The six arts organisations in Making It Work (Airspace Gallery, B Arts, Bitjam, picl, Restoke) have been working together for almost eighteen months now, funded by the Arts Council’s Catalyst programme to develop new sources of earned income. We’ve been to look at how other organisations are working together in Sheffield and completed training programmes that have varied from video editing and web design to running a community bakery.
Now it’s decision time. We spent a day working together with Anamaria Wills from Cidaco on what we might actually do together for private sector partners, other public funders - what our value proposition would be as a consortium.
We looked at the Stoke we wanted to see in ten years time, as that’s really what unites us. Our practice varies widely from a contemporary visual art gallery and a site-specific performance company to a digital innovation agency. Our individual organisations have very different missions and work in very different ways. All of us however share a common vision to make where we work, and where our audiences and partners come from, a better place.
We worked in small groups to look at what the Stoke that everyone wanted to see would look like - which contained everything from trams and cycle lanes to more jobs and a better built environment. Then we all devised three projects that sought to embody some of these ideas at a strategic level using a CO-STAR development model which CIDACO use. The groups came up with a new circular bus route for visitors and residents in the city, which would connect the five towns of the city without needing to go in to the city centre and out again; a Stoke Embassy to London to sell the city’s creative and economic offer; and a transition programme for Stoke town following the withdrawal of council employees from the civic centre.
What, from B Arts’ perspective at least, we moved forwards on, was understanding that if we have a logic model in place for the consortium we can collaborate strategically without necessarily needing to create joint artistic work. We used a logic model (picked up on ACE’s Cultural Commissioning training) that starts by describing the Strategic Outcome the consortium has - an over-arching aim which, much like a mission, can't be measured. Beneath it are Contributory Outcomes - these are aims that we can measure progress against, and which are achievable through the Outputs: the activities the programme consists of.
By the end of the day we’d even got as far as a Value Proposition. Ok, we had two:
• Making a new story for Stoke
• Realising the potential of the people and businesses in Stoke
that describe what private sector partners would gain by working with us. It’s taken us some time, but we finally feel that we’ve got a shared sense of purpose that could enable us to properly Make It Work together. Now we have to see if this is attractive to potential partners who would be interested in working with us on making these things happen. If we know what the joint outcomes should be, then what's the joint programme to achieve this?