Creative Scotland have a board meeting this morning. I wonder how much of the recent discussions around the FXO process will be talked about at board level? And in what way? And how much will we hear about their responses to recent issues that have been raised?
I have heard some of the acknowlegements of error, and I can see some of the course-correcting from Creative Scotland and that is very welcome. And yet, I am still worried. I am worried about the art bit of our cultural world. Not the “creative industries “– they will find new ways of reaching markets, sure things will shift and change. But their quality is dependent on the art bit. It is the art and artists that need a different kind of attention and noticing. The art bit needs subtlety, time, attention, enormous rigour and craft – it needs to be allowed to really go to the unknown to see what happens, and the whole idea of emerging strategies needs to be at the centre of how we support great work happen.
I have wrestled and wrestled about whether to write. Or to write directly to CS. Or whether it matters what CS do or how they do it – there are so many new and exciting ways out there to do what you want to do – we don’t need government endorsement, or even Creative Scotland endorsement. Can’t we just muddle along and, if some organisations just go by the wayside or we lose some of our best artists to other countries – does it matter? Do we matter? Ridiculous that I have come to that level of self-doubt about what and how to raise issues/take action/do something….
Or is it still about coming back to having to explain the enormous value of public subsidy to our audiences, to our work and to our wider sense of value? I dont need to that bit thankfully – someone much better qualified than I, Tom Morris, has written an excellent piece on subsidy in theatre in the Observer at the weekend and that says it all. The arts needs public subsidy in the mixed economy framework, in order to really innovate and make meaning beyond the market, not for it. That is one of the reasons why we have so good at the art bit in the UK.
There remain unanswered questions about decision-making processes generally within Creative Scotland, about how can we lead organizational development for a sector that remains largely overextended and undercapitalized in a short space of time, and how the FXO decisions are going to impact the ecosystem we have all been working so hard to develop in the last years in Scotland. And of course the re-building of trust.
So I keep asking myself, who is responsible for rebuilding that trust before it is too late: Scottish Government? Politicans? Chairman? Board? SMT? Those directly affected by the decisions? The rest of us watching our carefully created ecosystem of values, people, artistic history and culture being cut back to the roots?
The answer has to be: all of us. Yes of course trust can be rebuilt. And new excitement can happen.So I pulled out a few bits of thinking from various places, including, Mission Models Money and the International Futures Forum, that I have found helpful to see if they might offer some help, advice, thoughts for us all as we discuss and reflect on the last month or so, and get ready for the next steps. I hope you find it helpful, or interesting. I havent even started on new thinking around new models or organisational development, or about art and its role in human understanding. Maybe next time….
I came across this great easy to digest blog by Dr Huizinga on trust in intimate relationships. I thought it explained what has gone wrong quite well.
He recommends things like: Be predictable/Inform your ‘significant other’ if you are going to be unpredictable/Make sure your words match the message/believe the other person is competent/be very careful of keeping secrets/let your needs be known/state who you are LOUDLY/learn to say no/dig into the dirt – all really good stuff for building trust and for how we might recommend going forward.
This doesn’t help what to do when things go wrong – maybe we need a mediator?:-) – but it helps start to understand it all. Of course the choice about whether we are in that relationship depends more on one party that the other in this case so there is a big power dynamic to deal with in the midst of the metaphor….
2. Practice Real Cultural Leadership
At the International Futures Forum we talk about cultural leadership as being more than leading a cultural institution – but about leading culture in a much deeper transformative sense. There is a beautiful quote about the neuroscience of high performing teams on one of the International Futures Forums blogs on culture (via David Hodgson):
“Perhaps the greatest challenge facing leaders of business or government is to create the kind of atmosphere that promotes status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. When historians look back, their judgment of this period in time may rise or fall on how organizations, and society as a whole, operated. Did they treat people fairly, draw people together to solve problems, promote entrepreneurship and autonomy, foster certainty wherever possible, and find ways to raise the perceived status of everyone?”
We all want to work in this way – and we want it from all in the system – ie all those I referred to above.
3. Practice Intelligent Funding
There are lots of great things in the Dawn Austwick (Director, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation) article in Arts Professional from some years ago – and more detailed in John Knell’s piece for MMM in 2007: The Art of Living.
I will be tweeting pithy quotes from this, as I re-absorb it again.
Four of 10 Things to do in a Conceptual Emergency include:
- Take insightful action
- Give up on the myth of control
- Form and support new organizational integrities
- Sustain networks of hope
The rest is juicy too…
5. Remember that arts organisations are not the same as other kinds of organisations
Arts organizations and practitioners are not like other businesses. They have many of the same external features and have to operate in the same legal frameworks as other organizations on the for-to-not-for profit spectrum. But they are different – they are organic, people and idea centred. They are built on, and in, the gift, barter, and love economy – as well as the regular economy. The financial bottom line is only a means to an end, and the end is ‘meaning’.
It is next to impossible to dictate how ‘meaning’ happens: you cant use command and control systems of accountability. You need to be able to use every tool and then throw away the tools at certain points. I am not saying we have the right operational models yet, but many of our best cultural organizations demonstrate the best of the approaches and young companies are also rising with the occasion to new approaches to support artists and their work. Please let’s be sophisticated in our forward thinking, not just for those 70 FXO organisations, but all the others that are striving to create meaningful experiences for people in Scotland.
5. Finally – beware hubris and practice humility.
Take a look at the Wikipedia entry on Hubris – it speaks of not being able to see what is in front of you because of pride or arrogance. On the other hand, the humility that Dawn Austwick talks about can be hard when you are in a position of power. I love remembering that the root of word ‘humility’ is about being grounded, and connected to the earth. It is therefore a huge strength, not a weakness. It is of course also paradoxical in trying to move things forward. Ruth Little from the Festivals Edinburgh and Arts Council England Talent Development Symposium last year said beautifully (and it worth listening to her whole speech):
“Our ideas have to be grounded – humble – and embodied, to be meaningful to us, and at the same time they have to resist this inevitability, and strain towards the edge of possibility and hope.”
I hope we are all able to strain towards the edge of possibility and hope, in an embodied, meaningful way.