstream. As two pilot participants remarked: ‘We are always collaborating, bringing either individual creative people together or collaborating with other organisations, and in the last 12 months we have had half a dozen collaborations on different scales… there is an awful lot of know-how there that could be harnessed’, and ‘The message for funders that I would give is to fund the points of collaboration that already exist or emerge, rather than putting in place a structure, that you hope will deliver that… if they work harder at seeking out at what points of intersection there already are and directing their funding to that, I think that would be a cost effective way of encouraging more collaboration.’

Supporting the costs of technical assistance (TA) Funders need to be creative and flexible in how they approach, allocate and distribute grants to support the true costs of collaboration, especially the different kinds of TA needed at different stages, which will be unique to each collaboration. MMM offered each pilot £50,000 to use in whatever way was appropriate to develop the early stage of their collaboration. It was not directive in how the money should be spent, nor in which TA provider was hired or at what cost. It used its network to help identify potential suppliers of TA where it could and advised, if asked, on commissioning documents and briefs. This supportive but unobtrusive role was appreciated by pilot participants and helped to create an ethos of mutual problem solving. Releasing TA support in alignment with the three stages proposed in section 8 (Evaluating opportunities for collaboration, Spotting barriers to collaboration and Tailoring solutions to tear down the barriers to collaborating), with an emphasis on supporting stages two and three, could encourage groups to ensure that the right levels of commitment to the shared vision are present and able to drive the collaboration forward. However, it is important that funders have a realistic expectation of the pace at which the collaboration can move forward.

Support for the pilots was enabled by a partnership of three funders, The Northern Rock Foundation, Arts Council England and the then Scottish Arts Council. Similar funder collaboratives are being set up in America[2]with the aim of helping not for profits develop shared back-office professional functions, such as financial oversight, joint purchasing agreements, partnerships or joint ventures in shared enterprises, and, where appropriate, full mergers of established organisations. More funding partnerships of this kind in the UK would help fuel more collaborative endeavours.

MMM would advocate that funders reflect on the learning from the pilot projects and critique their own CQAs to collaborate, both with their peers in the public and private funding community and with others, including those they fund.

MMM’s 2007 provocation ‘The Art of Living’[3] proposed a variety of collaborative responses that public and private funders could make to tackling the arts and cultural sectors endemic overextension and undercapitalisation. These continue to be in urgent need of response, even more so in the light of current operating environment. Collaborative strategies by funders prioritising the building of financial resilience in the arts and cultural sector at this time for example could have significant impact on the sector’s ability to survive and thrive in the short term and could effect change much more quickly than individual funders working alone.[4]

About re.volution
Leaders of the arts and cultural ecology want an end to trying to do too much, with too little, too often on their own.
The human and financial cost of this over-extension and under-capitalisation is increasing, driven by accelerating change and uncertainty in the external operating environment. re.volution aimed to help resolve these systemic issues by utilising the passion, experience and expertise of art and culture’s greatest asset. Its people.

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Letter from Kabul – Part 1 of 2

Letter from Kabul – Part 1 of 2
Date: 17/12/10
Author: admin

This is part one of a two-part guest post by Paul Smith, Director of the British Council in Kabul, Afghanistan. Thank you to Paul for taking the time to share insights from such a remarkable position and place. The image below is one taken from the Kabul Museum

I suppose if there’s a British cultural attache in Afghanistan, well, as Director of the British Council here in Kabul, that proud position is probably mine. But, despite a lifelong commitment to the efficacy of international cultural relations, even I wouldn’t care to bandy the cultural attache title around with too much brio. The guffaws of disbelief would be inevitable. Culture? Arts to cheer up a warzone? Some dilettante offering to an Afghanistan craving baseline development in every sector and suffering at the depths of every poverty, health and education indicator list? Most reactions would bellow that there’s no space for cultural entertainment and fripperies in this environment of hard-graft nation building. So, focus on the things that matter and get real about the things that so obviously don’t. Don’t insult a traumatised people with your laughably peripheral agendas.

With the British Council I’ve spent 27 years trying to stimulate cultural collaboration in societies as different as Kano and Rangoon, Mumbai and Berlin, Cairo and Dhaka. But I’ll confess that promoting the cultural agenda in Afghanistan, a terrain of continuous high alert security, hostility and mortality, certainly does focus the mind and force the issue of relevance. Even as I’m writing this aesthetic piece of punditry, I’m sitting at a rickety table in the desert dust of a UK military basecamp in Helmand, with helicopters hovering above and UK troops psyching themselves up for their next mission over a fag and a plastic cup of tea. At moments like this, I’m inclined to keep my latest Afghan contemporary dance strategy out of sight in my back pocket. This context unquestionably prioritises the issues and strips out the irrelevancies. If cultural attaches can advocate and activate the relevance and validity of cultural engagement and cultural relations here, they could surely do this anywhere.

9/11 –as too often now – was the iconic date. Amongst the many things that changed was that culture moved from the feelgood outer nimbus of international relations to find itself at the core. Culture became the primary determinant of global interaction, with politics virtually a subset to this. Even the writing of history textbooks began to change. Previously the chapter on culture appeared as a final obligatory afterthought and followed the heavy duty chapters on politics, constitution, economics and commerce. Now arts and culture became an organic part of the narrative, rather than an add-on. Culture entered the biology of geopolitics.

At the turn of the millennium, planes were slamming into corporate skyscrapers and armies invading foreign fields due to mutual distrust and bigoted, misinformed revulsion against globally disseminated cultures and their constituent faiths, sociologies and value systems. The dominant worldwide pull between, on the one hand, the forces of globalisation and, on the other, the myriad secessions and retractions against the global was a pull that was more cultural than commercial. Whilst politics and economics headed macro, with a welcoming homogenisation and consolidation, culture, in a not unhealthy equal and opposite reaction, headed heterogeneously and dislocatingly micro. The new challenge was the confirmation of common values but alive with the celebration of diverse ones. This dichotomy, this demographic global-local pull seems – from my desert viewpoint in southern Afghanistan – to be even more acute in a warzone of conflicting determinations than anywhere else. We must, it seems, ironically sanctify the sickening Goebbels cliche dictum; when we hear the word gun, we must reach for our culture.

What is happening here in Afghanistan? Essentially diversities of geographically aligned peoples are reasserting their common sense of cultural identity after decades – centuries – of ravaging invasion, of ravaging intervention, even of ravaging goodwill and help. Over the past three decades in particular, external imposition and internal revolt have destroyed economic and social infrastructure along with professional and human resource, and left Afghanistan one of the most poverty-ridden and least developed countries in the world. In 2001 the government and people of Afghanistan commenced the climb back to self-reliant democratic nationhood, resisting extremist interference and determined to improve socioeconomic indicators increasingly to assure future stabilisation and security.

This is not just a developmental and socioeconomic enterprise. Reinforcing national cultural identity and strengthening the professional and educational capacity of the Afghan peoples are critical to this determination. Despite war and dereliction, Afghanistan remains a vibrant conflux of ethnic identities with an equal diversity of urban, rural and provincial governance and social traditions. The path to new nationhood will be as much a cultural as a constitutional and developmental mission. The role of cultural relations, internally amongst the Afghan people and externally within the family of nations, will be critical to Afghanistan’s future stability, well-being and international positioning.

End-2014 will be a critical focal juncture for Afghanistan. By then most NATO combative forces will have departed, handing over responsibility for security and insurgency suppression to the Afghan national security forces and the Afghan police. Though the international development agenda will continue beyond the transition, the pressure is now on to enable Afghanistan to be independent and self-reliant by 2014 across all major governance and socioeconomic sectors.

2011-14 international interventions must strengthen infrastructure and human resource to ensure Afghan capacity to sustain security and to win the battle of ideas amongst the Afghan populus for a future democratic and well-functioning society and economy. This society must be founded on a robust sense of diverse but integrated nationhood and shared cultural meaning and pride. In whatever ways international media and public perception may ossify brand-Afghanistan into a warzone, a terrain of terror, a developmental right-off.

Afghanistan actually is 30 million ordinary men, women and kids who live for their families, their friends and their faith and who are proud of their vibrant ethnic diversity, their mature social identity and their astounding cultural legacy which, despite recent suppression, is again ripely contemporary. Afghans have learned over millennia to sustain their values of life and livelihood despite being the geographical nexus of other peoples’ imperial ambitions. Militarism is only the surface wave motions to the deeper swells of the Afghan cultural story.

Many of the major bullies of ancient, mediaeval and more recent history were bruised and buffeted on this Afghan crossroads between the Indus Valley, the Fertile Crescent and Europa. Alexander to-ed and fro-ed here more than anywhere else. Genghis Khan and Tamerlane fought some of their toughest campaigns in these valleys and mountains. Babur, the founder of Mughal India, was returned to Afghan Ghazni for burial. Victorian Britain three times suffered ignominy in war. 80’s Soviet imperialism is iconically rendered by the graveyard of a thousand abandoned tanks, dustblown beneath the Kabul hills. And how will the footnotes of Western history books, in 50 years time, describe current good intent in Kandahar and Helmand? The second part of this post will be available on the blog early next year

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Letter from Kabul – Part 2 of 2

Letter from Kabul – Part 2 of 2
Date: 11/01/11
Author: admin

This is the final part of a two-part guest post by Paul Smith, Director of the British Council in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Thank you to Paul for taking the time to share insights from such a remarkable position and place. The image below is one taken from the Kabul Museum.

Afghanistan is again the child running her kite, is the young woman hurrying to work concerned for the sick parent at home, is the exuberant dancers at the family wedding.

Here in Afghanistan, as anywhere else, the abiding story is that politics is people; culture is people. I can think of no place where it is more important to strengthen the authenticity and potential liberation of cultural relations – the geo-cultural, not just geo-political, perspective – than in Afghanistan today.

And however much the weight of the developmental superstructure currently imposes itself on this land, and however many dollars flood the Hindu Kush passes en route to do good, the Afghan people quietly and adamantly know that it they that will fight and win their own battles.

It is their creative voices and their legacy of meanings and understandings that will reassert the identity that is uniquely Afghan and which will evolve their new and old, old, old Afghanistan. Reclaiming independent and defiant nationhood is the most important mission – harnessing the critical mass of cultural and community cohesion which is needed to achieve self-reliance and to take back command.

The usual punditry would have it that what I’m going on about here is culture with a big “C”, rather than small “c” culture as evidenced through the classic artforms of visuality, literature, film and performance. Most gut reaction would reckon that small “c” culture, in conflict zones, should still be banished beyond the peripheries as an almost bourgeois and trivialising insult to the deathly seriousness of core development, stabilisation and security.

Yes, justifying big “C” culture is easy. Culture as it describes and re-explores ethnic identity, concepts of civilisation (always too grand a word), conflicting value systems, faith, multiculturalism, concepts of homeland, sociological legacies and currencies – these, now, are clearly inherent to making the journey to nation building and the asserting of due position amongst the international community.

But it is in recognising small “c” culture – aah the aarts! – as liberating opportunity rather than as achieved product that redeems small “c” culture and places it at the energetic centring of reconstruction and rehabilitation and the reclamation of countrywide integrity.

It only takes a simple unadorned arts event in Kabul today to authenticate the necessity of cultural impact on restoring national pride. A few days ago I joined a mostly Afghan expat audience for a performance and recital by Ahmad Walid, the great Afghan ghazal singer, on his return to Kabul after a forced absence of over 25 years. I was compelled by the music from Ahmad and from the accompanying harmonia, tabla, rubab and tula but, like all responsible cultural attaches, I spent more time watching the audience than the stage. That experience was equally compelling, moving indeed. Here was the visible evidence of a people re-saturating themselves with their lost legacy, their suppressed cultural entitlement and thus their identity, distinct meaning and sense of self. For years musical performance was banned; the sounds and tones that coloured a nation and made its most vibrant legacy current were stilled. Even the chirrups of the natural environment fell silent as popular pet birds were forbidden in Afghan homes.

Now, listening to Ahmad Walid, I witnessed more than an audience thrilled by excellence. Here was a true homecoming, a homecoming of the mind and spirit, a reclamation of who and what one is and is destined, by cultural evolution, to be. These were parched people soaking in freshly released water, reconstituting themselves.

Music does it, the lyric legacy does it, the whirls of calligraphy do it, the artisanship of gemstone, wood and ceramic does it, film does it and, above all, the outcry of human performance does it.

A national state is not intrinsically recreated by devising an official constitution under a posture of governance and a contrived willing of popular process. Nor is it only social development and economic restructuring that kindles patriotism and inflates the lungs of new nationhood.

Afghanistan is a nation stuttering along a trajectory from denial to release, from a cultural identity formed only of threat, resistance and dislocation to one of opportunity, acclamation and reintegration. The will towards the many in one, which will be Afghanistan’s federated culture, will emerge as much through the reclamation of the sound of music and the potency of performance as it will through the strained debates of politically engineered national jirgas.

Not everything in Afghanistan needs development provided by donors. Some things are already developed, indeed intensified by suppression. Spirit, will, human dignity, culture, creativity, arts need not development but release and all the donors need to do is to listen out for the miracle of the new heartbeat.

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Culture Change Conference – Shooting the Rapids

Date: 01/02/11
Author: Clare Cooper

The most interactive of the three main sessions at MMM and CLP’s Culture Change Conference last week was called ‘Shooting the Rapids’. Six open space/unconference style gatherings, two on each of the three themes of the conference: ‘Renew Mission’, ‘Reconfigure Business Models’, ‘Revise Approach to Money’ were facilitated and ‘pollinated’ by a host of amazing individuals at the forefront of our evolving arts and cultural ecology.

Renew Mission

Facilitators: Charlotte Jones (ITC and ERA21), and Maurice Davies (MA and ERA21), Pollinators: Tony Butler (MEAL and MMM Capital Matters case study), Gwilym Gibbons (Shetland Arts and MMM Capital Matters case study), Maria Bota, (Salisbury Festival and MMM Capital Matters Case Study), David Brownlee (Audiences UK and ERA21) Clive Gillman (DCA and MMM (re)evolver network member, Laura Sillars (FACT)

Reconfigure Business Models

Facilitators: Mark Robinson, (his own Thinking Practice and MMM Associate), Holly Tebbutt, (her own practice and Researcher on MMM Capital Matters), Pollinators: Declan Baharini, (NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues MMM Collaborative Working pilot), Dave Moutrey (Cornerhouse), Hannah Rudman (MMM Associate), Sian Prime (Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship) Sarah Pickthall (Cusp inc), Morag Arnot (Creative Scotland)

Revise Approach to Money

Facilitators: Susan Royce (Independent Consultant) and Claire Antrobus (her own practice and Researcher on MMM Capital Matters), Pollinators: Sarah Preece, Battersea Arts Centre (MMM Capital Matters case study), Julia Twomlow(Leach Pottery and MMM Capital Matters case study), Jim Beirne, (Live Theatre and MMM Capital Matters Case Study) Keith Jeffrey, (Derby QUAD) Rachel Arnold, (Impact Arts), Ed Whiting, (wedidthis)

Each group to heard a short 5 minute case story from each of the pollinators which illustrated real front line change in ways of thinking and ways of doing that is already happening. Each group were then asked to consider the following question: How can capacity in their theme (renew mission, reconfigure business model, revise approach to money) be further accelerated in order to help creative practitioners and organisations survive and thrive in the turbulence ahead?

Here are the bullet points responses: (Hope I captured them correctly – a few were a bit hard to read!) Mission Organisations want:

Information on everyone else’s mission – a mission bank
Help to understand each organisation’s place
Better sharing of good practice concisely
Sharing of market intelligence
Help with understanding mechanisms of government e.g. Treasury Green Book
Learn form other sectors e.g. social enterprise
Examples of Board and staff working together
Better access to evaluations and intelligent use of data
Better understanding of changes in civil society (eg implications of localism bill, how NHS operates)
Brokerage with introductions to organizations outside cultural sector
Peer to peer conversations which can offer honest critique and support
Thought leadership – but nor from well-connected men in suits)
More advocacy of their value
To look at what could be
Space and encouragement to think
Inspiration from external facilitators and challenge – Facilitation as an extra layer
Does Mission need to be renewed?
Advocacy needs to be done by every organisation locally
A new government after 2015
No more nepotism and privilige
Model

Development and extension of professional languages to allow us to talk across digital and creative industries sectors
We have expertise in working within and managing highly flexible employment models we need to capitalise on this
We really understand the value and importance of USP and brand, the next step is to monetise it
We need champions for more flexible investment models across public, Third and commercial sectors. We know how to deliver flexibility, do they?
We need to consider how we recruit on the basis of competencies rather than profession much more actively in the future
There are good examples of peer groups actually to develop innovative models for auditing intangible assets and to benchmark assets and models in UK and abroad
As energy is a central challenge for the whole ecosystem, we understand that co-opetition is a valuable strategy and we have nothing to fear from generosity
Our professional capacities allied to the DIY phenomenon (in digital but also in physical) are a means of building conent and delivering new forms too
Break the rules, use positive deviance
Mobilise people
Collaborate (with limits)
Engage Boards
Stop jus talking to ourselves, learn from the rest of the world
Step forward as adults in adult to adult relationships
Be patient – it takes time
Money

The words are really important e.g. subsidy vs investment
Importance of confidence in what we do – we have to value it if we want others to
Need to develop impact measures and use them if we want to argue that money is not the only measure
Train ourselves, get out of our old mindset
Focus on growth not expansion
Organisational design, too many models are 19th century, need 21sr century matrix and teams
Raise financial literacy and fundraising capacity
Need to invest in people
Central role of organisational culture and values
Need to be really clear about core purpose/mission and align organisation to deliver it
Conscious strategy of investing in the organisation to grow the organisation
We saw opportunities everywhere – restructure organisations to exploit them
Learning every day – continual process
Leaders who don’t think money is a dirty word
Accelerate our capacity to revise our approach to money
Partnerships make things happen – different skills and experiences form other sectors
Connect people to our purpose and the money
Understand and invest in our assets
If audiences are a key asset we need relationship skills and we need to invest in understanding audiences
Teach business skills roe at traiing level/university
Soft loans – can we model cultural return on investment to support non-grant financing?
Everyne must think of themselves as creative entrepreneurs
Bring ambassadors into your organisation to build your networks
Every 12-18 months so an audit of your artistic values to confirm your mission
Funders encouraging organisations to think about building and exploiting assets rather than just project funding
Audiences as key asset for generating income e.g. increased spend per head
Embedding the arts in people’s every day lives not just the weekends
Audience ownership
Giving arts students a business education throughout their training
Boards need to bring entrepreneurial approach and skills
Taking ideas from other sectors/industries
Build good relationships and maintain them with generosity
Understand the tangible as well as the intangible assets – Board, audience, IP
Knowing what your asset are and how your assets convert to their passions
Discovering what relationships people would like to have with those assets – owning a bit, being involved/knowledgeable/altruistic
What can we do to get people to think about money in new way we are used to survival mode which encourages us to think too small or to be too prudent
Try to form partnerships/alliances outside current peer group, encourage big thinking about use of money/business model ideas and resources are intertwined in equal measure
Learn from outside our sector
There are always more ways of doing things more effectively

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Culture Change Conference – Cat Harrison’s speech: “Opportunities in Crisis”

Culture Change Conference – Cat Harrison’s speech: “Opportunities in Crisis”
Date: 04/02/11
Author: Clare Cooper

Hi. Hi there.

Sorry I hope you don’t mind if I just take this in a second. It’s not everyday you stand in the National Theatre speaking to you alongside… well… them.

A friend of mine, he said to me, he said to me “don’t worry about the audience, don’t worry about the audience, just say what it is you have to say” Just say what it is I have to say

Ok I am not Ben Okri.* Sorry about that.

In fact I doubt hardly any of you will have heard of my name before Fiona mentioned it.

My name is Cat Harrison. Some of you my have heard of the artist collective I co-founded 2 years ago: non zero one. But I guess most of you will know of the organisation I work for as a Trainee Producer and Advisor: the brilliant Artsadmin.

I am for all intents and purposes a member of the new breed of arts “slashies”. I am an artist/ producer.

And I am emerging.

It’s a brilliant word that isn’t it? Emerging. Its everywhere at the moment – it’s a bit of a buzzword. Emerging. Not emerged or submerged or established. No, I’m on the move: processing, progressing, digressing and exploring. It’s a good place to be. In fact, it terms of crisis, apparently “emerging” means that I’m in a brilliant position. Us emergents, we’re better equipped for coping well – typically we’re very adaptable, we have less responsibilities and are less constrained by the rigidities of time, space and money.

In CS Holling’s 4 Phases of Crisis we’re currently at the end of the third, the Release Phase – reminds me of that visceral image that sinks in everytime I hear the words “economy in freefall”. To quote Lemn Sissay “I jumped off the bungee bridge and I hadn’t measured the rope”. But we will know soon. We will know who has safely bounced, who has skimmed the ground, and who will need to be scraped off it. Whatever happens, we will all need to change. That’s why we then enter Holling’s 4th phase of Crisis, the Reorganisation Phase, what Andrew Taylor refers to as the exploration phase.

Exploration right? It’s tailor made to us emerging arts professionals! We’re built for a crisis. I mean the other argument of course is that emerging arts professionals, well that we don’t really know we’re in a crisis. Not that we don’t watch TV, read newspapers or follow Ed Vaizey speeches on twitter (because we’ve all been doing that right) but that this is normality. We won’t notice the hard times of the recession because it will be what we enter into, we’ll have no easier times to compare it to.

You know it, we’re emerging, we’re optimistic, we’ll share resources, we’ll find our way. Let me tell you now that young people and emerging arts professionals, we will not and cannot pick up the pieces of this recession. I urge you, not to drop everything to put us first, but not to dismiss us and leave us out in the cold. I mean, whose crisis is this anyway? Already unemployment rates of the under 25s have reached its highest ever, with one in 10 signing up to JSA. We are reportedly the first generation to be more likely to earn less than our parents, the generation of which a third of men and a fifth of women will still live with our parents between 20 and 34 years old.

Graduates who currently enter your organizations, enter with an average of £23,000 worth of student debt. In the next 5 years students with the proposed tuition fee increase, graduates are likely to enter your organizations with an average of £42,000 worth of debt. I graduated in 2009, and with both my tuition fees and maintenance loan subsidised by grants, I still have well over £20,000 worth of debt that accumulates interest every year despite working for a charity, despite earning less than £15,000 a year.

In less than 3 months my Traineeship at Artsadmin will end and I will join the thousands of young people looking for a job. For all the impressive Guardian statistics, this recession is much closer to home. I am a typical young person caught in the recession and I suspect many of you will know many more colleagues and family members in similar positions too.

I mean I very nearly contemplated wearing a sandwich board with my CV written on it, had it not have clashed with my ridiculous pink tights. It’s not that I expect you to offer senior positions to emerging artists if you’re looking for someone much more experienced, but if you do have an opening for an initiative or a scheme or a job that could be suitable for emerging arts professionals then please do go for it. I promise you it will be worth it – because we are the keenest, the most committed troopers: we will work hard for your money. Please note the clue in that sentence: “owe work for your money”.

This is a reciprocal relationship.

Despite common myth, young and emerging arts professionals cannot run on nothing. The more you can give, the more they can give in return. And I don’t mean to say that we have to get paid, because it isn’t just about money although that is a big part of it. I personally think that internships and apprenticeships can be of incredible value for both employer and employee – though I should mention groups like Carrot Workers are starting campaigns against any sort of unpaid work. I myself did a part-time 4 month unpaid internship with Artsadmin during my second year at university. You can probably guess that I’m a little bit biased as I got a job out of it (and my boss is in the audience), but that internship played a huge role in my life of introducing me to what it’s like to be part of an arts organization, what it is that I could do for a living and what kind of amazing unthinkable arts jobs are out there (I mean who knew you could become an Artists’ Advisor?!) Now that I’ve been working as Trainee that support has increased tenfold – not just because of the stability of payment, but because I have a set amount of training that I have to work towards, areas that I know I need more work on and areas that I feel confident I can manage.

And, talking to other artists and arts professionals, it is that confidence, that acceptance that is priceless to emerging arts professionals, especially emerging artists that might not be following the norm.

The £500 non zero one was granted from the Farnham Maltings No Strings Attached scheme gave us enough money to pay for some of our travel and buy some equipment for a piece we worked on for 7 months. But on top of that amount (which was crucial for us to work as a company with the 6 of us spread across 4 different Arts Council regions) there was that support that Farnham Maltings had invested in us, that our work was worth something. That £500 led us to perform our debut piece at Southwark Playhouse for a few lunchtimes, where a Barbican producer took part in it and commissioned us for 3 weeks as part of their Spring Bite 10 programme. Following the Barbican we performed at Forest Fringe, have become associate artists at the Basement, have our next piece being developed at the NT Studio, a piece that has already been programmed for this year’s Latitude festival. I don’t mean to brag but… that’s not bad for a £500 start-up fee is it?

To put it another way… well to have my name put forward as a potential emerging arts professional, to be given the chance to speak in front of you, alongside them… well in many ways that’s so much more valuable to me than a starting salary of £20,000.

So please, invest in the emerging. In whatever ways you can, whether that be time, space, money, expertise and remember that it is always reciprocal: we are valuable and we can help your organisation – because we’re the best people for coping in a crisis. We’re naturally adaptive and open to change. I mean such changes have already begun to emerge. I mentioned about the being part of the new breeds of arts slashies before – the artist/ producer/ programmer/ director/ education officer – well you get the picture. It seems that leaving higher education with thousands of pounds worth of debt has made its mark.

We may be artists, but we are fully aware that we are businesses also. When you live in a world where success is measured by wealth, where education is apparently measured by wealth, even art is measured by its worth of wealth, well it seems you get a little more pragmatic, you get a little more self-controlled.

From the Andy Fields to the Bryony Kimmings to the Robert Pacittis – all 3 manage being arts programmers and directors, whilst upholding their own artistic practice. All six members of non zero one work part or full-time in the arts as Trainee Producers, Production Assistants, PA’s, Administrators and Education Officers for incredible organisations including Blast Theory, Hide & Seek, The Bush Theatre, Salisbury Playhouse, the RSC and Frantic Assembly. We are incredibly lucky to be working with such fantastic companies – and from my experience such work feeds directly into our artistic practice as much as our artistic practice feeds into our work.

Again, the whole process is completely reciprocal. One funding application here, one meeting with a promoter there. It’s all relative. What will be interesting to see is how organizations such as yours will react to what is currently a relatively individual evolution. For example, issues such as time can cause real problems. How can I continue to work in an office 8 hours a day if I have to run a show everyday for 3 weeks? The answer of course at the moment is through determination, a bit of negotiation and a fair bit of luck, but what are the possibilities of formalized sabbatical periods or unpaid artistic leave?

Will the support that currently exists for slashies remain or will it return to those that can give full, undivided attention to that one particular organization?

I suppose only time will tell.

What I have to say is just: let us give change a chance.

We are all in this together.

We will all be facing the reorganization phase, a certain amount of exploration.

I was told “the crisis is not an affliction on the system, the crisis is the system” and I for one believe that the arts sector should lead the way in showing no adversity to change. We are the arts movement – so let’s keep it moving.

The fact remains that we are all emerging. Not emerged or submerged or established. Not anymore. We are on the move – processing, progressing, digressing and exploring. And I for one am excited to see how that turns out

*NB Ben Okri was originally invited to take this slot which Cat kindly filled at very short notice.

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Culture Change Conference – videos now live! Date: 17/03/11

Videos from our Culture Change conference in January are now live, including the popular session with Cat Harrison above. To see the full video set visit the dedicated page here.

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Realising the potential of non-grant financing: Announcing the Arts Ventures Fund

Realising the potential of non-grant financing: Announcing the Arts Ventures Fund
Date: 21/02/12
Author: Clare Cooper

MMM Associate Margaret Bolton explains the ambitions and plans of the Arts Ventures Fund.
Over the past few years MMM has been examining the potential of non grant financing in the form for example of loans and quasi equity (or revenue sharing arrangements) to support arts and cultural organisations and to enable them to become more financially resilient. To some extent arts and cultural organisations have always accessed non grant financing: ‘friends and family’ loans; angel investors taking a stake in the success of particular productions; mortgages or secured loans for property purchase or refurbishment; artists sacrificing part of their fees in return for a profit share. However, we were interested in how the debate and action to promote social investment in the broader charitable and social enterprise sector might be harnessed to support new funds and promote new ways of thinking about how arts and cultural organisations might best be financed and more generally, better supported in the future.

A large part of our agenda has been to try to ensure that the organisations we are concerned about have access to the capital they need. Our experience is that small and medium sized arts and cultural organisations tend to be both under capitalised and over extended or in other words they are trying to achieve too much with too little resource and they lack access to the funds to change their situation. They tend to lack reserves (in large part because of the difficulty of making surpluses). They therefore often do not have the small amounts of investment needed to enable them to generate more revenue from existing activities or develop new income generating products or services.

There are specialist providers of investment to charities and other socially motivated organisations including Triodos, Charity Bank and Venturesome. However, our assessment of the market is that the sorts of financing that arts and cultural organisations most need ie high risk capital to develop new ventures and underwriting (money allocated and called down if needed) to underpin cashflow are in relatively short supply – at least relative to the potential demand!

Our view then is that new funds dedicated to arts and cultural organisations are required – although not a new financing organisation as the expertise of the existing social investment specialists should be utilised. Our contention has always been that in order not to cannibalise existing funding we need to develop new fund raising mechanisms and platforms. This is why MMM is so pleased to be part of the group developing the Arts Ventures Fund. The group aims to put together a portfolio of arts and cultural organisations and to work with wealth managers to secure investment pledges from high net worths. We have been aware for some time that wealth managers were being asked by their high net worth clients to construct portfolios which include investments which offer ‘blended returns’ ie returns that are social and/or cultural as well as financial. The proposed new fund will potentially enable many small and medium sized arts and cultural organisation to access investment from this new source.
If you are interested in being part of the Arts Ventures Fund portfolio please complete the on-line questionnaire posted by Arts Professional which will be published on 23rd February. For further information about the initiative please see the 23rd February issue of Arts Professional and watch this space – we intend to post regular updates on the MMM blog.

The Arts Ventures Fund Group is being led by Tim Joss (Rayne Foundation) and comprises, Geoff Burnand (Investing for Good), Jim Beirne (Live Theatre), Graham Henderson (Poet in the City), Graham Hitchen (Independent Consultant) and Margaret Bolton (MMM Associate and Independent Consultant). The Group thanks Liz Hill of Arts Professional for all her help and support.

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Ceding The Future

Date:

 08/01/15
 Clare Cooper

Intro:

After 10 years, MMM is closing down in its current form.

As many of you know our last cycle of work, which completed last autumn, encompassed two programmes re.volution and re.think.

re.volution was a peer learning network designed to help renew mission, reconfigure business model and revise approach to money and re.think, a platform designed to activate and support all those working with art and culture to make the world more liveable. Both had huge vision and ambition behind them, some of which was realised and some not.

Both required significant levels of resource to deliver and scale and whilst re.volution started off well with design, development and launch financing from Arts Council England (ACE) and Creative Scotland, the level of scale up originally envisaged in England, which was key to the network’s longer term sustainability, was in the end not possible as ACE chose to invest its Developing Resilient Leadership funding elsewhere. Creative Scotland supported the programme throughout its initial three-year start up phase and Arts Council Wales supported a launch in Wales in the third year. We thank them both hugely for their belief in what we were trying to do and for sticking with us.

re.volution sought to give tangible, visible form to Dave Weinberger’s insights about smart networks:

“As knowledge becomes networked, the smartest person in the room isn’t the person standing at the front lecturing us, and isn’t the collective wisdom of those in the room. The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room, and connects to those outside of it. Our task is to learn how to build smart rooms — that is, how to build networks that make us smarter.”

We learned a lot about managing and resourcing such a network throughout those three years, what works and what doesn’t work, and saw first hand how, when peers do regularly come together to share their learning, new energies are unleashed and communities of practice do form!

What Margaret Wheatley says: “We humans learn best when in relationship with others who share a common practice. We self-organize as communities with those who have skills and knowledge that are important to us”, is absolutely true and I for one would now never want to work any differently!

Any of you reading this who want to start up a peer learning network or who are struggling to maintain one – we’d be happy to share what we learned – just get in touch.

re.think got going without any financial support at all – just the passion and commitment of a whole bunch of MMM-ers, most especially Shelagh Wright and Catherine Bunting. We wanted to create a platform which could encourage recognition of arts and culture as an abundant resource with a vital role in helping us address the global challenges we face, able to galvanise action and effective change in values, mindsets and policies and demonstrate how art and culture’s expressive energy can be harnessed to help us make that leap to a more livable world. Whilst the British Council in France spiritedly supported our early plans to develop an international cultural innovators studio, their own level of internal churn meant that we never moved beyond our very successful prototype. Other attempts to get re.think projects off the ground stumbled in the face of the harsh reality of the post gfc fundraising environment and the difficulty that many public and private funders had in understanding and/or publicly buying in to what we were trying to do. Recognition of the global challenges we face has increased so much in the three and a half years since we launched re.think that I know other projects will find it easier to raise money for this kind of work now.

Looking back on both those programmes, despite the difficulties we encountered, and on all the whole body of work that MMM produced over the last 10 years always floods me with feelings of gratefulness. Most especially for all the amazing people that participated in the network and made so many things happen.

For Roanne Dods who co-founded the whole enterprise with me and helped shape the work for so long.

For all those who served as Directors in addition to Roanne, Tony Butler, Rohan Gunatillake, David Hall and Shelagh Wright.

For the extra-ordinarily diverse individual and collective intelligence that all the Associates contributed to the network:  Nadine Andrews, Morag Arnot, Margaret Bolton, David Carrington, Hilary Carty, Maurice Davies, Vanessa Kredler, Mark Robinson, Hannah Rudman and Holly Tebbutt.

For the thinkers and doers who wrote all our provocations and reports: Claire Antrobus, Hasan Bakhshi, Margaret Bolton, Radhika Desai, Graham Devlin Teo Greenstreet, Alan Freeman, Graham Hitchen, Hilary Jennings, Tim Joss, John Knell, Graham Leicester, Joe Ludlow, Francois Materasso, Lucy Neal, Sara Robinson, and Adrian Ellis who wrote our very first provocation, from which we drew our name.

For all those who contributed to our conferences, events and talks over the years whose names are too numerous to mention but who you can all still view in the blog sections of the re.volution and re.think websites and the events section on the main MMM landing page.

Whilst many of those listed above often, and sometimes repeatedly, contributed their work without being paid I am equally grateful for all the public and private funders who financed the programme over the decade and allowed us to pay some people some of the time!

Amazingly, we raised around £2.5 million for the work that we did and this came from:

Accenture, Arts Council England, the British Council, Creative Scotland, The Clore Leadership Programme, the Cultural Leadership Programme, Deustche Bank, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, Governance Hub, The Paul Hamyln Foundation, HM Treasury, Jerwood Foundation, Jerwood Charitable Foundation, The Northern Rock Foundation, The Rayne Foundation, the Scottish Arts Council and the Welsh Arts Council.

We also enjoyed important, long term in kind relationships with Arts Professional and Bates Wells & Braithwaite to whom we are also deeply grateful.

And our office space was kindly hosted first of all by the Jerwood Foundation, then by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and finally by the Institute of Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE) at Goldsmiths, University of London. Huge thanks to all of them too.

My final thanks goes to all those thousands of people working with arts and culture in the UK and elsewhere who energised and motivated us by engaging with our work – coming to our events, participating in our workshops, joining our network, offering us feedback, good and bad, giving us advice and constantly influencing us with their reality of the front line.

We’ve had an amazing run, and now it’s time for new voices to lead our conversations about Mission, Model and Money.

The current MMM website will be archived over the coming months with the best of what we have done continuing to be available.

Anyone who wants to stay in touch who doesn’t already have my (Clare Cooper) contact details can reach me via www.commonculture.org.uk.