Provocation from Mark Robinson, Founder, Thinking Practice
The vision of the Taylor review of modern working practices is that ‘All work in the UK economy should be fair and decent with realistic scope for development and fulfillment'. The cultural sector is currently a way off. It needs to invest in conditions and training so that having an unbalanced, overstretched workforce does not undermine effectiveness and creativity, capacity to be adaptive and resilient, and – crucially - the ability to explore the full range of experiences and imaginations.
Essentially my challenge for the next ten years is this: ‘What makes us think we can have sustainable culture by requiring artists and much of the workforce to subsidise activity?’ Cultural organisations must become, more consistently, great places to work for talent from far more diverse backgrounds, regardless of financial backing.
Employers must make a step change in workforce development and in the structures within which people work. (For some this will start with acknowledging their role as ‘employers’.) Organisations should collaborate more, share workers more, and enable others to come together to develop long-term strategies.
As self-employment, already almost three times higher in cultural workers than the general workforce, becomes more common, organisations must think beyond PAYE employees to the artists, freelancers and micro-businesses they rely on, investing in skills and reducing the precarity of ‘project life in a project world’.
Practically, what could NPOs do to share services with providers such as ‘creative hubs’ or universities? Could models of ‘shared employment’ across organisations be developed? Could place-based consortia or sector support organisations host HR or finance expertise, for instance? Could they support online platforms or networks, working with unions and other groups? Could larger organisations, including local authorities, create late payment or ill health guarantee schemes for artists and freelancers?
A first step would be every organisations abiding with industry standards and paying on time, of course.