ARCA @ National Service Arts Organisations (NASO) meeting in Ottawa

On Oct. 20-21, ARCA President Todd Janes, and Director Anne Bertrand, along with over 70 individuals representing National arts service organisations (NASO), attended the annual meeting with The Canada Council for the Arts. Extended by one day, the meeting’s agenda offered perspectives on the current situation at Council, a presentation of the new organisational development assistance program called Leadership for Change, a presentation on available web-based organisational development resources, a presentation of results of a survey polling NASOs on the services offered to their membership as well as their interest and motivation to meet yearly. A break-out session allowed for smaller, multi-sector groups to discuss the potential for collaboration. The second day began with round-robin tables on various topics intended to share organisational and professional development experiences, both successful and failed, among peers. The second day ended with a Town hall plenary discussion on who, what, why, how NASOs are to continue meeting in the future.

Robert Sirman remarks

Council CEO Robert Sirman updated the group on program reviews, public engagement (that appears to have provoked a greater response than initially intended), Council’s upcoming move to new offices with street-level exhibition space, transitions in leadership (he is leaving in June 2014) and the current funding environment. When pressed to respond to NASOs need for clearer and more forthcoming information, it was apparent that many in the room shared this frustration. Despite Council’s expressed desire to be more transparent, the ambiguity of review processes seems a delicate topic.

CADAC survey results

On the other hand, CADAC managing consultant Elizabeth McKinnon shared results of a recent survey that indicate slow but steady improvements to the functionality of the platform, at least for collecting and slowly harmonizing financial data even as the statistical form remains unpopular for a variety of reasons. It also appears that few people understand the potential uses of this available data. ARCA produced a brief memo in response to the survey that seems to have accurately echoed the results of the survey.

Leadership for Change

The new program “Leadership for Change” for organisational development was presented by Carole Boucher, responsible for the review of the Flying Squad, and Roger Gaudet, the new director of arts disciplines. The new program is designed to support focused interventions promoting adaptability to change, and to encourage greater collaboration between NASOs in delivering sector-wide “professional and organisational development” services. When asked about support for implementation, it was stated that “change” is not to be understood as something that is added to operations but rather as something that transforms how organisations carry out their mandates. With a total budget of $700,000, the inaugural application deadline is December 15, 2013. In future, the program will be annual and the application date has not yet been set. Council is also developing a web-based resource centre and list of service providers for more general needs.

Convening NASOs in 2014 and beyond

Considering the disappearance of the Canadian Conference for the Arts, and considering the focused advocacy mandate of the Canadian Arts Coalition, the Canada Council who has organised all previous NASO meetings encourages the arts community to develop greater autonomy in organising. According to a survey of participants prepared by the meeting facilitators MDR Burgess Consultants, the main reasons for meeting include discussing common topics with other NASOs, networking with peers from other disciplines and sectors from across the country, meeting with Canada Council’s CEO and personnel, and potentially meeting with other funders. Overall, the meetings provide participants with a big picture, and develop capacity to better anticipate and respond to shifts in the environment. A working group was formed to organise the next meeting and examine how NASOs can create more synergy around research, analysis and sharing of information to the wider community.