The Arts Council has important relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders, across Westminster, local authorities, the arts and cultural sector, and the general public.
Our Stakeholder focus research, which has been running since 2009, helps us to understand our reputation and performance - where our stakeholders feel we are doing well, and where we need to improve. It also explores public opinion about public funding of arts and culture and of the importance of arts and culture in people’s lives.
This research helps us to evaluate our progress in becoming more transparent and accountable. What we learn from it informs our approach to delivering the five goals of our 10-year strategy, Great art and culture for everyone. Now more than ever, it’s important that we are aware of how we are doing, and of where we need to focus our attention and resources.
The release of the 2015 stakeholder research brings together the results of an online survey of more than 1,000 stakeholders across the arts and cultural sector. Overall, the survey returned a largely positive picture of the Arts Council as a well-regarded organisation that is thought to be heading in the right direction. Stakeholders are becoming increasingly familiar with the Arts Council, and this is linked to stronger favourability and advocacy scores. In this, Relationship managers continue to play a key role promoting positive working relationships and communications with the Arts Council.
However, there remain some significant areas for improvement. Stakeholders would like to see the Arts Council become more bold, creative and collaborative (Local authority stakeholders are most likely to want the Arts Council to become more collaborative). Stakeholders also feel that the Arts Council could do more to demonstrate the value of its investment; and in the year of a Spending Review, stakeholders would like to see the Arts Council develop its advocacy, make a persuasive case for future investment, and ensure that the money it is allocated is distributed fairly.
This release of this stakeholder research brings together our findings from three pieces of research that we ran in 2014: two public polls, and a series of in depth telephone interviews with opinion formers, including representatives from National portfolio organisations, Major partner museums, libraries, local authorities, think tanks and lobby groups.
On the whole, this batch of research gives us an encouraging picture, as well as showing some clear areas for development. We have achieved good standing with the opinion formers who think that we are doing a difficult job well, and that we have made progress with our transparency and accountability. They also expressed desire to see us be still more open about our processes, and to take a visible advocacy role on behalf of the sector. There were also some questions about the ease of the investment process, and the national spread of our funding.
The surveys of public opinion threw up some contradictory results; for example, one question showed a fall in support for public investment in art and culture back to previous levels from a high at the last survey. However other questions, indicated very strong approval for the current level of public funding when placed in the context of the small amount of government funding culture receives, and for the role of art and culture in education, and for the use of Lottery money.
We will be learning the lessons of this latest research. It makes a valuable contribution to the Art’s Council’s understanding of itself and the public it serves, and the role of art and culture in our lives.
Plans for future Stakeholder focus research
Stakeholder focus research will continue to be undertaken in 2015-16. The large-scale online survey of the arts and cultural sector takes place every 2 years, so the next survey is scheduled to take place in 2017.
If you have any questions about our Stakeholder focus research contact Jonathon Blackburn, Senior Officer, Policy and Research, Arts Council England, via email or on 0161 934 4364.