Social issues and earning power

  • policy & politics
  • research

In mid-June, 'In the spotlight. Groeipotenties voor de culturele sector door bijdragen aan maatschappelijke opgaven' (In the spotlight. Growth potential for the cultural sector by contributing to social tasks), a study that Berenschot conducted on behalf of the Permanent Committee OCW of the Lower House. The committee wanted to explore how the cultural and creative sector can increase its earning power with the aim of realizing a stable and (financially) stronger sector. The study focused on cultural institutions and individual creators.

Societal challenges

The cabinet states in the coalition agreement, and by extension State Secretary Gunay Uslu in her policy, that the creativity and cultural power of artists, designers and other creative professionals can help tackle complex social tasks. The researchers of Berenschot distinguish three forms of contributions of the cultural sector to social tasks: awareness creation, creativity and creativity.ërun (explore issues and interests), provide prospects for action (develop solution directions) and achieve impact (put into practice sustainably).

Earning power

With existing cash flows not increasing, the cultural sector needs a new perspective in increasing earning power. The researchers found that between 2009 and 2019, the revenues of the cultural sector increased by only four percent, while during the same period the gross domestic product increased by 30 percent. Own income and private contributions to the cultural sector increased to a limited extent and barely compensated for the decline in subsidies during those years. On top of that came the corona crisis.

Because existing cash flows are not increasing, the cultural sector needs a new perspective in increasing earning power

The vast majority of cultural projects and initiatives aimed at social issues appear to be financed from "cultural pots," or cash flows already earmarked for the cultural sector. The greatest opportunity for increasing earning power therefore lies in tapping into sources from other sectors, namely those that benefit from the cultural sector's contributions to tough issues in those sectors.

"In the event that the cultural sector succeeds in increasingly contributing to societal tasks, this legitimizes the increase of public contributions, including from other policy domains. In doing so, the researchers argue that the provision and financing of contributions to tasks are emphatically not only a task and concern of the cultural sector and the policymakers involved with that sector, but also and especially of the other sectors."

The revenues from social value often do not directly benefit the cultural sector

The revenues from social value often do not directly benefit the cultural sector. "A practical example is the healthcare sector, whose funding is structured around diagnosis and curation but the interventions from the cultural sector mainly contribute to prevention and meaningful living."

Experimentation and failure

Within cultural policy, attention must be paid to expanding the possibilities for subsidized cultural institutions to develop more and/or different activities than those for which performance agreements have been made with the subsidizers. If a task or issue arises for which a creative, valuable solution can be developed, it is beneficial if the institution or creator has space, time and resources to work on solutions. That also means room to experiment, to fail, to take a new path and to explore alternatives. A precondition for this is structural funding from governments that guarantees a sustainable and solid cultural basis.

Social commissioning deserves attention

The researchers also foresee growth potential for the cultural sector in the form of commissioned work. Whereas now it is generally the cultural sector that takes the initiative to come up with creative solutions, other sectors can be encouraged to formulate and put topics and issues on the agenda themselves, and to invite the cultural sector to contribute to solutions. Moreover, they can be encouraged to remove barriers in their funding systems for commissioning creative parties or reimbursing cultural interventions. However, the researchers do not expect the other sectors themselves to easily come to demand articulation and find appropriate cultural partners. Parties such as healthcare institutions, housing corporations, agricultural cooperatives do not find creators and cultural institutions naturally and, moreover, they do not always understand each other's language and processes.

Other sectors can be encouraged to invite the cultural sector to contribute to solutions

There are good experiences in the country with intermediaries from the national, provincial and local support structure. Supporting institutions, national and provincial, combine experience, knowledge, expertise and network, for example in the field of art in care. They can thus function as boosters and intermediaries. They provide parties from other domains with knowledge about the value of art and culture and the contributions that makers and cultural organizations can make to challenges in other domains, thereby stimulating cooperation and commissioning. They also connect social organizations and the business community to the cultural and creative sector. In the context of stimulating social commissioning, these roles are very helpful, if not indispensable, both for the cultural sector and other domains.

Position Paper

In late August, a position paper was published by Marleen Stikker, Liesbeth Bik and Meta Knol, on behalf of Kunsten '92, Akademie van Kunsten (KNAW), Waag Future Lab and the Federatie Creatieve Industrie, which addresses the question of what is needed to deploy the power of change of cultural makers and thinkers for the benefit of future-oriented, social developments. The paper identifies points needed to this end and makes recommendations. "It is high time for a revaluation of the artist-mindset, by allowing free space for curiosity-driven, artistic and design research in all social strata and domains. By valuing fact and imagination equally, we can grow together and build a sustainable future. Creativity, art and culture deserve a key role in shaping the future of the Netherlands. The time is ripe for it, the opportunities are great and its impact will benefit us all."


Download the study here In the spotlight

Download the Position Paper here

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