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Five a Week 2: Some Things to Read and Think About

1. GOALS GONE WILD: THE SYSTEMATIC SIDE EFFECTS OF OVER-PRESCRIBING GOAL SETTING
It’s a new financial year this week and many people will be thinking about the goals they set themselves, or agreed with their managers. In some places it may well be ‘appraisal season’. Goals can be brilliant things for focussing effort, prioritising use of time and resources, supporting reflection and giving people a sense of achievement. They can also distort, deceive and dissemble. This paper looks at the side-effects of indiscriminate goal-setting and offers some very useful health warning. (I would add: Beware bonuses because they are goals-on-steroids – but that’s another story.)

Thanks to Toby Lowe for pointing this paper out.

2. A CREATIVE FUTURE IN A CHANGING WORLD
Sir Nicholas Serota gave his first speech as Arts Council England chair at last week’s No Boundaries conference. You can read it or watch it again – along with the other presentations on the No Boundaries website. The speech had been heavily trailed so we knew there’d be a new commission, with Durham University, on the benefit of the arts to children and young people. There is a continuity of focus – great art, although Serota doesn’t emphasise the phrase, alongside more equal involvement and young people. It is interesting, on rereading to see that the arguably more urgent matters of inequality, diversity and local authority funding are to be returned to.

I remain to be convinced we really need a long commission into the benefits of arts education and how best to deliver it, but I was glad to hear an Arts Council chair mention Creative Partnerships again, hopefully now removed from the ACE Index of Forbidden Things. The sentence I most want to parse in the speech is ‘What do we mean when we talk about culture for young people?’ That ‘we’ needs unpacking, for instance. And why not ‘by, with and for’? As Steve Dearden pointed out on Twitter, wouldn’t it be brilliant if the commission adopted, somehow, ACE’s own Quality Principles relating to work with, by and for children and young people?

3. INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION POST BREXIT
One of the dogs not really barking in Sir Nicholas Serota’s speech was a bulldog named Brexit, either its effects or its reflection of culture or Culture. ACE have, however, published their priorities for international collaboration post-Brexit. ACE are of course in a slightly tricky position with this – between a sector mainly vehemently Remainer-minded – and a government (and opposition, such as it is) reading a hell of a lot into a binary question. In that context it’s a perfectly reasonable position. Good luck to them arguing the cases.

4. STEP BY STEP: ARTS POLICY AND YOUNG PEOPLE 1944–2014
This report by James Doeser from a while ago summarises various arts policy attempts to ‘crack’ arts education and young people. It does what it says on the tin. I wrote about it when it came out. If you didn’t read it then, you should now.

5. ARCHIVE CHOICE: FASTER, BUT SLOWER SLOWER, BUT FASTER
I was really pleased that Nick Serota spent so much of his speech talking about Creative People & Places, despite a few ‘tells’ of old thinking persisting. Stoke is a great example of what CPPs have done at their best – as are Creative Barking & Dagenham’s Creative Connectors who wowed No Boundaries with their presentation. It gives me an opportunity to point out, again, the learning summary I did for CPP last year. (‘Archives’ can have new things in, can’t they?) I do think CPP is one of the most significant interventions by ACE in recent years.

Amongst the ‘top tips’ are some that I believe are applicable to many other cultural contexts. How, for instance, might the Durham Commission apply the principle of not entering (eg into the lives of young people) without invitation?

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