‘What do we Mean by a Systemic Conversation?’ by Richard Watts

Building on Culture Reset, Richard Watts CEO at people make it work, shares a range of new initiatives aimed at supporting the cultural sector to change and develop to meet the urgent demands for inclusion, improved governance and more dispersed models of leadership.

Published by Arts Professional, 20 July 2021

‘What do we Mean by a Systemic Conversation?’

Is that a headline to grab attention? I’m not sure it is, but it’s the question we are asking all the time at people make it work.

We’ve been ‘supporting cultural organisations to change and develop’ for more than 20 years. That’s been our mission, and it doesn’t feel good enough anymore.

Now, we exist to support the cultural sector to change and develop. The replacement of one word reflects a strategic shift, from supporting client organisations as they achieve their change goal, to being in service to systemic change, and being committed to using our skills, experience and relationships to help make that happen.

people make it work has always been mission-led, and we have tended to donate time to support smaller organisations and individual cultural practitioners (predominantly from diverse backgrounds or focused on social justice objectives) to realise their change and leadership ambitions.

During the pandemic we made a pledge that ‘every cultural organisation and leader should be provided with the expert support they need at this time, regardless of their ability to pay, which meant free videos, tools and advice for anyone who needed it. We also created Culture Reset which we self-funded alongside generous grant funding from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Why doesn’t someone do something?

So what’s changed for us? I suppose it’s a recognition that it’s not good enough to work with what we are offered, to support the organisations who knock on our door (most often with our fee in their pocket) and complement that with some pro bono or discounted work on the fringes of our portfolio.

In the past, organisations might have stated the conditions they are working within as external to themselves; indeed, pointed to them as reasons they might have missed targets or failed to deliver on ambitions. We would have heard, “the problem is there just aren’t talented people from x community who can play at the expert level we need” or “what you don’t understand is how hard it is to get people from x community to apply”. We might have heard, “they (someone, those other people, that other organisation) should invest more (support more, intervene earlier, do something) so that the issue is addressed, or the barriers are removed”. You might have heard yourself in those words.

Today we are more likely to hear a systemic conversation with an awareness of the causal relationships, the involvement, the complicity even. We are more likely to see organisations choosing to frame one of their strategic goals around systemic change.

From: why doesn’t someone do something?

To: what could we do that would make a positive difference?

Read the full article by Richard, and find out more about how to frame a systemic conversation and the initiatives to tackle the challenges – https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/magazine/article/what-do-we-mean-systemic-conversation 

Published by Arts Professional, 20 July 2021

people make is work

people make is work is a group of 60 freelance cultural leaders who work together with a shared mission. Together, they support the cultural sector to change and develop. They do that with transformational programmes for organisations, leaders and creative individuals, direct strategic consultancy for organisations and cities and by offering free tools, guidance, advice and resources that everyone can access. They do all this to realise a fairer, more representative, resilient and relevant cultural sector.

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