As part of our refreshed strategy, Great art and culture for everyone, we have five strategic goals are at the heart of the work we do at the Arts Council, and are therefore an important part of our decision-making process. A summary of these goals are as follows.

Goal 1: Excellence is thriving and celebrated in the arts, museums and libraries

Goal 2: Everyone has the opportunity to experience and be inspired by the arts, museums and libraries

Goal 3: The arts, museums and libraries are resilient and environmentally sustainable

Goal 4: The leadership and workforce in the arts, museums and libraries are diverse and appropriately skilled

Goal 5: Every child and young person has the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts, museums and libraries

There were two stages to our decision-making process, both of which take these goals into account. 

Stage one: checking criteria 

Once an application was deemed eligible (see the Eligibility page), we made an assessment of the quality of the application itself, looking at the organisation/consortium and the programme proposed against the following criteria:

  • in reference to our mission and goals, the quality the contribution each application will make to goals 1 and 2. We also expect most organisations to deliver against goal 5. We understand that there may be some specialist organisations to which goal 5 may not necessarily apply; for example those that work with older people. In these particular circumstances applications that do not contribute to goal 5 will not be treated less favourably than those that do. 
  • our assessment took into account the nature of each organisation and the amount of funding applied for. 
  • we also made an assessment of the risks associated with each application to see if there are any weaknesses and threats to each organisation's capacity to lead and manage effectively the programme of work that was proposed; and for financial viability.
  • if an application was successful, we used the risk assessment as a basis for tailoring a monitoring plan suitable to each proposal. 
  • we also expected organisations to have plans relating to good financial management; workforce skills; environmental sustainability and equality and diversity. For more go to Expectations of the National portfolio.  
  • we expect to work more closely with applicants we have assigned high risk ratings to, to develop a robust business plan during the funding agreement negotiation stage. For more information on this, see section seven of our National portfolio 2015-18 guidance document: ‘Finalising the funding offer’.
  • we made our assessment on the basis of the information provided in each application, our knowledge of each organisation, if applicable, and any further information that we specifically requested.
  • our assessors used ‘prompts’: that is, questions they ask themselves about the applications to help identify key issues. These prompts are set out in the National portfolio 2015-18 application guidance. It is important to note that not all the prompts are relevant to all applications, and they should not be read as a ‘checklist’ for applicants.

For a complete list of our assessment prompts when examining the above criteria, please read the full National portfolio 2015-18 application guidance.

Stage two: balancing the portfolio

In the second stage of our decision making process, we decided how well each applicant would fit into a balanced portfolio of funded organisations. In doing this, we looked at a range of areas and considered if we were achieving the right spread of investment across the arts. These are:

  • goals: in relation to our refreshed strategy, we looked across the national portfolio of organisations and considered how the portfolio is contributing to goals 1, 2 and 5 (see top of this page for a list). 
  • diversity: overall, we want our investment in the arts to create the conditions in which there is a diversity of leaders, producers and creators of art and audiences, reflecting the diversity of contemporary England and our commitment to advance members from the protected characteristics as set out in the Equality Act (2010).
  • range of artforms: we want to support a range of artforms and a diversity of artistic practices. Artists and arts organisations often work across and between different artforms. However, we group the organisations we fund into six artform areas in order to help us consider how we are investing in different parts of the sector. These are: combined arts (multiple artform, cross artform or hybrid artforms), dance, literature, music, theatre and visual arts 
  • size and type: there are many interdependencies within the arts sector and we want to invest in an appropriate mix of sizes and types of organisation. This includes, for example, considering an appropriate balance of building-based companies, touring companies, arts venues and other types of organisations. 
  • geographical spread: we took into account the need to support work by a national portfolio of funded organisations across the whole of England. However, we will consider how some organisations work intensively within their home region and some have a reach and impact far beyond their home region. Some will tour widely. We will take into account the potential reach of the portfolio as a whole and we will be particularly interested in how organisations plan to reach places of current low arts engagement.  
  • risk: we will take into account the level of financial risk to our investment across the national portfolio of organisations.

These balancing criteria provide a framework against which we will make an informed but discretionary judgment about how each organisation might contribute to a National portfolio of funded organisations.