What about co-operation and co-creation in arts fundraising?

What about co-operation and co-creation in arts fundraising?

1310 portraits (32)
1310 portraits (86)
Last month Emma (Fellow for Sadler’s Wells) and Jill (Fellow for A New Direction) travelled to Wakefield to attend the Innovative People <-> Innovative Cities conference.

Alongside their role as arts fundraisers, Emma and Jill are both geographers, studying human geography at Durham University and UCL respectively. Posing the question “how are cities using the arts to develop, and how are artists responding to the opportunities of cities?” the conference provided fertile ground to discuss the role of place, creativity and opportunity in fundraising.

A Global Sense of Place

A key theme of the conference was “making culture work for cities”, emphasising the need to examine what culture in a specific city is about in practice.

Hull’s UK City of Culture 2017 bid is a great example of this analysis in action. To examine what culture in Hull really means, the bid team invited stakeholders to bring not only themselves, but also an object representing what culture in Hull meant to them to key meetings. Similarly, Hull’s bid shied away from celebrity endorsements, instead emphasising locally-based issues (environment, ageing populations) and how these could be challenged through creative programming. Whilst drawing boundaries around the city, the bid team simultaneously removed boundaries within the city by looking beyond the traditional cultural and business sector divide to ensure everyone could be a partner for the arts.

Whilst unashamedly local, this approach does not lack global ambitions, aiming to develop what geographer Doreen Massey terms “a global sense of place”. Places and programmes are not defined by one history, they are a manifestation of local and global relations. Hull’s bid embraced this, forging new partnerships with organisations in Rotterdam and St. Petersburg and extending their relationship with Freetown, Sierra Leone, with whom Hull was twinned nearly 35 years ago.

In relation to developing our own funding bids, the conference highlighted the value of local input and ownership, particularly the role of inclusivity in developing partnerships with non-arts organisations. The importance of programming for local solutions was emphasised, whilst remembering that a local and global focus are not mutually exclusive.

Conference participants were encouraged to join the co-movement by writing their “offer” (skills which they could share with the group) on small labels
Conference participants were encouraged to join the co-movement by writing their “offer” (skills which they could share with the group) on small labels

The Co-Movement

One of the most striking realisations of the day was the passion people, both within business and culture, held for their locality. This discussion is particularly timely, with a recent article in The Stage noting that 63% of UK residents would like to see local authorities in England investing on average three times more in culture.

Interestingly, all of the days’ speakers talked about their locality with a full awareness of its part in a wider system, termed the “co-movement” (co-working, co-llaboration, co-operation and co-creation).

Co-working: sharing offices, collaborative attitude, engagement with the community

Co-llaboration: crowd sourcing, audience integration, expanding talent pool and customer insights

Co-operation & Co-creation: staff training, personal development opportunities, ready-made support networks and contacts, creative debate

Taking this on board, we think it is very important to think about the ‘co’s’ and the notion of locality in regards to arts fundraising.  Of note is the topical Regional vs London funding debate, which generally failed to note that much funding was used in a collaborative format (a larger organisation touring to smaller organisations across the UK, for example). These collaborations form exciting social and relational impacts, such as co-creation through personal development and the creation of support networks across cities.

There has been a large increase in funding being applied for by collaborative consortiums, such as the within the Lake District in aid of promoting their location. There has also been an increase in funding streams promoting co-working between different sectors, such as The Digital R & D Fund for the Arts. The Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy Programme is a prime example of a product of the ‘co’s’ within the arts – organisations, trainers and Arts Council England working together to promote professional development in the sector.

We feel that it is something to take note of, and to fit into forward thinking for the development of culture and its spatial aspect in the next few years. What do you think? We'd love to hear.