Over the next twelve months Mission, Models, Money is going to be working in partnership with ArtsProfessional to disseminate information emerging from its national action research programme and to stimulate sector-wide debate about key issues. Clare Cooper and Roanne Dods explain the context.
Mission, Models, Money (MMM) is a national action research programme and campaign for change that aims to engage the leaders and funders of the not-for-profit arts and cultural sector to address the challenges of developing mission-led, financially and organisationally sustainable businesses. The campaign is motivated both by frustration and passion. The frustration is with the seeming intractability of a leitmotif of issues that appear to dwell at the heart of many arts and cultural organisations issues that replicate themselves in crisis after crisis. And the passion is to catalyse debate about issues of organisational and financial sustainability, leading to changes in mind-set, approach and working practices in arts and cultural organisations, and the infrastructure that supports them. These changes have the potential to release ever greater creative and artistic activity. MMM is also driven by a vision to ensure that artistic and cultural endeavour thrives in the UK at a time of accelerating social, demographic, technological and economic change.
History and development
MMM started as a conversation between Clare Cooper, then at Arts & Business, and Roanne Dods, Director of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, in the autumn of 2003. Now in a third phase of delivery, it has already made its mark.
The first MMM conference, MMM1, was held in June 2004. Its aim was to sharpen the quality of debate about mission, models and money and to encourage a more honest conversation in the arts one that recognises weaknesses and that accepts a need to adopt new methods of operation. Unlike similar events, which often conclude that the solution can principally be found in increased public funding for the arts, delegates recognised that arts and cultural organisations need to collaborate and work on solutions themselves.
MMM1, and the period immediately following, resulted in participants agreeing on key issues and priority areas for action that could usefully form a programme of further work. Issues were clustered around three themes:
" Deepening our understanding of the changing environment and its implications
" Developing financial sustainability
" Developing organisational capacity
Eight teams were assembled, comprising members of an Action Group all leading practitioners in the field supported by fellows from the new Clore Leadership Programme. Each team was charged with researching one key issue.
Research findings formed the core content of the second MMM conference, MMM2, which was held in February 2005. The outcome of this was twofold an improved understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the sector and a mandate for further action-based research which has resulted in the current third phase.
The 21st century challenge
The proposition underlying MMMs activities is neatly summed up in a Provocation Paper written by Adrian Ellis for MMM1:
The arts sector in the United Kingdom is over-extended and undercapitalised, with cultural organisations trying to do more things than they can possibly do well, with both human and financial resources too thinly spread& Additional resources secured by the sector are generally more likely to result in further under-funded expansion whether of programmes or buildings than in doing core things better. Lacking liquidity or reserves, cash strapped and thinly spread between ever more diverse, fragmented pools of funding, arts organisations find it easier to secure the marginal costs of marginal activities than the core costs of core activities. The result is a hyperactive sector that responds with Pavlovian urgency and enormous ingenuity to the imperatives of funders but that has a decreasing capacity to hear, or at any rate listen to, the voice of mission.
All of us in the sector know that these internal schisms are growing wider as we attempt to navigate a new landscape in which demand for the arts has shifted in response to leisure time becoming more fragmented, populations growing more diverse, and competition from the burgeoning leisure industry intensifying.
We need to be able to respond effectively to many changes: distribution patterns and channels stemming from emerging technology; organisational ecology that is blurring the distinction between the commercial, non-profit and public sectors; public and private funding patterns; and the very nature of public funding itself with all the signals of reducing levels, juxtaposed with a prevailing attitude which emphasises accountability and empirical justification for public support.
Responding to the challenge
The principal issues key to developing organisational and financial sustainability have been identified during the first two phases of MMM. Our work during this third phase is to gather further understanding and insight into each of them:
" How could we, as a sector, better engage with the changing demographic, technological and social environment?
" What can be done to improve the capabilities of arts organisations to develop both new and more collaborative approaches to sustaining their customer/visitor base, develop new markets and build engagement and participation in the arts?
" What strategic alliances could be developed between organisations to achieve back office cost efficiencies, and how could these be extended front of house to include more collaborative business models that, for example, enable new kinds of artistic collaboration, better connections to culturally diverse communities and organisations, or new income streams?
" What are the priority issues with regard to governance in the not-for-profit arts sector and what changes need to occur to reflect the changing landscape arts organisations are operating in?
" What are the key competencies that arts organisations need in order to manage mission-led strategies that are successful both in terms of mission and financial sustainability?
" How can we expand the financial capacity of arts and cultural organisations for example, by creating reserves and/or developing new financial instruments, and once created and/or developed how do we manage and control them?
" What new methods of operation, business models and infrastructure will deliver sustainable, vibrant and cultural endeavour?
With a major award from HM Treasurys Invest to Save budget, together with significant financial support from the public and private sector Accenture, Arts Council England, Deutsche Bank, the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Rayne Foundation, the Governance Hub and with the continued support of Fellows from years one and two of the Clore Leadership Programme we have devised a programme of work which will explore each of these issues further. We will be reporting in more detail, via ArtsProfessional, on our findings during the course of the next 12 months.
What does MMM hope to achieve?
MMM aims to create a tipping point for change. We hope that by assembling a critical mass of relevant information and by encouraging debate about the need for change, we will help the sector embrace the necessity for new and irreversible developments.
By June 2007 we aim to articulate:
" A set of results that illustrate the disabling and enabling behaviours and the current business development needs of arts and cultural organisations, infrastructure agencies and funders
" Proposals for new approaches and solutions to organisational and financial sustainability
" Recommendations on how the current ecosystem needs to change in the short term to enable this to happen
" A blueprint of a new ecosystem, articulating how the sector could operate in the future.
MMM is led by sector practitioners. It offers a coalition approach: a collaborative open source enquiry, which we believe is contributing to the development of an intellectual commons around the very significant challenges that face us. This, together with the projects status as a public good initiative not owned by any one institution, is a central and hugely motivating factor. It is only through all the players changing their roles that we can re-write the script. We look forward to sharing our findings and hearing your responses through this debate, and in moving together towards a stronger, long-lasting and thriving arts and cultural sector.
Clare Cooper and Roanne Dods are Co-Directors of Mission Models Money.
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Outcomes of MMMs work undertaken to date, including research findings and provocation papers by leading cultural commentators, can be found on the MMM website at http://www.missionmodelsmoney.org.uk