The Log that would be King – Cultural Policy and Process

Business Process Design is a fascinating and highly creative practice.  What happens if we apply this highly creative practice to an analysis of our culture, arts and heritage sectors in an attempt to improve efficiency, productivity and outcomes – because lets face it there wont be any serious investment in the sector in the coming budgets so we might as well play with internal improvements.

First its important that we understand the idea of Process. So here’s a nice picture:


As you can see its a straightforward concept. You take a load of Inputs that are Transformable, feed them into a Transforming Process that changes the inputs, adds value and creates the Transformed Outputs. A rough-hewn log being fed into a wood mill and emerging as regular planks is the perfect image for process thinking.

If we look at the Culture and Creative sector then its pretty apparent that the process is “Individual Creativity”.  The output is a whole range of stuff and ideas and behaviours that we can group under arts, heritage and culture, which in turn become inputs.

The question then is where does the Department of AHRRGA and its various “arms length” agencies sit in the process. Are they inputs, part of the process or are they outputs?  This is an important question, because when we’re dealing with intangibles the status of each element can become confused.

I would argue that the transforming process is creativity. It’s creativity that transforms talent, ideas, money etc into cultural artifacts and value. It follows that the Dept and it’s agencies are clusters of inputs – some ideas, some human resources but mostly money. It’s the creativity that creates the value. 

All well and good, except for the fact that in our cultural sector the Dept and it’s agencies behave as if they were the transforming process. They set up policies and criteria and put out funding calls. The creative practitioners put their creative ideas into this as inputs, certain inputs are selected in the belief that the agencies can shape the outputs – essentially deciding what is and isn’t art and culture. In doing this they actively prevent and retard the effective working of the process, the creation of the culture.

It’s like trying to feed a timber Mill into a Log.

So what needs to happen? The dept and it’s agencies need to stop trying to shape and determine the outputs. The creative practitioners need to stop thinking that they are inputs into a culture Mill.  We need to ask are the legislation and funding tools feeding the creativity or are they impeding it? If they are impeding it we need to change them so that they feed and support the creativity.

In short we need to accept that dept and agencies serve the creativity and not vice versa. We need to stop getting the process arse about tit. 


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