To understand and inform the role of resilience in shaping cultural strategy it was essential to consult with people who work in and with the cultural sector, for these to be the people actually shaping what ‘resilience’ should and does mean. The appetite to participate was strong, with more than 1,200 sector workers offering their time and opinions. Among extensive findings, three things became particularly apparent:
- There is currently little consistent practice in resilience measures within the sector, or decision-making based on those measures.
- There is a genuine willingness in the sector to embrace the innovation and core behavioural shifts that long-term resilience requires.
- There is a mismatch between those resilience-building behaviours that members of the sector consider most important and those they believe to be most widely practised.
If they are right about the level of importance of these behaviours, narrowing these gaps could be the key to improving resilience. While Arts Council England will be able to use the results of this research to inform sector strategy, the findings can also act as a catalyst for individuals and organisations to embrace what it means to be resilient on their own terms.
Investigating resilience in collaboration with the arts and culture sector was a golden opportunity for Golant Media Ventures* and The Audience Agency. The project drew on the breadth of expertise from across the two organisations: Golant Media Venture’s in innovation, enterprise and business models; The Audience Agency’s in consultation, public engagement and cultural leadership. The question of resilience goes to the heart of our work on co-designing solutions, models and approaches, with the eye on the future, in a rapidly shifting landscape. As change advances, we hope to work not only with individual organisations to achieve resilience, but also play a role in informing policy and practice across the sector.
Since 2010, supporting resilience has been a central pillar of Arts Council England’s core strategy. To inform their new strategic plan for 2020-30, Arts Council England commissioned Golant Media Ventures and The Audience Agency to update their understanding of the term ‘resilience’, posing the following research questions:
- How resilience is currently understood in the arts and culture sector and whether the understanding of funders and policymakers is congruent with those of others within the sector.
- To what extent, and how, organisations are responding to a need to become more resilient.
- What opportunities there might be to develop the sector’s resilience in the future.
Research was conducted over five months using a range of approaches, including:
- A multidisciplinary literature review.
- An extensive quantitative and qualitative survey that received over 1,200 responses from across the sector.
- A series of five events across England, actively engaging the sector in considering its own history with resilience, and brainstorming and designing new approaches to it.
- Sense-making sessions with representatives of the sector to get feedback on interim conclusions.
- One-on-one interviews with experts, academics and practitioners in the sector.
The project adopted a co-designed research approach with organisations in the arts and culture sector and those that support it. This method engaged the sector in considering their own history with resilience, and brainstorming and designing new approaches to it. It allowed recommendations to grow organically out of the ‘deliberative’ research process, with ideas being proposed and developed by the participants themselves. Crucially, this collaboration supported ownership of and buy-in to the report and its findings. It instilled an understanding that any future strategic interventions inspired by the report will be the direct result of demand from the sector itself and responding to a broad sectoral definition of best practice, rather than one seen to be imposed from above.
*Golant Media Ventures is now known as Golant Innovation.
While audiences are most comfortable returning to outdoor events, organising a festival that can flex around ever-changing restrictions is still no mean feat. Penny Mills and Jonathan Goodacre have been looking at what’s working.
Unpredictable and changing circumstances are making it difficult to plan any festival this summer but we are a resourceful lot in the cultural sector.