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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.

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