Reframing the Cultural Policy Dialogue

Just off the Reframing the Cultural Policy Dialogue live stream ….

It was a well thought out and well organized mini-conference - Ontario based but reaching beyond the province to the national and international, in terms of speakers and in terms of audience/participants. The use of Skype and live streaming were very effective.

With the frequent references to the economic impact of the cultural sector on the GDP, and the size of the cultural labour force, it was a timely backdrop to the release of the Provincial and Territorial CSA report tomorrow.   

The line-up of speakers was refreshing: 

  • a couple of well-placed public servants - Kevin Finnerty, ADM Culture Division, Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport; and Rachel Wenick, ADM, Canadian Heritage - gave informative and cogent addresses;
  • Matthew Taylor, CEO Royal Society for the Arts in England, skyping in, had several words of wisdom from across the Atlantic, advising, among other things, that we shift the funding conversation “from ask to offer” ;
  • a panel of “not the usual suspects”, policy practitioners from outside the cultural sector - David Lindsay, President and CEO of Forest Products Association of Canada; Joanne McNamara, Executive Director, Strategic Projects, University of Western Ontario; and Bob Richardson, Executive Vice-President, Edelman – spoke about how the cultural sector can engage more effectively with governments;
  • and a closing panel of accomplished artists and cultural managers from across the province - Karn Bachmann, Timmins Museum; Zan Chandler, Forsight Analyst, KerrSmith Design; Ella Cooper, Neighbourhood Arts Network; Christa Dickenson, Executive Director Interactive Onterio; Eric Dubeau, Singer-songwriter’ and Vikas Kohli, Executive Director, MonstrARTity – who gave diverse and lively reactions to previous speakers and questioners.

The most interesting part of the day for me was the power point presentation by Nicole Anderson, CEO for Business and the Arts, on her organization’s new research on business support for the arts. There is definitely something to build on here in terms of improving the business/arts connection. A win win. What was particularly hopeful was the growing interest in SROI – not the economic-based Return on Investment (ROI), but a Social Return on Investment (SROI). Not clear yet how this is assessed, but some businesses are considering SROI as a valid measurement of impact for investment.

Lots of calls for collaboration and partnerships, within the sector and with those outside the sector – echoes of CHRC’s HR conference in 2010. A new slant was the use of the word “reciprocity” – “reciprocal relationships there we both have value”. Back to the “shift from ask to offer”.

All in all a very good effort at “reframing the cultural policy dialogue”.  Kudos to Micheline McKay and her team!

You can find the proceedings of Reframing the Cultural Policy Dialogue archived at