The arts sector and the public are both missing out due to a communication gap between cultural organisations and local government and health commissioners.
Steve (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
The potential for arts and culture organisations to play a more central role in addressing social needs is growing, but a communication gap between providers and local government and local health commissioners means that the arts are currently “a largely untapped resource”. This conclusion is drawn in a new report, produced as part of the Cultural Commissioning Programme and based on data from a recent survey of 240 arts and cultural organisations. The report, ‘Opportunities for Alignment’, finds that whilst some local commissioners can see the potential of arts and cultural organisations to help tackle issues like social isolation, poor mental health and low school attainment, these organisations are not sufficiently engaged with the process of commissioning to take advantage of this.
Many commissioners feel that arts and cultural organisations are poor at providing evidence of how their work will deliver on key priorities, while arts and cultural organisations feel that commissioners are not familiar enough with the nature of their work, think commissioning guidelines are overly restrictive, and argue that commissioners need to be more flexible in understanding how social problems could be addressed in new and innovative ways. The report concludes that more effective relationships between the two would not only bring benefits for individuals and communities, but would also offer opportunities for arts and cultural organisations to diversify their income streams and become more resilient.
Sally Bagwell, one of the report’s authors, said: “With no sign that pressure on local and health authority funding is going to lift any time soon, commissioners must be bold when thinking about new ways to fund solutions to social problems. Our research suggests that arts and cultural organisations can help deliver some of those solutions, and at the same time secure the sort of funding necessary to thrive in the years to come. But the commissioners and arts and cultural providers need to understand each other a lot better. Commissioning won’t be the answer for all arts and culture organisations, but it is clearly an opportunity for some. We would encourage arts and culture groups to work more closely with local commissioners on finding lasting solutions to social problems.”
The Cultural Commissioning programme has now embarked on a two-year series of initiatives aimed at bringing commissioners together with arts and cultural organisations, with a view to strengthening relationships and developing better mutual understanding.