Jan 05 2022
It’s that time of year when we might reflect on the last 12 months and hatch plans for the next. We might be orientating to ACE’s investment principles, focussing on an NPO funding application, realigning to a changed funding landscape or just relieved to see the end of a year that has challenged every aspect of our work.
Wherever our energy and particular focus lies, there are some absolute truths as we continue in our pursuit of a transformative, diverse, and equitable sector.
- There will be further uncertainty as we navigate the pandemic’s enduring impact.
- Our wellbeing, leadership, resilience and energy will be tested and stretched.
- Business models and income generation will need to iterate and adapt to changing circumstances, audience habits and preferences,
- The voices, work, ideas and connections we hold, share and develop must be equitable and empowering.
- Despite our very best intentions there will be mistakes made and lessons learned.
- The future of the sector depends upon talent, development, accessibility, change, ambition, partnerships, collaboration, communities and innovation.
- We have to demonstrate an unstoppable commitment to the climate crisis to lead, inspire, activate and mobilise beyond reducing our carbon footprint.
- Ambition, resolutions and intentions alone will not deliver results.
With this potentially overwhelming list (and that’s not everything), where can we invest our effort and attention? How can we turn good intentions and resolutions into transformative results? We’ve been actively listening to cultural leaders in organisations, freelancers, producers, curators, and under-represented voices to hear what is needed right now to unleash, unblock and transform the sector.
Empowered, enabled people bringing their best: People are our greatest asset. Real, embedded, transformative change doesn’t happen without collective energy, ideas and commitment. Our organisational culture, values, policies and working practices have to have a step change to enable everyone to bring and be at their best.
Equitable, skilled leadership for systemic transformation: A health check on leadership is essential. Bold decisions are necessary. To distribute power equitably, amplify underrepresented voices and create systemic change we need support, skills, opportunities and allyship.
Real change with real results: We might feel allergic to even more change right now but it remains inevitable and essential. To truly transform our organisations, we need to invest in change management – planned, resourced, co-created and brilliantly communicated. The alternative – stasis and irrelevance.
Continuous improvement to grow and flourish: We must create the space to learn, develop, reflect and test our thinking with peers. Taking this time might seem like a luxury, but transforming the sector won’t happen by chance. New technology, hybrid working, shifting habits, digital consumption have all had our attention out of necessity. Space and time for growth, iteration, collaboration and learning is a necessity.
So what is your resolution? How will you ensure your resolution leads to results? What are you promising to make happen in 2022 and beyond? What are you committing to in your NPO application? What extra skills, processes, insights, networks, capacity or experience do you need? How will you deliver new commitments alongside existing priorities? How can you continue to deliver incredible quality, outstanding work whilst addressing the challenges of uncertainty?
We’ve evolved our brilliant and over-subscribed Change Creation programme into Creating Transformation to answer these questions: a new programme designed by the people make it work team for the arts and cultural sector. We’ve been supporting organisations and individuals across the UK to create and embed transformational change for more than 20 years. The work we’ve done designing and delivering programmes including Change Creation, and Culture RESET has informed Creating Transformation – an initiative for these times – designed to support organisations, groups and movements to create radical momentum, overcome embedded resistance and create transformational results. Our programmes rely on practice that is necessary in all organisations and groups when we’re seeking to create quantum shifts – whether Creating Transformation is for you or not, I wanted to share my insight about what it takes to unleash and enable transformation:
- Urgency, momentum: Creating urgency to break through slow, incremental institutional rhythms, to generate a shared momentum that means everyone is in action
- Inevitable manifestation: Identifying the interventions to make intentions INEVITABLE and supporting leaders to build energy and action around those interventions.
- Unleashed agency: Embedding the conviction that everything we want to change is already someone’s job, and that change is done by people, not to them.
- Declarative practice: Promoting the definition of transformational promises and then the systematic, unstoppable delivery of those promises.
- Nuanced thinking: Understanding, navigating and responding to complexity with compassion and curiosity.
- Organisational reset: Recognising the norms and myths that enable complacency, creating leadership action to reset the narrative.
- Complexity and nuance: Understanding, navigating and responding to the dynamics and intersectionality of diversity.
- Co-creation and collaboration: Working with organisations, communities, people and peers different and similar to unite around a shared purpose and ambition.
Creating Transformation is an 18 month programme supporting arts, cultural and heritage organisations, groups and movements to work in these ways, creating dramatic results. Co-designed and co-created with the sector, we’ve shaped a programme that provides a supportive peer network, space, time and knowledge for learning and sharing, a focus on effective change management and leadership, and addresses the challenges in the sector – equity, accessibility, the climate crisis, developing and retaining talent.
Our focus for 2022 is supporting whole organisational growth, supporting people to lead, re-model, re-think and deliver transformative results that see the sector grow in relevance, sustainability, resilience and equity. What’s yours?
Dec 17 2021
Boards in the cultural sector often focus on improving the delivery of a conventional model, but as Anisa Morridadi argues, both trustees and organisations need to change.
I have been interested in governance for some time. I suppose it comes from seeing it as a function that has been protected from innovation, and as a mechanism that reveals inherent power relationships.
While I think the focus on delivering a conventional model is very important, trustees need to understand their role more clearly, and organisations need to manage their governance more effectively.
I applaud that work. It’s designed to increase effectiveness and accountability and to reduce risk. These are things that every organisation (and sector) should be concerned about, and we definitely need to invest in training, development and support which provides improvement in these areas.
Exploring governance through a transformational lens
What this focus doesn’t try to address so much are the underlying assumptions that sit within our governance systems. Who should be doing the overseeing? And what does effective oversight look like in 21st century Britain? These questions are less about improving the way current governance is delivered by current trustees, and more about exploring governance through a transformational lens.
If we think first about how governance is done today, we see that it’s often shaped by convention and habitual practice rather than reflecting a ‘needs based’ analysis of what the organisation requires from trustees in order to be well run, mission focused, safe and solvent.
We are interested in shaking up these norms and practices to explore and develop new ways of working within a compliant governance model, that truly reflect the needs of organisations, and generate ways of gaining more value from – and delivering more value to – trustees of the future.
Social missions and civic responsibilities
Secondly, I want to think about the meaning of governance in the context of social missions and civic responsibilities. Many of the organisations we know in the cultural sector have missions and practices that are about enabling communities and individuals to grow, expand horizons, explore transformational opportunities and grow agency, confidence and impact.
The internal practices of these organisations might be empowering, facilitating and co-creating. And the models they operate with are often iterative, risk laden and orientated towards potential and undefined outcomes.
In contrast, many conventional governance models can feel jarring – adopting a ‘top-down’ planning and oversight model with long lead times, fixed plans and unresponsive approaches. I think we need to explore this dynamic and ask what kinds of governance would feel more aligned with the mission and working practices of the organisation?
The need to move on from monocultural boards
Thirdly, I am (like many of us) interested in who is doing this governance work. If the oversight feels misaligned in its form, it is even more misaligned when we think about who tends to be occupying these roles. Because of a traditional ‘skills audit’ habit that privileges the professions, boards rarely reflect the audiences and communities that the charity seeks to serve and work with.
However well-intentioned this group of trustees are, nothing beats representation, and most trustee bodies are simply monocultural. When the dominant voices on our boards also reflect the dominant voices in society then we should be rightly concerned that our charities have blind spots and unconscious biases that are a drag anchor affecting their ability to deliver their mission.
We need to see new and different people populating our boards, with a different relationship to each other and the organisation and with new practices that generate sharp and powerful impact and help our cultural charities to deliver their missions.
Direct support for new trustees
The Transforming Governance programme is a collaboration between Beatfreeks and people make it work which aims to address these issues. Together, we are developing a programme designed to give practical support to individual trustees who want to create change in their boards; and to offer structured support for organisations wanting to explore these questions.
In addition, it will provide direct support for new trustees, introducing them to what it means to be a board member, brokering some board options and supporting them during their first 12 months in post.
Do let us know if you are interested in the support I’m describing, or if you would like to partner with us or help fund this important initiative.
Anisa Morridadi is Founder and CEO at Beatfreeks, and an associate at people make it work, leading its Transforming Governance programme.
Feb 18 2020
Graeae is a force for change in world-class theatre, boldly placing D/deaf and disabled actors centre stage and challenging preconceptions. As part of the Change Creation programme, Graeae’s focus as an organisation was on upcoming financial challenges. These unexpectedly moved closer not long after joining the programme. Kevin Walsh, reflects on how Change Creation helped Graeae to rethink its model, meet a financial challenge and create a stronger future.
“There is huge reassurance in knowing that you are not the only company experiencing challenge – this made a massive difference. The openness of the cohort in sharing their own experiences, advice and contacts, along with the tools we used all helped us to rethink our approach. The space, time and generosity of the programme makes you up your game in response and having the ‘time away from the desk’ to think about strategy and how to make it a success was vital.
We were faced with an unexpected financial challenge. What we had was essentially ‘bad news’ and yet, with the support of Change Creation a disempowering message about finances turned into a creative conversation which enabled the team to get behind it. We did some collective re-thinking. How did Graeae need to change to meet our financial challenges? What were we aiming to achieve? How do we ensure that all the changes we’re planning fit with the organisational ethos? Speaking with stakeholders we quickly built up an understanding the needs of the industry and ensured that our creative team was central to the developments and thinking.
It was a step-by-step process. Lots of communication, research, testing and thinking, which all came together to inform our new strategic plan. The biggest moment was receiving permission to go ahead with the strategy. All of the research had been completed, the whole team were behind it and it was genuinely representing wider stakeholders. We could see as an organisation what we needed to change, how to change it, what to do and just wanted to do it.”
Graeae have successfully raised £365,000 towards implementing the strategic plan for the next two years and we wish them huge success for their future. You can find out more about Graeae and the amazing work they do here.
Oct 09 2017
Everyone is busy, and when your day job includes creating significant changes across the organisation, the drive for practical support is even more important. The Change Creation programme is about discovering processes, tools and networks that will help to imagine and implement a bigger and more incredible future. Read our article in Arts Professional here about how we’re creating change together.