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 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.