David Adair

Griffith University, Queensland

David Adair is Convenor of the Master of Communication program at Griffith University, where he also teaches in the sociology of culture and cultural history. With Kay Ferres, he is the author of Who Profits from the Arts? Taking the measure of culture in Australia.  Sydney: Currency House, 2007. In 2007-2009, he reviewed international work on the development of cultural indicators for the Cultural Ministers Council. A subsequent report, Vital Signs: a Cultural Indicators Framework for Australia, was presented to the CMC in 2010. With Kay Ferres and Ronda Jones, he wrote ‘Cultural indicators: assessing the state of the arts in Australia,’ published in Cultural Trends Volume 19.4, 2010.

Genuine mutual benefits: arts community engagement programs as core business

Arts and cultural organisations are now using pluralistic models of value – those capturing social, economic, environmental, and cultural impacts – to understand, assess and communicate the value of their programs. These value models enable the organisations to demonstrate to funding bodies that they, as well as the publics and sectors they represent, are receiving appropriate returns from public and private investments. Prompted by the shift to outputs funding over the last decade, the arts organisations in receipt of this funding have assumed that a diversified evidence base for impacts will better align their offerings and business models with whole of government public policy frameworks, secure access to larger and more reliable funding streams, and assist them in moving to a sustainable footing.

This paper looks to a case study from South Australia – the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Our Mob program – to consider factors which qualify the notion that impacts reporting will drive the move to sustainability. These factors include the human and cultural capital – including the social networks – of key personnel, well-developed strategic planning within the organisation, championing of the program by senior managers, strategic partnerships that can extend the organisation’s reach and expertise, and supportive and effective political leadership.

The paper adapts Mark H. Moore’s model of public value – notably his ‘strategic triangle’ of operational capacity, authorising environment and public value outputs and outcomes – to analyse Our Mob as a community engagement initiative. It considers how a public value model conceives of such initiatives as parts of the core business of arts organisations, rather than as optional extras embarked on to comply with external reporting requirements. From this perspective, immediate outputs are understood in the context of mutually beneficial relationships – those creating and created by programs – and the outcomes they produce.



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