Five A Week 17: Some Things to Read and Think About

Picking up the theme from my last blog, out of the CPP conference, of changing the cultural landscape by, you know, involving wider sets of people than usual, Arts Council England have just published Cultural Democracy in Practice, written by the team at 64M Artists. It’s an important publication as much for what it signals as its contents, which consider some of the whys and wherefores of cultural democracy and provide some potential common values, case studies and how to tips. (The publication is primarily a guide for those wanting to explore the ideas more, rather than a statement of policy or history.) 

I read it as a signal of an interest from ACE in both broader definitions of culture  and how those areas beyond (if that’s the right word, I suspect it’s not) funded arts activity can be given more recognition. My main caveat would be the guide feels a little smoothed out, a bit too shiny-happy, and glides over some tougher issues, such as control, funding, or group and community dynamics. But it is timely and important whatever your starting point. (It'll be too much for some, too little for others.) It does clearly and usefully discuss the challenges and benefits of co-creation and shared decision-making – and for many, maybe even most, that’s a big step. If there’s an NPO management team – or a funding body - not thinking about this stuff, well, I’d be a bit worried for or about them. And it contains useful pointers for many others beyond that particular part of our culture.

I’d also suggest reading it as useful inoculation against inadvertently using or abusing what will, like it or not, prove to be two of 2019’s buzzwords, one important thing with buzzwords being to only use, abuse or indeed avoid them deliberately and with knowledge of their background.

2.     The Decider

Democracy, cultural or otherwise, is not all about decision-making, of course. And neither is decision-making always about democracy. (Insert own regretful reference to referenda here.) But decisions sometimes have to be made, and I recently came across this handy guide to different models of decision-making for different circumstances. As the heading says, ; ‘a few simple questions to explore better ways to make group decisions’. I haven’t used the Slackbot version but the website is clear and accessible.

3.     The Future of Work

The people behind the Decider Slackbot, Nobl, also share various tools and resources about work and ways of working on this site. I found it interesting, and it’s worth a delve if you like that sort of thing, but I’m not making a Thinking Practice Culture Slide Deck, just yet. Although actually, just typing that makes me want to, for my own entertainment… 

On the theme of involvement and participation, this guide, from Co-operatives UK and the New Citizenship Project, suggests some practical ways to build what they call ‘everyday participation’. It is aimed especially at memberships groups and co-operatives, but I think some of the seven ‘modes of everyday participation’ could be adapted and used in collaborative cultural settings of various sorts – from studio groups to city-based venue collaborations. Those seven modes (in case you’re too-busy-to-click) are:
1. Tell stories
2. Gather data
3. Share connections 
4. Contribute ideas
5. Give time
6. Learn skills
7. Crowdfund innovation.

German neuroscientists have found out something a little unsurprising: “Collectively, our results indicate the existence of distinct neural traits in the dopaminergic reward system of artists, who are less inclined to react to the acceptance of monetary rewards,” the researchers write.

However, it’s not simply that artists brains are hard-wired to not be as bothered about money –when they’re told they can’thave it other parts of their brains get very agitated. File under #noshitsherlock perhaps?