We know that a diverse workforce makes for a more resilient organisation – and we know that many of our organisations are not sufficiently diverse. It isn’t just workforce development, it is also diversity built in to content and practice – the Creative Case. Diversity in its broadest sense brings skill, experience and insight –reflecting our environment and the communities we seek to engage is not only ethically important it is good for business.
We don’t need to keep talking about how fundamental it is, we know that. We need to talk about what we’re going to do about it – and then we need to do it.
Culture Forum North (CFN) with an increasing membership diverse in art form, geography, scale, composition and reach, is well placed to push from conversation to action. In early 2016 an initial provocation paper was presented and on 23 November at BALTIC a small group from the arts and HE got the ball rolling. The full membership is asked to participate in the process and in doing so to gain from the knowledge and activity such a collective endeavour brings.
A few questions and provocations from the discussion on the 23 November to prompt thinking and planning: –
- A career in the arts may be seen in some communities as ‘not a proper career’, yet stats from a number of universities show that over 76% (UK Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Survey 2016) of those graduating in the arts are in a degree level job in the sector six months after graduation. Do we have enough information to demonstrate career paths in the arts – what are people doing five years, ten years after graduation? How can we tell the story better to inspire more diverse applications?
- The arts brain-drain to London needs addressing. It affects different areas of the North to differing degrees and if we are to retain talent in the North, and attract talent to the North – what could we be doing collectively?
- University isn’t the only route into the arts, and graduates and non-graduates can be inhibited by the common expectation of unpaid work. There are a number of programmes that aim to address the issue – but what are the best ways to enable those without the bank of mum and dad to get a foot on the ladder and how can arts/HE partnerships develop and support region-wide programmes?
- Learning on the job is the best way to understand a role. Universities are adapting to enable students to practice whilst studying and arts organisations are increasingly delivering accredited learning onsite. Does this meet the skills need? And what are the opportunities for non-university practice-based accreditation? Should there be industry standards in arts roles – how can partnership help develop and ensure they are met?
- Organisations are at a varied level of workforce diversity – in some cases the topic is a must do rather than want to do. How can we learn from those that do it well? What are the motivations to embed diversity at all levels of an organisations and is there the potential to share expertise?
When considering these questions, there are three initial observations
- There are some good models and programmes, but it’s difficult to gain a broad picture of what they are, and awareness and geographical reach is limited
- It’s likely that these models could be relevant to multiple organisations and that a collective approach would bring increased benefit and impact, but there isn’t an arena to allow this to happen
- There will be gaps, but we’re not clear what they are. CFN may be in a position to address them, but we don’t yet have a logical starting point.
At the Forum meeting in Rotherham on 15 December, partners are invited to collectively devise the action plan that will enable the creation of a knowledge ‘heat map’ for the North; what do we want to know, what’s the purpose of knowing; how are we going to acquire the knowledge; and how are we going to use it?