The Arts Council's ongoing Stakeholder focus research has been running annually since 2009. The 2013 research was conducted in September and October 2013, and the results are currently being analysed.
The official statistics release for the 2013 research can be downloaded here, and the pre-release list of Arts Council staff with 24-hour pre-release access to the statistics can be accessed here. A full report on the 2013 findings will be published in March 2014, alongside a response on how the Arts Council intends to respond to the research.
We take the findings from the research very seriously and our Chief Executive, Alan Davey writes a response to the findings explaining how he intends to take them forward. You can download the response to the 2012 findings in the same place.
About the research
The fieldwork for the 2013 research took place between 12 September and 18 October 2013 and was run by an independent research agency, DHA Communications in conjunction with ICM Research, building on the 2012 and 2011 waves of the research which they also undertook for us. These three waves of research build on a first phase undertaken in 2009 by Ipsos Mori.
Headline findings from the 2012 research
The findings from the 2012 research highlight areas where we are performing well and where there is room for improvement:
Converting the mission into a coherent plan
The Arts Council's mission to achieve great art and culture for everyone, and our strategic framework are widely understood and used as a reference point across the sector. There is also an increase in support of public funding of the arts and culture, as well as much support for Lottery funding.
However, stakeholders think that we may be less effective in achieving our mission largely because of the fact that there is less funding available for us to distribute. There is also less certainty about the way in which our mission translates into a clear plan for achieving aims, or how some areas of strategic funding fit into an overall direction.
Our stakeholders also do not fully recognise the values that we hold in the way that we work with them. We are seen to be more knowledgeable and accountable than nurturing and bold.
Working relationships and the impact of the new structure
Respondents who best understand our goals and priorities are most likely to have a good working relationship with us, including those closest to us such as our National portfolio organisations. Those who are not in receipt of regular funding have a less positive working relationship with us.
There are, however, very significant concerns about working relationships in the future. Stakeholders and opinion formers are concerned about the breadth and range of responsibilities of the Arts Council in a context of reduced resources.
These include concerns about the degree of local presence which the Arts Council can maintain, the style of relationship management and the extent to which the Arts Council can continue to build and broker partnerships at local, regional and national levels.
There is also significant concern about the potential impact of the new structure on local 'on-the-ground' presence, the range of available expertise, capacity for complex partnership working and knowledge of different policy areas, such as local government.
Partnerships and collaborative working
Partnership working is felt to be crucial to the Arts Council's ability to impact on a range of both thematic and geographical areas. The Arts Council is understood to bring value as a facilitator of such partnerships, but there is significant concern about its capacity to continue to grow activity in this area.
At a local level, partnerships with local government are seen as fundamental to the future of the arts and cultural sector. Whilst there is praise for some of the recent partnership work at the Arts Council, there are concerns about the range and direction of some of the strategic funds.
For many the Arts Council's future impact depends particularly upon its ability to develop real partnership working. There is significant concern about the Arts Council's capacity to undertake this kind of work in the future, particularly within an environment which many feel will become more complex.
Building on learning
There is a sense that the Arts Council collects feedback, intelligence and data, but is not always able to apply it. For some, this is an indication of the circumstances in which the Arts Council finds itself at present and its capacity for reflection.
There was also concern over the degree to which the Arts Council has the capacity to take the time and space to reflect upon previous experience and existing data. However, more respondents think we should be making the case for investment in the arts and culture than last year.
About Stakeholder focus
In 2009 the Arts Council England introduced a regular stakeholder survey to support continual organisational improvement, and help focus our delivery on what really matters to people.
Our survey asks the public, artists, arts organisations and other interested partners their opinions on what we are doing well and where we need to improve. For more information about who our stakeholders are see below.
Organisations of all sizes and from all geographical regions are represented in the research. Members of the public who are surveyed include those who do currently engage with the arts and those who don't.
Stakeholder focus helps us to strengthen our relationships with the public and other stakeholders and to encourage more artists and arts organisations to engage with wider communities, supporting our work around Great art and culture for everyone.
The fieldwork for the first wave of Stakeholder focus research took place in September 2009 and was run by independent research agency Ipsos Mori. The headline findings from the first wave were released as official statistics in November 2009.
To help us reach the full range of our current and future stakeholders we have grouped them into three types:
Arts sector and partners
These individuals and organisations either receive funding or are key partners and collaborators in delivering our mission. They include:
- organisations that receive regular funding
- Grants for the arts recipients
- central government and local authority staff who are involved in the arts and culture
- a range of national and regional agencies such as unions, trade associations, development agencies
- Opinion formers
Opinion formers play an important role in shaping policy or government funding decisions about the arts. This group includes:
- 'political' audiences, such as MPs, peers, think tanks and lobby groups
- some leading and high-profile artists and arts professionals who receive either public funding or are commercial
This group includes:
- consumers of the arts who either currently attend arts events or participate
- people who may not be actively engaged with the arts but have an interest as tax payers and potential beneficiaries
Using the research
Stakeholder focus research is an important tool for helping the Arts Council improve its relationships with stakeholders. Since the first wave of research was carried out in 2009, staff across the organisation have been examining the findings in detail and developing an action plan, which is summarised in Alan Davey's response. The Arts Council is committed to using the research as a basis for creating a better dialogue with stakeholders to measure any changes in opinions and to track the Arts Council's progress.
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.