Cultural Commissioning Programme: Sharing the learning

Jessica Harris manages NCVO’s Cultural Commissioning Programme, which works with the arts and cultural sector, commissioners, and policy makers to strengthen commissioning of arts and culture. Sign up here to receive updates on the programme and its projects.

Three years ago, the Cultural Commissioning Programme started with a research report which gave valuable insight into opportunities for the arts and cultural sector to collaborate with commissioners to deliver outcomes for health, wellbeing and local communities.

This insight has underpinned our delivery programme, bringing us to a point where we have collated a body of knowledge and good practice on commissioning of the cultural sector to deliver public service outcomes. We will be drawing on this over the coming months to build support at national level for those engaged in this field of work – whether in the cultural sector or as public service commissioners.

Over the past two years we have used a range of approaches to strengthen the landscape for cultural commissioning, connecting with hundreds of organisations. We’ve supported the development of skills and knowhow, provided platforms for practice and debate, and helped in relationship-building between commissioners and cultural organisations.

Learning through partnership

We’ve taken the opportunity to work with local partners to test new approaches and to learn from our findings. Our two commissioner pilots have explored new ways of working to strengthen their engagement with the arts and cultural sector. In both, there are ground-breaking developments with new programmes in place where arts organisations are funded to deliver outcomes across a range of health and wellbeing areas. The work of these pilots is being followed with interest by many others in local authorities and health.

In our five locality projects, we have supported arts and cultural organisations to work collaboratively. This has helped them raise the profile of what they offer, how they engage with communities, and how their work supports wellbeing and quality of life. This has helped them build relationships with public service leaders and commissioners, leading to funded pilots, and to conversations with service leads in local authorities and clinical commissioning groups about more strategic partnerships.

We have learnt hugely from this body of work and from the people and organisations involved. Some of our findings are published in The Art of Commissioning, aimed at leaders and commissioners of public services, with a further report to follow for the arts and cultural sector.

The road ahead

Through building a picture of the good practice, curating some of the evidence base, and documenting some of the networks which are engaged, we have a valuable platform for building influence at national level.

There is still a long way to go: there are more people and organisations to engage with to get the innovative practices of the arts and cultural sector better embedded in commissioning for health, wellbeing and communities. However, doors are open, and we look forward to working with others who play a role in this field of work.

Many have been involved in the Cultural Commissioning Programme. Our thanks go to CCP partners NEF and NPC, which have provided expertise, delivery work on the ground and project management input. CCP’s Advisory Group has been pivotal in the programme’s development, encouraging us to aim high and helping us gain platforms at strategic and national levels. Those involved in pilots on the ground have contributed fresh thinking, skills and commitment. We have been supported by some excellent external specialists which, along with the Arts Council, have provided funding and helped us to communicate. To all, huge thanks are due.

You can sign up here to stay informed as our work continues.


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