Resilient sectors and sub-sectors

 Making Adaptive Resilience Real includes a section setting out what I think are 8 key characteristics needed for resilience – of organisations and of sub-sectors.  The table below lists them, and includes the descriptions of they might apply to resilience sectors or sub-sectors. The paper has similar descriptions of individual organisations, but I’m a) avoiding this post being too long and b) encouraging you to read the whole paper. I also have a feeling that this sector/sub-sector view is secondary to many people, but arguably more crucial to develop.

I also think there may be greater scope for innovation at an artform and sectoral level than within some individual organisations. How could those involved in touring theatre or visual arts, for instance, work differently to ensure all parts of the population can access their work, despite funding cuts? What work might be done on, say, a common culture, or leadership to do that?  Certainly leadership is a key element to building resilience – it isn’t about just letting the system sort itself out.


Culture of shared purpose and values rooted in organisational memory

A strong, consensual ‘story’ emerges of the nature and impact of the sector, albeit containing a diversity of detailed views. ‘Professional standards’ may emerge, managed either informally or formally. Unions or other industry groups speak authoritatively on behalf of the sector. Mentoring is common. Sector can acknowledge both strengths and weaknesses.

Predictable financial resources derived from a robust business model

Sector has a diversity of organisations and types of organisations providing services/activity to its different audiences, who are prepared to regularly provide revenue in exchange – be that public sector funding, private sector sponsorship or philanthropy or ticket/earned income. These organisations form a supply network, and also provide a networked environment in which talent and skills are developed and extended. Individual elements of the supply chain can predict with some confidence relations for the future, but are not wholly reliant on particular other parts of the system. Supply and demand are in healthy equilibrium, providing good revenue income and good returns .A range of specialist financial providers and financial mechanisms in addition to grant makers support sector capital investment needs.

Strong networks (internal/external)

Individual parts of the sector communicate well and collaborate regularly, with all parties feeling that time invested yields appropriate returns. This networking leads to greater efficiency, greater knowledge of situations and patterns, and to a stronger advocacy voice. The sector is a powerful advocate for its activities and creates new customers and supporters for its work. Networks also provide challenge, innovation and ultimately improvements in practice. The interdependencies are increasingly acknowledged and self-managed, with competition and collaboration co-existing.

Intellectual, human and physical assets

Sector has the assets required to do its work – eg building and digital infrastructures, and there is good sectoral knowledge of what is held, which is shared openly. Assets are used for sectoral benefit as well as individual or organisational gain, and this networking of assets is enabled by appropriate financial planning. Income from artistic assets, in the form of repertoire or collection-based intellectual property is maximised, and made possible by appropriate legal and commercial skills and planning.

Leadership, management and governance

Sectoral leaders emerge who are backed by a majority of elements of the system/network and taken seriously by funders, politicians and public. Improving governance is seen as a shared responsibility. Industry bodies act in a way that develops sectoral resilience rather than individual interests, and are future focused as well as practical in the immediate term. Sector advocates for evolution rather than simple maintenance.

Adaptive capacity: innovation and experimentation embedded in reflective practice

Sector adapts to changing environment over time and influences that environment. Dominant ways of working and forms of art and organisation change as innovation is adopted into the mainstream, thereby adapting it. Innovative models are supported to establish themselves. A culture of constructive peer review and critique brings diverse perspectives into constant reflection on practice. Not all individual elements of the sector are maintained in perpetuity, but this is seen as healthy. Risks are taken in an informed and responsible way.

Situation awareness of environment and performance

The sector openly shares information on performance and environment, to enable benchmarking and self-assessment. Discussion of environment is an everyday activity, not merely a defensive act. Debate refines understanding of both formal and informal information. Industry bodies take situation awareness into account in advocacy and spreading best practice. The sector is self-aware, including of how others perceive it and the reality of business situations.

Management of key vulnerabilities: planning and preparation for disruption

Shared discussion of key vulnerabilities is common, open and constructive. Collaborative planning is routine, particularly in particular localities (eg cities or counties) or artforms, leading to decision making informed by sectoral insight as well as by funders. Decisions prioritise sectoral health rather than the maintenance of all individual elements. There is spare capacity in the sector to cope with unexpected disruptions such as company collapse, disasters (eg floods or bombs) or unexpected peaks of demand (eg 2012).