Arts Council England is endorsing a grassroots advocacy approach to support its mission and is encouraging all arts organisations and artists to demonstrate the value of public investment in the arts. The Advocacy Toolkit, available for free download, contains infographics with key facts and figures on audiences, the economic weight of the sector, employment and public investment; primers on the government agenda, to help arts organisations focus on gathering evidence on how they meet current priorities (such as building communities, driving economic growth, boosting tourism and creating employment); tips on working with media and MPs; and practical steps to advocate for continued public investment in arts and culture.
From Culture Minister Maria Miller’s recent speech to this report commissioned by Arts Council England, the case for the economic value for the arts is gaining momentum in the UK, as explains Alan Davey, ACE’s Chief Executive Officer, in his response to the Centre for Economics and Business Research report:
We fund arts and culture because they have the power to nurture and inspire us, to ask questions and pose challenges, whether as a society or as individuals. The contribution culture makes to our quality of life and its ability to fire our imaginations always comes first. It is also right to consider all the benefits that investment in the arts and culture can bring, particularly at a time when there is severe pressure on public finances, so that we can argue for the most effective use of that contribution.
Whilst Maria Miller’s ‘culture-as-commodity’ approach is being heatedly discussed (and a bit less heatedly here and here), other valuation methods and criteria are in development, such as the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Cultural Value Project, based on the “actual experience of culture and the arts rather than the ancillary effects of this experience”, or the Intrinsic Impact study developed by consultants Baker Richards and WolfBrown, aiming at “shift[ing] attention to transformative outcomes in the economy of meaning, not just the economy of money”.
Meanwhile, the heads of many arts organisations have come together in a movement called What Next? that has just held its first national conference. The objectives of the meeting are described as threefold in this Guardian article:
- Engage every British MP in the work of their local arts organisations;
- Draw in local councillors, business people and leaders of schools and colleges, treating them “like high-level donors”;
- Come together to harness the voices of their audiences, visitors or members.
This is where Arts Council England’s advocacy toolkit can come handy, with its detailed, practical steps to gathering evidence and communicating to different stakeholders. I have copied below an abbreviated version of these action points, also available on the ‘How to advocate’ section:
- Create a landing page on your website which includes the ‘why arts and culture are good value’ bullets.
- Put together some facts, figures and quotes to show the impact of your work and demonstrate the link between public funding and the outcomes of that investment. How has it helped to create jobs, generate revenue or positively supported your local community? Include this information in your programmes, on your press materials and on your website.
- Tell your social networking communities about the value of public investment in arts and culture and encourage them to share your messages.
- Encourage your stakeholders to make the case to local and national politicians. Invite them to see your work and use the occasion to talk to them about the value of what you do.
- If you receive funding from Arts Council England ensure your work is branded with the correct logo and that it links to www.artscouncil.org.uk/what-we-do – their public-facing landing page, so everybody knows that public money has made a contribution.