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IPSOs will take over the role of current Sector Support Organisations, but with a renewed focus on Arts Council England’s Investment Principles.


Campbell Rowley

Arts Council England (ACE) has selected 40 organisations to be funded as Investment Principles Support Organisations (IPSOs) for its 2023-26 National Portfolio in a move that has resulted in previously funded sector specialists being dropped.

IPSOs are a new addition to the portfolio, effectively replacing the current portfolio’s Sector Support Organisations (SSOs), which offer support services to organisations in the sector, rather than directly producing or delivering arts and culture as National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) do. They will take over the sector support role from SSOs next March, with a renewed focus on ACE’s Investment Principles.

But 19 former SSOs have missed out on funding in the new portfolio, including The Audience Agency, which had its audience data contract controversially handed to consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Creative and Cultural Skills (CCSkills).


An ACE spokesperson told Arts Professional the main difference with SSOs being reimagined as IPSOs is that funding agreements will be specifically focused on supporting the cultural sector to embed ACE's Investment Principles in its work.

In portfolio applications, prospective IPSOs were required to explain how they would help cultural organisations and individuals embed and progress at least one of ACE’s four Investment Principles of inclusivity and relevance, environmental responsibility, dynamism, and ambition and quality.

They also needed to show how they would embed and progress each principle in their own organisation and how they would work to improve their performance against them.

IPSOs will also be expected to have a national remit to their work through support and collaboration with each other, other organisations and individuals in the sector.

IPSOs in numbers

There are 40 IPSOs in the 2023-26 portfolio, equating to 4% of funded organisations. They will receive more than £9.8m per annum collectively, around 2% of the £446m pot.

ACE received 67 IPSO applications, requesting a combined £17.5m per annum.

Almost half (18) of IPSOs are newly-funded organisations, while two are currently NPOs. Exactly half (40) of the IPSOs are currently SSOs.

In their applications, most IPSOs said their work was not discipline specific, with others specialising in libraries, literature, museums, music and the visual arts.

Prospective NPOs were also asked to confirm which region they are presently based in. London currently has the most IPSOs, but six are included in ACE’s Transfer Programme and will therefore be aiming to relocate away from the capital to meet their funding conditions.

Seven of the 40 IPSOs are located in a Levelling Up For Culture Place, with two based in Barnsley, one in County Durham, one in Halton, one in Medway and two in Stockton-on-Tees. Three of these areas are also included in ACE’s Priority Places for investment.

‘Big responsibility’

Funded IPSOs will be tasked with supporting the sector at a time many organisations and individuals are facing a multitude of challenges.

Clore Leadership Chair Moira Sinclair says the organisation's IPSO funding will “enable Clore Leadership to continue investing in and supporting our cultural leaders”.

“In turbulent times, art and culture matter, creating space to imagine different futures, equipping us to make sense of the world and sometimes to escape from it. 

“And those that lead our libraries, theatres, galleries, creative industries studios and arts centres matter too and need support to thrive under very real pressure. Clore Leadership commits to using all our resources to help them and our sector in the coming years.”

Chief Executive and Creative Director of The Space Fiona Morris said she is “delighted” the organisation, which specialises in online audience engagement and innovation, is joining the portfolio for the first time.

Morris told Arts Professional The Space’s work as an IPSO will see skills development and supporting individuals take priority, alongside its existing commissions and mentoring programmes.

“For organisations like us that have the security of three years funding, we have to be incredibly mindful of the privilege, incredibly mindful that the work we do is as inclusive as possible, as regionally diverse as it can be and as artform diverse as it can be,” Morris added.

“This is a really tough decade facing the cultural sector now, and any of us that have the availability of security and longevity around our thinking have a big responsibility on our shoulders.”

Some SSOs miss out

ACE’s current national portfolio has 54 SSOs. Of those not included in the new IPSO list, 17 will become NPOs next year, while 19 have missed out on funding in the new portfolio.

Among the SSOs missing out on funding is The Audience Agency, whose audience data contract was handed to consultancy firm PwC

Thurrock-based CCSkills has also missed out. Chair of Trustees Donald Hyslop told Arts Professional the charity is “devastated” by the funding loss.

“Skills, training and the nurturing of future workforces are the most important issues for our sector right now. Every week we see government policy, economic and social studies emphasise and enforce this,” Hyslop said.

“It is bewildering that a policy and funding strategy which seeks to level up and diversify the cultural sector across the country, is being attempted without the ecology of support and link organisations ideally placed to enable this. 

“Particularly, in the current economic and financial environment, this approach risks further distance and lack of relevance to the very communities we aspire to reach. 

“Fewer young people will know about the array of creative careers available to them, there will be little advocacy for T level industry placements or apprenticeships, minimal support will be available for the education sector or the arts and culture sector to navigate the complexity of the other and there will not be enough expertise in the space between these interests and influencing policy.”

CCSkills said it is continuing discussions with ACE: “We believe collaboration, not competition, is crucial to the enormity of the work still to do and we welcome the chance to talk to all organisations who are equally passionate about building a fair and skilled cultural sector.”

Full list of IPSOs

†AA2A Limited
*Arts & Homelessness International
†Arts Marketing Association
†Association for Cultural Enterprises
†Association of Independent Museums
*Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians
†Attitude is Everything
*Beacon Collaborative
*Black Lives in Music
†Brass Bands England
†Collections Trust
†Create Gloucestershire
†Creative Lives Charity Limited
*Cultural Co-operation
*Culture Central
*Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance CIC
*Deaf Explorer CIC
*Family Arts Campaign Ltd
*Future Arts Centres
*GEM - Group for Education in Museums
†Index on Censorship
†Inpress Ltd
†Kids in Museums
†Libraries Connected
^London Arts in Health Forum
*Making Music, the National Federation of Music Societies
†MeWe Foundation
†National Association for Gallery Education (engage)
†National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance
^National Rural Touring Forum
*The Clore Leadership Programme
*The UK Association for Music Education - Music Mark
*TheSpace C.I.C.
*Touring Exhibitions Group
†University of the Arts London (trading as Artquest)

*New to the 2023-26 portfolio
†An SSO in the current portfolio
^An NPO in the current portfolio

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed Creative Sector Services CIC as an IPSO, instead of Creative Lives Charity Limited. This has now been amended.