Fears that the current crisis is leading to “an incredible level of retrenching” on diversity have prompted actions to launch a scheme that will enable furloughed staff and diverse-led organisations to share skills.
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Proposals are taking shape for a scheme that will enable volunteers from the sector to share their expertise and gain skills by working with organisations needing support through the current crisis.
Under proposals put forward by Inc Arts, freelancers would be funded to work during lockdown in organisations that have had to furlough their own staff, while staff on furlough could volunteer to work in smaller diverse-led organisations which are overwhelmed by workload.
Diversity champion Amanda Parker, who leads Inc Arts’ campaigning work for an inclusive workforce, says such a scheme could help the sector take positive steps towards diversity in the cultural sector and bring longer term benefits for everyone involved. She says such a skills exchange programme would “build organisational resilience and create exciting new connections, across artform, across expertise, and across lived experience, sowing the seeds for future collaborations and possibly helping those organisations survive”.
The Arts Development Agency in Dorset is already piloting a local version of the idea. CEO Sarah James put a call out to the Agency’s network of local arts organisations and freelancers, and has been having skills-matching phone conversations with them to determine the best fit for both parties. 15 organisations have signed up and the Agency acts as the go-between. Six individuals (freelancers and from small arts companies) have so far filled vacancies left by furloughing.
James endorsed the Inc Arts proposal, saying said: “This type of programme is greatly needed right now.”
Parker fears that the current crisis is leading to “an incredible level of retrenching, with leaders understandably turning to friends and allies as conversations moved from the shock zone, into full on crisis management, and further”.
She told AP: “We need fresh thinking on how to serve arts audiences in an age of social distancing, and significantly reduced budgets. The most progressive leaders are casting their nets wide to hear ideas from the margins. Zoom meetings have become increasingly inclusive, with conversations widening to include intersecting and overlapping interests, all asking question ‘what can we do to make some kind of future more viable?’. It’s a great time to try something different. The furlough exchange proposal is an interim measure that could have lasting legacy, building greater inclusion in the sector.”
Organisations anywhere in the UK that are interested in taking part in a furlough exchange scheme should contact email@example.com.