Local government and local health commissioners are under growing pressure to solve social problems. Arts and culture organisations can play a much more central role in helping to address these problems, according to a new report published today. The NPC-authored report, produced as part of the Cultural Commissioning Programme, argues that commissioners and cultural organisations alike must be bold in seizing this opportunity.
The Cultural Commissioning Programme is a partnership programme led by NCVO with NPC and nef. It is a collaboration to boost commissioning from arts and cultural organisations to deliver effective public service outcomes.
The report Opportunities for alignment is published today (6 June). Funded by the Arts Council, it includes new data from a survey of 240 arts and cultural organisations and analysis of charitable arts and cultural organisations based on the data from NCVO’s charity almanac. The report finds that:
- Some local commissioners see the potential of arts and cultural organisations to help tackle issues like social isolation, poor mental health and low school attainment. But arts and cultural organisations do not engage in commissioning to their full potential, and it remains a largely untapped resource.
- Many commissioners would be open to learning more about the social value that arts and culture activities can bring, but often feel that these organisations struggle to provide evidence of how their work will deliver on the commissioner’s priorities.
- Many arts and cultural organisations, meanwhile, feel that commissioners are not familiar enough with the unique work they carry out, and find it difficult to fit in with restrictive commissioning guidelines. They argue that commissioners need to be much more flexible about understanding their potential to address social problems in new and innovative ways.
Opportunities for alignment argues that if commissioners work more effectively with arts and cultural organisations there will be benefits both in terms of the outcomes for people and communities, and in terms of opportunities for arts and cultural organisations to diversify their income streams and improve their own resilience.
Sally Bagwell, Senior Consultant at NPC and one of the authors of Opportunities for alignment, said:
‘With no sign that pressure on local and health authority funding is going to lift any time soon, commissioners must be bold when thinking about new ways to fund solutions to social problems.
‘Our research suggests that arts and cultural organisations can help deliver some of those solutions, and at the same time secure the sort of funding necessary to thrive in the years to come. But the commissioners and arts and cultural providers need to understand each other a lot better.
‘Commissioning won’t be the answer for all arts and culture organisations, but it is clearly an opportunity for some. We would encourage arts and culture groups to work more closely with local commissioners on finding lasting solutions to social problems’.
Jessica Harris, Cultural Commissioning programme manager at NCVO, said:
‘There is much to be gained from public service commissioners working with arts and cultural providers, since they reach and engage communities through innovative and creative approaches.
‘We’ll be using the next two years to bring commissioners together with arts and cultural organisations, helping to strengthen relationships and shared understanding.’
Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of Arts Council England said:
‘Arts and culture already make a major contribution to a better quality of life, wellbeing and healthier communities.
‘This report is all about more effectively connecting those who apply for commissions, and those who allocate grants. I welcome it as an important step for Cultural Commissioning’.
Opportunities for alignment underpins a programme of support for the arts and cultural sector and public service commissioners which the Cultural Commissioning Programme will deliver. From 2014 to 2016, the programme will work with arts organisations, museums and libraries, with commissioners and with policymakers to strengthen the environment for cultural commissioning, and to bring these sectors together. It launches this programme with two national seminars (6 June London and 10 June Doncaster), a learning programme for arts organisations, museums and libraries, and two pilots with commissioners to test and develop their commissioning of cultural organisations.