MK Gallery in Milton Keynes is one of the arts council's National Portfolio Organisations. Photo: 6a

Environmental sustainability to be key investment priority for ACE

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 26.06.2019
Arts council publishes draft 10-year strategy
Environmental sustainability is likely to be one of Arts Council England’s core funding criteria, according to the organisation’s draft 10-year strategy.

In an indication of how the climate emergency has moved up the policy-making agenda, “dynamism and environmental sustainability” is given equal prominence as a criterion in the new strategy, alongside the arts council’s two other investment principles: ambition and quality, and inclusivity and relevance. 

Published this week, the 2020-30 strategy states that “climate change and environmental degradation look certain to be the pre-eminent forces shaping our social, political and economic landscape up to 2030 and beyond”. The arts council already requires organisations in its national portfolio to take steps to improve their sustainability, but concerns were raised that an earlier consultation document on the strategy did not give great prominence to the environment.

Vision

The strategy sets out the arts council’s vision for the next 10 years, saying the organisation aims to “enable more people to take advantage of more opportunities to develop and express their creativity, and to support them to engage with the widest possible range of culture”.

The arts council says it will support organisations to develop “nimbler business models” in the context of declining public funding and the growing digital economy. It says it plans to become a more flexible investor and will develop alternative investment tools, such as loans or stakes, alongside its traditional time-limited grants.

It also says it aims to do more to “to support innovation and more explicitly demonstrate our appetite for risk and tolerance for failure”, after feedback showed that cultural organisations have retreated from risk-taking and talent development.

The arts council says it plans to address socio-economic and geographic variances in cultural engagement, as well as the “persistent and widespread” lack of diversity in the sector. 

Funded organisations will be expected to demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusivity through a new framework that will take into account not just the culture that they produce, but their governance, leadership and workforce, as well as visitors, participants and audiences. 

The arts council, which took on responsibility for England’s museums in 2011 and has been criticised by some for not fully understanding the unique issues facing the sector, acknowledges the “critical role” of collections and cultural property in the strategy. It says it “will work to secure and improve public access to them, to ensure that they continue to delight and inspire as many people as possible” over the next 10 years. 

The strategy also outlines plans for the arts council to act more explicitly as a “national development agency” for creativity and culture. 

In a blog post this week, the arts council's deputy CEO, Simon Mellor, writes: “This means that, in future we will place as much emphasis on our advocacy and development responsibilities as our role as a funding agency.”

To achieve its vision, the arts council is proposing three outcomes and three investment principles that will shape its funding and policy decisions over the next 10 years.

The proposed outcomes are: 

  • Creative people: every person can develop and express creativity throughout their lives
  • Cultural communities: a collaborative approach to culture helps villages, towns and cities across the country to thrive
  • A creative and cultural country: England’s cultural sector is innovative, collaborative and international.

The proposed investment principles are: 

  • Ambition and quality: cultural organisations are ambitious and committed to improving the quality of their work
  • Inclusivity and relevance: England’s diversity is fully reflected in the organisations and individuals that we support and in the culture they produce
  • Dynamism and environmental sustainability: cultural organisations are dynamic and environmentally sustainable.

The arts council will launch a consultation on the document on 1 July, including an online survey and workshops across England. The consultation closes on 23 September and the final strategy will be unveiled later this year.

This year's Museums Association Conference (Brighton, 3-5 October) will be exploring how the museums can improve their environmental sustainability and help to tackle the climate emergency.


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