NPC is playing a key role in an Arts Council-funded initiative, which will deliver a Cultural Commissioning Programme. Led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, a partnership which includes NPC and the New Economic Foundation (NEF), the programme will help the arts and cultural sector to engage in public sector commissioning.
The government is urging the arts and cultural sector to make a strategic case for funding. This is easier said than done, as individual organisations struggle to place a tangible value on what it is that they achieve. It will become increasingly important, however, given the changing public service landscape in which local councils are reducing the services they deliver directly and commissioning them from external providers.
For arts and cultural organisations, delivering public sector contracts can be an opportunity to reach new audiences, increase their social impact, and develop artistic work in new areas in addition to harnessing a new income stream.
The Cultural Commissioning Programme is funded by a grant commission from Arts Council England. It is supported by an advisory group chaired by Lord Bichard, with representatives from the public sector, grant funders, social impact arts organisations, national portfolio organisations, museums, libraries and academia.
Running from July 2013 to June 2016, the Cultural Commissioning Programme is helping help arts and cultural organisations to engage in public sector commissioning by providing a range of activities and advice to support organisations in the arts, museums and libraries sectors. It is also working to create a greater awareness amongst public service commissioners of the potential for the arts and culture to deliver their outcomes. The programme will help arts and cultural organisations to diversify and increase their income streams by responding to public service strategic commissioning opportunities.
NPC has completed a the initial research phase of this programme: a detailed scoping study to map the arts and cultural sector in relation to public sector commissioning, the interests of commissioners in this area, and the existing sources of support available. The publication, Opportunities for alignment: arts and cultural organisations and public sector commissioning, was published in June 2014. This work has identified areas where the interests of arts and cultural organisations are aligned with those of commissioners, and where there are opportunities to strengthen commissioning relationships. It contains practical messages for arts and cultural organisations considering whether to engage in the delivery of public services, for commissioners seeking to work with arts and cultural organisations, and for strategic influencers including the Arts Council, and policy makers.
NPC will have an ongoing role in the Cultural Commissioning Programme, contributing to the design of the programme’s different workstreams based on the scoping research. We will also focus on helping arts and cultural organisations become better at understanding and illustrating their impact, through the delivery of social impact seminars. These seminars will combine NPC’s expertise in impact measurement with insights from arts organisations who are leading the field in impact measurement.
We hope that all arts and cultural organisations embrace this programme and recognise how important it is for them to be able to clearly demonstrate their social, in addition to their cultural, value. To find out more about this study please visit the Cultural Commissioning Programme webpage.