Saturday, 28 November 2009

Who do you think benefits most from the work of the Arts Council - and who should?

I said I’d return to the topic of who our stakeholders (artists, arts organisations, local authorities and other partners) thought currently benefit from the arts Council’s work, and who they thought should benefit.

If we look at who respondents feel currently benefits most it goes like this:

1. Arts Organisations – 50%
2. The public – 18%
3. The Government – 15%
4. Artists – 11%
5. Other – 4%
6. The Arts Council – 2%

Who they feel ought to be benefiting is intriguingly and significantly different:

1. The public– 49%
2. Artists – 30%
3. Arts Organisations– 18%
4. Other – 1%
5. The Government – 1%
6. The Arts Council – 0%

What this might suggest definitely requires closer scrutiny of the detailed findings. I don't know yet whether there are big differences between the responses from different categories of people, which might be important. Knowing how, say, local authority and non-arts partners views of our impact differ from those of artists and arts organisation should help colleagues grapple with how best to work with different sectors in achieving shared goals. Might a very strong feeling in one group explain some of the differences above, for instance? But since almost half the respondents were Regularly Funded Organisations, it seems unlikely the ‘should benefit’ answers are totally unrepresentative of their opinions. I’d say this suggests a really positive focus on public benefit – but defined very differently from simply serving government agendas, and acknowledging that artists and organisations that work with them are integral to that public benefit.

On the face of it, respondents feel there's scope for a sizeable shift in who benefits most. (Although I need to note the caveat that those figures capture feelings, rather than any objective analysis of the actual benefit.) This is potentially really exciting and challenging for the new leadership team, in thinking through these findings. Does the Arts Council, for instance, need more 'tools' along the lines of the interest free loans used by Own Art and Take It Away, or schemes like A Night Less Ordinary, which put power (and effectively subsidy) directly in the hands of the customer rather than the provider? Or is it more about developing sectoral understanding and impact? Or some other solutions? Or (as I'd argue) all three?


Catherine Bunting said...

Hi Mark,

I do think this is one of the most interesting questions in the Stakeholder Focus research. There's lots to explore further in here but I thought I'd add a quick note that these views are pretty consistent across all respondents.

I've had a look at the more detailed data tables - 43% of regularly funded arts organisations believe that arts organisations currently benefit most from the Arts Council's work, but 48% of regularly funded arts organisations believe the public should benefit most from the Arts Council's work. The equivalent figures for local authority partners are 58% and 63%.

I'd agree with all three ways forward that you propose but I think the overarching message here is that the wider public good has to come before institutional interests - and that the Arts Council has to get better at making decisions based on what is most likely to create most value for the public.

Easier said than done though...

Mark Robinson said...

Thanks Catherine. I find it reassuring the views are fairly consistent, now not being the time for fighting. Who can we learn from? Who's good at doing making those kinds of decisions already? Anybody?

Anonymous said...

but aren't arts organisations a key way that benefits are delivered to the public??