Trying to connect the dots in today’s arts and cultural scene? It would be an impossible task of quantity. Including for-profits, nonprofits, and individuals, this scene of course includes many sub-scenes both in organizational structure and also artistic medium. The whole system has always been economist’s nightmare in absence of establishing market value, utilizing economies of scale, and establishing new models. Of course exceptions exist, but I think we’ve yet to see the full transformation. The generation in arts leadership is about to undergo massive change. Led by a pent up demographic shift, collapsing organizations, and a recession driven entrepreneurial spirit.
Even on the surface, there is basic opportunity. These drastic shifts will leave an unmet demand. Arguably, this demand for creative and cultural services is a growing one. Today, organizations like IBM discover that “creativity” is the most valued skill by top CEOs and folks like Daniel Pink saying the MFA is the new MBA.
To meet this demand, the market will adjust. But as current institutions and norms change or catch fire, we are witness to the collapse of a distinction between organizational structures. From the venn diagram below you can tease out the lessons that are being learned and the pressures facing the changing arts environment. The following Venn Diagram illustrates the relationship between social entrepreneurship and the private/public/voluntary sectors.
I think some of the pressures facing each sector are not unique. I also think the list represents pressures facing all projects, currently some sectors have advantages and disadvantages culturally and systematically. The convergence of structures means that the pressures faced will be experienced anew but not in a way predictable on a sector by sector basis.
- Values & Ethics
- Financial Sustainability
You need them all. Although the diagram doesn’t mention it, individuals face the same pressures. As a result cross-sector education and adoption is necessary.
Through experience, I’ve identified anecdotes to the above pressures. Both the pressures and anecdotes could be arranged in a different order to accomodate unique priorities, strengths, or procedures for any given project.
- Maintain a mission and a vision – Clearly communicates established values and ethics.
- Plan using detailed action steps – Addressing the complexity problem through long-term planning and a detailed understanding of operations.
- Scale, specialize and/or form partnerships – Compete smartly by increasing quantity, establishing distinct value, and embracing partnership in the face of competition.
- Share ownership or power – The methods are vast: co-creation, flat-administration, company shares, community leadership roles, crowdsourcing, open financial books, co-ops, community building and etc. Establish a foundation to serve the organization into the future.
- Maximize impact and income – Measure impact, measure income, and seek to maximize both.
- Constantly seek capital/funding – An continuous awareness of financial sustainability.
Think about it like a totem pole. Each layer of a pole has its own meaning. Additionally, there is no standard order of importance. To communicate a story or shared history, it takes unique events and the individuals that make it up. In this case, it’s a matter of creating your own message or story, based on your own understanding of what’s important and what supports each other.
Recognize that this is merely a reframing activity. No matter the order or arrangement, they are all reinforced by or dependent on each other. For example, a great case for funding would necessarily require a strong performance in the rest. Practicing a different frame of reference will help you internally and your ability to attract talent and support. Establish a distinction between characterizing the same outcome in a different light and identifying concretely different goals.
Why is the opportunity in the arts?
I think because the gaps to cover are huge, both because history shows support only a few art forms at a time through any developed system and the cross-sector skills divide is high. As a result of technology and a value of creativity in other sectors, addressing systematic and skill-based issues are a priority and possible. It will be what defines or is the demise of today’s old institutions or new projects.
Thankfully, the tools of the creative process and willingness to take risks are a distinct advantage.