Is bartering back?

February 9, 2009

The Kennedy Centre has announced a new initiative entitled Arts in Crisis described as

a program designed to provide planning assistance and consulting to struggling arts organizations throughout the United States. Open to non-profit 501(c)(3) performing arts organizations, the program will provide counsel from Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser and the Kennedy Center executive staff in the areas of fundraising, building more effective Boards of Trustees, budgeting, marketing, technology, and other areas pertinent to maintaining a vital performing arts organization during a troubled economy.

This is an interesting way for a national cultural institution to channel their resources into the artistic community when swinging cuts are making it difficult for arts organisations to think clearly about what the next year will bring. (There’s more on the Kennedy Center initiative in this Washington Post article).
Andrew Taylor writes eloquently about the systemic conditions around the Kennedy initiative and suggests that

The crisis in the arts, or any other industry, is an ecological one. Any crisis can certainly benefit from unilateral and independent action. But a more resilient and encompassing response would also include recognition and interconnection of the entire ecosystem that provides coaching, counseling, mentorship, and responsive strategy support to organizations and leaders at the edge of collapse.

Thinking outside the (black) box may be mainstreamed as a result of this recession – again and again I’m finding myself in conversations with practitioners who are struggling to reframe this downturn as an opportunity for self reflection and creative ways of sharing the resources do exist – bartering, mentoring, a spirit of generosity and myriad other non cash alternatives are coming back into fashion and I believe it’s only a matter of time before we see some genuinely innovative ideas emerging about organisational design and structure. It occurred to me while reading the Kennedy Center website that an international initiative might be worth exploring – currently you can sign up to be a mentor but only if you’re based in North America – wouldn’t it be interesting to widen out the boundary and collaborate across geographical boundaries? Watch this space..