The Canada Council’s New Funding Model: teleconference with Simon Brault

Teleconference between Canada Council staff and NASO representatives
In response to the videos announcing the New Funding Model programs.

Le 4 juin, 2015
Appel en français de 10h à 11h10 HNE

Thursday June 4, 2015
English language call – 11:45-13:00 EDT

Notes taken by Emmanuel Madan (IMAA) and Anne Bertrand (ARCA)

Intro (Carole Boucher)

…there will be more opportunities to keep discussing this fall

Simon Brault’s opening presentation

This is a huge work in progress that began in Oct 2014 when Board gave the “go” to develop the new model. It entails the complete repositioning of Council, with goal of scaling up. We recognize that the arts community relies on Council & needs more financial capacity and impact.

The new funding model is not the desired end state, it’s a tool towards achieving our long term goals. The desired final impact of adopting this model includes:

– more support for the arts community

– a public understanding of support for the arts as essential, not just “nice to have”

Yesterday’s announcement provides the overall landscape. Now we’re committed to working intensively on detailing the content of these six programs. These details will be announced in late fall, after the federal election, ie. Nov or Dec 2015. We’ll then enter a period of conversation/debate. We intend to crisscross the country with Section Heads to share our vision of the programs and solicit input. Between the detailed announcement in late 2015 and December 2016, there will be a full year for these conversations/discussions/debates to take place.

Dec 2016 is the date that the new online portal will be ready. As of that date applicants will be able to start registering their profiles, so that on April 1 2017 we’re ready to start awarding grants under the new model.

This means that the overall time frame for this transition is over two years (from January 2015 to April 2017). This is the time needed to develop the model, share it with the community, and prepare its launch.

The problem at the moment is that with so many non-communicating programs at Council, we’re suffering from very pronounced silo effects. The goal of the new model is not to break the disciplines but to break the silos. The disciplines will remain.

Council’s support for the arts in the future will be more strategic. Much attention is devoted to not penalizing anyone by mapping existing programs to new model. Existing programs are being examined to harmonize programs according to best, most advantageous practices as currently programs are very diverse from one discipline to the next. The exercise aims to simplify the programs by keeping what works best.

The objective is to better position the CCA so that public arts funding is valued and supported widely.




What will be the role of NASOs?

NASO continue to be important and will probably reside in Renewing Artistic Practice as they contribute to the support and evolution of the practices, sectors; Council is also interested to see how NASOs will evolve over the next 10 years.


Into which program will NASO’s fit?

There will be a clear answer once we publish the mapping.


Will there be movement of funds away from artists and towards organizations?

No, no movement of funds of any kind. we’re carefully mapping the current allocation of both programs and recipients, making sure no money is moving from artists to organizations, or from small organizations to larger ones or from one discipline to another. the goal is not at all to migrate funds. Increases will be distributed according to expressed needs of programs and artistic developments.


Will you move to anonymous competitions for individual artist grants?

We’ve never considered this. We would be interested in hearing more.


Many organisations in existence for many years are still not receiving operating funding. If new investments, will these organisations be prioritized over new initiatives?

We can no longer go on adding new organisations and programs to accommodate. We need tools that will allow us to meet the challenges of new practices rather than add layers.


[missed the question: something about new organizational types being able to access funding]

The model of infinite multiplication of orgs is coming to an end. the assumption of infinite growth doesn’t hold. we hope that new governance or non-governance models will allow new configurations of artistic practice. Renewal of models (Renewing advocacy practice) in the Explore/Create the governance expectations will be looser. We don’t want to perpetuate the dominant model from the last decades.


Do you anticipate revisiting the maximum grant amounts?

We’re looking at this. we are looking at what each program does. we’re trying to come to a certain norm which is robust enough for all disciplines. There will be adjustments in terms of money, dates, etc. but the spirit of this uniformity is to avoid a situation of “winners and losers”. That said, there are always exceptions. We refer to the approach we’re taking as 80/20: general solutions should work for 80% of cases, for the 20% that don’t exactly fit, we look at more preferable options that we can apply to those cases. We need to remain flexible enough that we don’t develop the future at the expense of the present.


What about multiyear? Will deadlines be shifting?

We’ll make clear announcements to ensure nobody misses deadlines. It’s a huge transition, and there are complexities to sort out, notably in the case of multiyear grants awarded right before the April 2017 switch to the new model.

First and foremost, we need to ensure we best serve our clients. This is not about rushing into the new system. Again, the new system isn’t the desired final end state in any case. So this will be clearly planned, discipline by discipline, org by org, taking care to publish dates and changes clearly.

The new model will include multiyear funding of course, we’re looking at the specific models now. We’re examining how we can work on solutions that don’t incapacitate current clients but also remain open to new clients. all this will be clarified in November.


The multiyear currently are 2-year and 4-year. any changes to this?

That’s dependant on disciplines at the moment. we’re examining all of our formulas. this varies from discipline to discipline. We don’t know yet. Will vary depending on programs in the future.


Our multiyear expires in 2016, what happens then?

We’ll reply discipline by discipline.


How will engagement be measured in assessments?

In program 2, more clarity around objectives, with specific expectations of outcomes and assessment criteria. Engagement objectives will be applied across all programs.


Of the 6 new programs, 2 are devoted to dissemination, in Canada and abroad.

This corresponds to the current situation as many programs are devoted to dissemination even though presentation is mostly supported by PCH. Council’s program will not use the same assessment criteria as those used at PCH to evaluate festivals etc. Arts in Canada will promote engagement of Canadians, while Arts abroad will focus on market development.


We’re excited about the international program. But in non-performing arts disciplines this is not expressed primarily in terms of touring but rather exchanges, residences, partnerships, collaborations. Will the new international program be flexible enough to accommodate all of these forms?

Sure. The goal is to reflect what’s already happening in terms of international engagement across all artistic disciplines. I can assure you will be pleased when you see the detail. It won’t be performing arts specific.


The new model seems will benefit the CCA; How will it benefit the “clients”?

One change will result in collectives not having to create, or formalize organisations, or behave as institutions. More clarity around expectations for orgs in Program 2 where there will be less clients than in Program 1 where there will also be more clarity around expectations, but also more opportunities.


Can people/orgs apply to multiple streams?

Yes, if their activities span more than one type of activity.


Programs are non-disciplinary, what about juries?

We’re not creating multidisciplinary programs. they’re non-disciplinary programs. So other than artists who explicitly choose a multidisciplinary practice, the discipline-based structure remains. The point is to break down the silos, not eliminate disciplines.

We also intend to introduce another level of expertise to make sure the specific goals of each of the six programs are being addressed.


In an earlier answer, you mentioned a second level of expertise. Does this mean that peer assessment committees will no longer be the final decisional body?

They’re already not the final decisional body. it’s the Board of Directors that has the final say. Not the Section heads, not the CEO. And for certain existing programs (eg travel grants) decisions are made by Council staff.

There have always been several levels of expertise embedded in the granting process. Some of these levels are artistic merit, others relate to applying program eligibility guidelines.

The role of the peer assessment committee is to assess the relative artistic quality of applications received.

With the application of the new model, we’re aware that the Council will develop additional expertise, for example in terms of projecting Canadian arts on the world stage. Currently we don’t have a granting strategy for international exposure. We have about 27 programs that address Canadian arts abroad. What is the evolution of artistic practice in the context of the desired outcomes of each program. We think it will be very helpful to formalize this expertise, not just for the arts milieu but for Council as well.


Is it true that juries will no longer meet in person?

I don’t know where you heard that. we’re one of the rare councils that has an integral jury system. around the world it’s vanishing, eg in the US where they now meet by phone. We’re very committed to peer assessment including in-person jury mtgs, but we may work with different models of peer assessment. we don’t want to weaken the system, we want it to remain as robust as possible.

[EM’s note: not much detail on those “different models”]


Do you plan to lay out a clear pathway on the website to reflect the mapping of old programs onto new, so applicants can figure out where they fall? for example, which of the new programs will the existing Music commissioning program be mapped to?

Don’t want to go into details today, but broadly: this is part of what we call the transition.

At the moment Council is simultaneously engaged in three parallel tasks:

  1. finish design
  2. address simplification of procedures
  3. manage transition from current model to new one, including mapping programs and recipients, accompanying clients in adapting to new model, training staff, preparing IT, etc.

So as part of the transition work, we will be very clear to applicants about how existing funding will continue under the new model.


Can you speak about the goal of parity between disciplines?

Right now it would be difficult to assess parity, in future this will be easier because the major programs will allow easier analysis and reporting.


Will each program be comparable in scope?

If you mean amount of money in each program, or number of clients served, then no. Very different. This is just a reflection of what Council does. we can easily understand that scope must be in line with actual investment, demography, etc.


Without specifically designated envelopes for each of the Council’s disciplines, will granting now simply follow demand? For example, will more applications in Dance lead to proportionally more grants awarded in Dance?

That’s how it works at many councils at the moment, for example the CALQ.

We don’t think this is the best way to operate, that’s too simplistic. The evolution will be influenced by evolutions in demand, but also on how we analyze trends in the sector.

The important thing to state is that the current division by discipline is not a rational result of any analysis. it’s the result of accumulated years & layers of decisions. there’s no rhyme or reason for it. It’s unjustifiable and arbitrary. it’s just history. We don’t want to keep that baggage. We’ve already stated that current distribution of money will be the starting baseline for the new model, but after that it will evolve “in a different way”

[EM’s note: this answer was a bit unclear for me, details as to what “in a different way” means were not clearly stated]


Not everyone will be comfortable with online process – how will you deal with that?

Although we do want to improve the IT experience, I wouldn’t say this is our main goal or our driver. We’re adopting online tools at a reasonable pace. We understand that this shouldn’t exclude anybody, so rest assured that we’ll take that into account. We’re focusing on the development of a web portal that will be the entry point for council.

One of our goals is to separate distinguish “eligibility criteria” for each program from the programs themselves. Rather than having eligibility criteria determined on a case-by-case basis by staff, we will use applicant profiles on the new portal to make determinations about eligibility.


It’s great that there’s a new program for aboriginal arts. But what about minority language groups, there is a suite of programs that flow from special federal arrangements, how will they continue?

They will definitely continue, we’re still responsible for specific programs. “horizontal considerations” will remain, so will the money, as long as the agreements with PCH are in place.


Why no mention of equity in the program descriptions released yesterday?

We think we’ve now evolved to the stage that equity is now part of the DNA of each program. We’ve mentioned the importance of addressing equity repeatedly in our announcements about the new model.


Artists from cultural diversity would like to receive support for the practice of traditional art forms.

The only reference to traditional art forms is in the program dedicated to aboriginal artists. Diversity will not be be considered separate and will be integrated into the other programs; council will be more dedicated to diversity of audiences and specificity of aboriginal art practices.


What about Inter-arts office?

It will be integrated into the programs. Post-disciplinary practice constitute an important trend that will be followed closely. This sector has advocated for more needs.


About simplifying applications… will we be given adequate space to present projects, orgs?

We’ll be implementing logic models that will allow for easier, standard information collection as we are often limited to defending what we do with anecdotes. We lack data, and arguments. Same for reporting – short but will be easier to collect information to measure outcomes, results. We are putting in place tools for the future! Excellence remains the sine qua non of the CCA but there is more than excellence!


Regional equity?

This is a big concern. It has to be a big concern. We don’t have a situation like England’s where the overwhelming majority of activity is concentrated in the London area. Nor do we want such a situation. Achieving regional equity is about ensuring a fair & accruing level of activity in every area of the country. However, it’s very difficult to make progress at the expense of what is already in place. so we look to additional funds to address this.


What is scope of “Renewing artistic practice” program, compared with the existing Leadership for Change?

Greater in scope than Leadership for Change. Each of the 6 programs will be of significant size, Leadership for Change was very small. (as an example, the baseline for the international program is $10M.). Applicants to this program will be supported because they serve the ultimate goal of developing arts practices. We need to support & renew how the practice is evolving. I hope this program will have significant growth over time, as there are many challenges to address.


What will happen to grants and awards that come from specific donations & endowments?

Those will remain. What’s being reformed is the granting program, not the stuff that arises from wills etc. I have the intention to encourage the creation of new prizes in the future with proper donations. We won’t shift this.

We’re not taking the road of working “against” the sector, this would be a road to failure.


I understand that the new model is part of a strategy to seek an increase to Council’s budget, can you speak about that?

In terms of how this exercise will lead to positive consequences down the road: it’s too soon to answer. We were very pleased that the topic of public funding for the arts trended on Twitter yesterday, this was rare and welcome. We’re in the public eye now. we’re getting a lot of attention from govt & public, this is positive because without this conversation we will have no future. We need to establish more government trust in our activities, this is what the current exercise aims to achieve.


Is there room for arts/business?

Yes, lots of room, see “art is serious business”. Self-endorsement is not the most convincing approach. We need outside voices. Council can’t change itself into an advocacy organization, but our mandate includes engaging the public. Not a private conversation between us and our clients. That’s important, but would be a mistake to constrain it to that.


Are you in conversation with Canadian Arts Coalition to coordinate a strategy and best practices about requesting an increase to Council funding?

When they approach us we do discuss, we’re pleased they’re using our “art is serious business” campaign.


In your work on this new model you’ve examined models from other countries, what are some of the best practices you found?

We have looked & will keep looking at different models. I’ve had the chance to exchange with counterparts. In general, arts funding bodies are quite challenged all over the world. You can see that in Australia, England, etc. at the moment. What we find is that funders who have camped themselves in nostalgic positions are the ones who suffer most right now. Govt’s have direct power over Councils because they decide funding levels and name Board members/CEOs. There have been severe cuts and many councils have taken defensive stances. This didn’t work: councils have merged, we see what’s happening in the US right now. So i actually don’t see a good model anywhere that we should borrow from. What i do see is lessons about the negative consequences of lack of leadership, lack of boldness. We have to create our own model that reflects our own knowledge, circumstances, and community. We are now quite exemplary, not because we’re more brilliant, but because we’re working from a position of strength and the timing is good.

We have a high level of maturity in the Canadian arts community. Nobody can accuse us of being self-serving. Time will tell, but I believe the payoff of this transition will be good.


Can you summarize the main points we should relate to our members?

  1. To reassure everybody that nobody will be lost in the transition. The Council will honour its commitments to organizations & its core value of peer assessment. We intend to use peer assessment in a more robust way, shielding it from any future pressure rather than weakening it.
  2. There’s sufficient time to ensure a smooth transition to the new model. We are releasing the details slowly because we first must ensure that we’re covering every angle of what Council is doing now and should be taking on in the future. Revealing details before they are finalized would be misleading and confusing. There will be time to debate/discuss after the detailed announcement of November 2015 and a full year of transition to train staff, prepare our online platform, and acclimatize clients to the new model.
  3. Everything we’re doing now is to solidify the Council’s position as Canada’s main funding body going forward. Strong support for the arts is essential not just for the arts sector itself but to Canada’s future as a civilized society. Addressing the priorities we’ve identified is in the best interests of the country.



To be continued – we will have many occasions to speak/debate/discuss. don’t hesitate. We like to get your feedback. Your discussions with section heads will continue. We want to reassure people and hear what they have to say. We’re not moving from an imperfect system to a perfectible system.

Go to our blog and ask questions there.