In this issue of Hill Strategies' Arts Research Monitor: Four reports on arts sector structures related to artists, arts management, and arts funding, including articles on the “next generation” of arts practice, new organizational models in the arts, and the resilience of the arts sector. While these reports do cite some research sources, they should be considered position papers more than research articles per se (unlike most works included in the Arts Research Monitor).
Choreographing Our Future: Strategies for Supporting Next Generation Arts Practice
Metcalf Foundation, November 2013
Author: Shannon Litzenberger
Based on the author’s research and personal immersion “over the past three years in the complexities of arts support systems and their relationship to contemporary practice”, this report argues that “we need to realign our arts policy mindset and funding practices to support a new generation of arts development in Canada. To do this will require collaborative action on the part of the arts community and its funders.”
Furthermore, the author argues that “major shifts in arts practice are necessitating a reconsideration of even the most fundamental aspects of our arts funding model”. The focus should be placed “on collaboration, new working models, sustainable financial practices, and the health of the individual artist”.
The paper outlines three core abilities for artists: 1) creating and innovating; 2) relating and connecting; and 3) developing an effective arts enterprise. Related to these three themes, the author argues that: 1) the discipline-based funding model of the arts should be challenged; 2) there must be new opportunities for public engagement in the arts; and 3) emerging business strategies and structural models should be explored.
The “major systemic transformation” advocated in the report would involve:
1. Providing change capital (“a unique one-time investment to assist organizations in undertaking [a] systematic process of innovative organizational transformation”).
2. Encouraging and rewarding sustainable financial practices, including “right-sizing”, promoting reserves, rewarding surpluses, and better recognizing the nature of risk.
3. Supporting “organizational decline and legacy preservation”.
4. Reorienting “capacity development programs to support diverse structural and administrative working models” (i.e., diverse types of organizations, partnerships, and collaborative groups).
5. Providing “new, more substantive means of support to individual artists at key career stages”, including “periodic investments in the form of fellowships, awards, career accelerator grants, sabbaticals, or capacity development funds”.
6. Prioritizing support for shared administrative platforms and new working models in the arts.
The author also recommends that additional research be undertaken in order to better understand “the nature of arts engagement or how people ascribe value to their experiences”.
If the arts sector moves in the directions proposed with regard to arts engagement, the author asserts that there should be “unprecedented opportunities for the arts sector to reassert its role as essential to the social fabric of the communities of which they are a part”.
Shared Platforms and Charitable Venture Organizations
A powerful possibility for a more resilient arts sector
Metcalf Foundation, June 2013
Author: Jane Marsland
With explosive growth in the arts over the past two decades (demonstrated by a sharp increase in the number of organizations supported through operating funding from the Canada Council for the Arts), this report argues that “it is increasingly difficult to raise the resources required to support an ongoing organizational structure and keep it healthy”. Given this situation, the author proposes that shared administrative platforms, specifically charitable venture organizations, “could make a significant impact on improving the health of the arts sector”.
The report outlines how shared platforms work in the United States and in other not-for-profit sectors in Canada. The report highlights the key elements that might be included in a charitable venture organization (CVO) in the arts:
- All projects belong to the CVO. The CVO takes the project in-house. The project and CVO are not separate legal entities.
- The “CVO is liable for everything”.
- “Project personnel are employees of the CVO”, which might improve compensation and benefit coverage, thereby “increasing retention and minimizing burn-out” in small arts organizations.
- All project contributions belong to the CVO, which reports all revenues and expenditures.
Some of the key benefits of shared platforms include:
- “Ability to offer tax receipts for individual and foundation donations.”
- “Ability to provide arts entities with more effective technical assistance and administrative support.”
- “Participation in shared services such as insurance, office space, capacity building, fundraising assistance, publicity and others.”
The report examines the advantages, legal implications, practical issues, financial considerations, and potential impacts related to three different ways of bringing charitable venture organizations to the Canadian arts sector:
1. “Establish a Charitable Venture Organization specifically for arts organizations”.
2. “Utilize existing administrative platforms such as arts service organizations or arts management providers”.
3. “Existing arts organizations, in collaborative relationships, acting as shared platforms”.
The author recognizes that, in a complex system such as the arts sector, there is not “a simple formula to get it right”. She also argues that “it is now time to move from an exclusive focus on the health of the individual organization to include the health of the arts system. This will require a move away from hierarchical capacity (stand-alone organizations) to lateral capacity in relationships in order to develop networks of shared resources.”
The Art of Resilience, The Resilience of Art
McConnell Foundation, September 10, 2013
This paper, based on two discussion sessions in the summer of 2013 with a total of 36 participants, argues that culture must be included “as an essential fourth dimension of resilience and livability”, in addition to environmental, social, and economic dimensions.
The paper defines resilience as “the capacity of people and communities to creatively adapt, [to] face stresses cooperatively, to formulate just and effective responses, and, as needed, to moderate and/or reshape behaviour in order to maintain an effective social order”.
Increasing resilience requires complex and “co-creative” adaptation, involving contributions from people in many different walks of life as well as “multisectoral efforts to manage complex challenges”. Artists have an important role, sometimes as disruptive outsiders who can shake up the status quo.
Several principles are promoted in the paper as helping “the advance towards urban resilience and livability”:
- “Start with hospitality, inclusivity, diversity, and generosity.”
- “Embrace complexity.”
- “Acknowledge and respect both our own and others’ vulnerability.”
- “Recognize the importance of place and community.”
- “Encourage curiosity and flexibility and appreciate joy and delight.”
- “Work with an appreciation for history.”
The paper concludes that “the art of resilience could be restated as the art of learning to live together as though our future really mattered. Writers, musicians, filmmakers, architects, designers must engage us all, whether as audience, students, or collaborators, in co-creating a new narrative, a new narrative for humanity.”
Building a Resilient Sector
An Attempt to Debunk Myths around Innovation and Identify How Grantmakers Can Support Adaptive Change
Grantmakers in the Arts Reader, Vol 24, No 3 (Fall 2013)
Author: Richard Evans
Based on his consulting experience with many American arts organizations, the author of this opinion piece outlines myths and realities about innovation in not-for-profit arts organizations. For the author, “innovation is a newly emerging, organization-wide discipline, the most far-reaching new set of capacities arts organizations can learn, and the most powerful new discipline to enter our field since the advent of strategic planning in the 1970s”.
The 10 myths and realities are:
Myth #1: “Innovation is a grantmaking fad and only relevant for some organizations.”
Reality: “To innovate means to develop creative ideas into feasible strategies that organizations can actually implement.”
Myth #2: “Innovation is primarily about sexy new products.”
Reality: “Innovation is first and foremost a process, a way of creating the conditions for emergent behavior, for ‘next practices’ to be realized.”
Myth #3: “Innovation means adding a new engagement program, or whatever.”
Reality: “A stronger focus on resilience is what is really needed…Letting go is at the core of innovation.”
Myth #4: Organizations can innovate using their current structures and staffing.
Reality: “Unless you change the way your organization is structured, and the way you work, you are unlikely to be able to sustain significantly different relationships outside the organization.”
Myth #5: “Worthwhile innovations will take off in the field through replicating specific new programs or products.”
Reality: “Solutions are developing locally, in forms that are uniquely attuned to community needs and organizational conditions.” Rather than “fail-safe design”, we should aim for “safe-fail experimentation”.
Myth #6: “New money alone will deliver innovation.”
Reality: “What is required for adaptive change is a carefully structured framework that blends process facilitation with phased financial investment.” Currently, adaptive change in the arts is slow, with many innovations condemned to be “dworphans”: dwarfish in size and orphaned from the organizational mainstream.
Myth #7: Organizations can innovate if they focus on best practices and make use of some technical assistance.
Reality: In complex situations (like the challenges of innovation in an arts organization), the “most useful response is to create the conditions for next practices to emerge. This means probing, questioning, and experimenting to find the way forward.”
Myth #8: “Conflicts around vision, goals, and direction should be minimized.”
Reality: “Productively managing sustained conflict is at the core of adaptive work.” However, “the capacities relating to conflict management typically rate among the least developed in arts organizations”.
Myth #9: Organizations can innovate by gathering their “usual suspects” to do some brainstorming.
Reality: A non-traditional team composed of staff, artists, trustees, and a number of outsiders “offers a mix of divergent perspectives that holds the greatest hope for effectively perturbing the organizational culture so that … genuinely new pathways to the future begin to appear”.
Myth #10: Organizations are too fragile, and there is too much at stake for them to take such risks.
Reality: Innovation should be considered a core competency that should form part of an arts organization’s strengths. Innovation can be expressed through “small experiments with radical intent”. Substantial organizational flexibility is required “to generate a more adaptive organizational culture”.
The author outlines three phases of innovation:
1. project design, research, and initial small experiments;
2. subjecting a limited number of promising strategies to repeated prototyping; and
3. scaling up of an emerging practice. The third phase is when the largest financial investment is required.
The author cites a Kellogg Foundation report on Intentional Innovation (http://www.wkkf.org/resource-directory/resource/2008/09/intentional-innovation-full-report) that concluded that “every non-profit should make innovation part of its core competencies”. For many organizations, innovation will require a shift in values and identity. In the case of grantmakers, the author argues that new strategies must be found for the new context of adaptation and innovation.