Posted on 18 December 2012.
I’m pleased to use this corner of Orchestras Canada’s website to update you on recent exchanges that OC staff, board, and members have had with the Canada Council for the Arts—at our National Meetings in Montreal in May, at the National Arts Service Organizations meetings in Ottawa on October 22, at a pair of meetings with specially-assembled Advisory Committees November 29 and 30, and with representatives from Orchestras Canada’s advocacy committee on December 7.
There has been a lot of discussion—and more is coming. Here is what we have gleaned so far.
The Change Agenda
The Canada Council is in the midst of fundamentally shifting its ways of working. Areas of focus include:
• Reviewing all of the Canada Council’s programs of operating support (including all operating programs in Music).
• Reviewing the Flying Squad program.
• Strengthening Council’s understanding of the “changing landscape for the arts” – the issues and Council’s relationship to them. The issues include (but are not limited to) public engagement, national and international market access, equity, and Canada’s north.
• Implementing significant changes in the ways that Council gets things done, from information systems through on-line grant submission and analysis, to the design of offices and the structure of the organizational chart.
Why is this happening now?
It is Council’s understanding that their base funding from the government of Canada has stabilized and that it is unlikely to grow in the near term. At the same time, the number and type of applications for funding have continued to increase, thanks in part to improved outreach to underserved communities, artists, and art forms. After much study and discussion, the board of Council has concluded that—to preserve Council’s credibility and responsiveness—Council’s programs must evolve to better represent the future shape of arts in the country. Council’s operations must, at the same time, become ever more efficient and cost-effective.
I took careful, though not literal, notes during the NASO meeting, and I’ll paraphrase Bob Sirman in this way: “Incremental change has long been the favoured approach of funders: the old money stays with the old programs, and new money is used to underwrite any new areas of work. This will no longer be the case at Canada Council: everything is on the table as we undertake a fundamental evaluation of our values, our priorities, and how those things are reflected in the way we allocate resources.”
What does it mean for my orchestra?
It’s not completely clear when any changes to the orchestra program might be announced. However, given what we DO know, it’s unlikely that your orchestra will experience changes during the current three-year funding cycle at Council. The public aspect of the operating funding review will unfold over six months or so, launching with consultation sessions with 24 advisors in late November, incorporating national face-to-face meetings in 14 different cities in March and April 2013, and teleconferences and webinars for people in more remote centres.
It’s also important to acquaint yourself with Council’s Fair Notice and Concerned Status policies, outlined on page 7 of the Professional Orchestra Program: Annual Funding Guidelines, here. These policies are not part of the “change agenda”, but given the pressures on Council, there’s every reason to think that they will be more consistently applied to organizations whose work does not meet a competitive standard.
How can I get involved?
We highly recommend that you
1. Participate in the consultation sessions being organized by the Canada Council, either face-to-face or through virtual means;
2. Acquaint yourself with Council’s current thinking. Places to start:
• Council’s current strategic plan
• the funding guidelines linked to above
• Council’s paper on public engagement
• The Director’s message from Canada Council’s 11/12 Annual Report
3. Stay in touch with Orchestras Canada. We’ll be doing our best to share what we know, and we ask you to do the same. We’ll also be working to develop some useful and well-researched messages about the value of Canadian orchestras’ work, and the role that federal investment through the Canada Council plays in taking that work ever further.