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An ArtsProfessional feature in partnership with Boosting Resilience

The Boosting Resilience programme is helping the sector develop new approaches to resilience based on creative assets and intellectual property. Sara Jones and Evelyn Wilson introduce the programme.

Photo of person playing with Lego

Perhaps not surprisingly given the degree of change, complexity and uncertainty in the world at present, the quest for resilience is seemingly ubiquitous. Arts Council England has been responding to such challenges by supporting a raft of initiatives designed to support resilience, including a two-year flagship programme called Building Resilience.

The programme, comprised of four projects, aims to help arts and culture organisations throughout the country to build their financial and business resilience, with each project focussing on a different area of work.

What we are working towards is enabling people to unlock and develop their own capacity to be creative, resilient and resourceful in the widest sense

Boosting Resilience: Survival Skills for the New Normal is being developed by the Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice at Cass Business School, The Culture Capital Exchange and Manchester Metropolitan University Business School.

Supporting leaders from 26 organisations, it looks specifically at resilience in relation to creative assets and intellectual property, supporting knowledge co-creation, know-who-and-how and peer-to-peer support mechanisms in these areas. Throughout the coming months, we will be sharing knowledge and highlighting opportunities to get involved.

Common challenges and concerns

Resilience challenges, and indeed definitions, across the arts differ from organisation to organisation, but as we are finding out there appears to be a lot of consensus and common ground. Not surprisingly, for many of our participants the most commonly articulated challenge to resilience is funding, with narrow income streams and austerity-driven threats to public funding a significant source of anxiety.

Hand in hand with funding is the need for new business models to support the development, packaging and pricing of new work and ways of working. Developing partnerships and collaborations with other sectors, including higher education, is seen as both a challenge and a characteristic of resilience.

Some of our participants are concerned about leadership and the ability to attract and retain staff. Access to new forms of knowledge, know-how and expertise are also a concern, as is the ability to adapt to disruption and unforeseen challenges. Being able to future-proof work and deal with complex challenges such as the need to connect analogue and digital, evolving IP landscapes, wider shifts in cultural consumption and new models of production. Key structural and political challenges, including Brexit, are additional concerns.

Many of the challenges to resilience cited by our participants are in fact similar to those outlined in 2010 in Mark Robinson’s paper Making Adaptive Resilience Real. He builds on this thinking in his recent paper for Bluecoat Gallery called Inside, Outside, Beyond: Artistic Leadership for Contradictory Times. He reminds us to consider the domains of artistic leadership, as being both within organisations and outside organisations in the arts sector, as well as beyond and into the wider world.

Creative assets

Boosting Resilience started last autumn following an open call for applications earlier in 2017 and is supporting leaders of very different scales and sub-sectors. They have come together to discuss the potential of their creative assets and intellectual property as a means of generating value – cultural, social and financial – both within and beyond those organisations. Our definition of creative assets is wide-ranging:

  • Physical assets such as buildings and other spaces.
  • People assets within the organisation and beyond including audiences.
  • Artistic assets such as projects, processes, methodologies and archives.
  • Intangible assets such as networks, relationships, attitudes, trust, goodwill and respect.

The organisation MMM developed a useful taxonomy of assets which many of our participants have found very helpful. The recently published Asset Management by Sarah Thelwall and Patrick Towell is another useful read.

Activities and resources

The programme brings participants together for three intense two-day residentials for an evolving range of group-based activities, including action learning sets, and a peer evaluation group. We also provide individual activities such as mentoring and creative journaling. In the months since we started, we have been actively encouraging a focus on the co-design of activities, including the shaping of the residentials, as well as opportunities for peer-to-peer networking and collaboration.

We are starting now to focus on the development of resources for the wider arts and cultural sector through an open learning programme, a series of activities that will run from summer until the end of the programme. In March next year we shall hold a national conference to showcase the project and to act as a forum for wider sectoral knowledge exchange about this work. We will be making more announcements on this later in the year.

We have also been building up an online resources compendium for use by anyone in the sector that brings together articles, papers, videos, podcasts and other materials on topics related to resilience, creative assets and intellectual property.

Tools and methods

The key task for Boosting Resilience, and indeed for colleagues running other projects in similar areas, lies in the challenge of providing the best possible tools, frameworks and environment in which to enable our cohort to move beyond simply being able to identify and understand how resilience is defined.

What we are working towards is enabling people to unlock and develop their own capacity to be creative, resilient and resourceful in the widest sense, and supporting an awareness of being in the world rather than simply being within an organisation.

In practical terms, this means employing not only established and respected teaching methods (learning how to set goals, recognise assets and plan for new activities or partnerships), but also more experimental methods, such as using Lego to create new approaches to project or product development, or using walking as a means of building personal resilience.

It is about creating spaces that are both physical and online for co-learning and sharing experiences, plans, aspirations and fears. Less tangibly, but very much at the heart of what we set out to do, is making people feel at ease, valued, and more importantly perhaps, nurtured and supported enough to face the challenges ahead.

Evelyn Wilson is Founding Director of TCCE and Sara Jones is a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice at Cass Business School.

This article, contributed and sponsored by Boosting Resilience, is the first in a series on making the arts and cultural sector more resilient.

Link to Author(s): 
Photo of Evelyn Wilson
Photo of Sara Jones