Show me a former industrial complex and I’ll show you a potential cultural centre

At the “Beyond the Cultural Model” conference (Oct. 16, 2018) the communications expert and cultural model consultant José Rodríguez (SE) shared insights from Trans Europe Halles and Creative Lenses project, offering inspiring case studies.

Ten years after the global economic crisis and Slovenian organisations and businesses in the cultural and creative sectors (CCSs) are still feeling the effects. Everyone talks about resiliency, but how to go about achieving it seems to go left unsaid. If you work for an organisation in the cultural and creative sector, chances are your organisation operates with a two-sided business model. But is that the only way to do things? Are there other sources of revenue you haven’t uncovered? Or perhaps costs you could actually do without? Are you struggling to find viable and feasible ways for your organisation to deliver its meaningful programme and make the impact that you and your team envision? If so, then chances are, it’s time to take a good, hard look at your cultural (business) model using some tools that will help you reframe it.

Everyone talks about the need for resiliency, but how to achieve it?

Communications expert and cultural model consultant José Rodríguez (SE) shared insights from Trans Europe Halles and Creative Lenses project, offering inspiring case studies. 

José Rodríguez shared his insights into cultural model innovation. He is the author of toolkit To Sell or Not to Sell? which also provides a business model canvas slightly adapted to the cultural field. Through his work with the network Trans Europe Halles (TEH), based in Lund, Sweden, he’s also familiar with how some 108 citizen or artist-led initiatives in 33 countries situated in former industrial spaces or complexes are operating cultural centres. What’s the most common business model behind them? In four words: Community + Space + Events + Beer. He gave examples of the components and factors that influence the TEH members such as urban or rural location, building ownership, legal structure, income generation and revenue streams. Says José, income diversification is key, for example, it’s common to see a mix of funding, sponsorship, ticket sales, concessions, food and beverages, each providing approximately 20% of the organisation’s revenue.

José told of the profiles of 4 different models within Trans Europe Halles: 1) Department store model: 50% of the programme is made by the centre, multidisciplinary, professional staff; 2) Shopping centre: the cultural centre runs the facility and rents out space to cultural organisations for the programme(s); 3) La Boutique: strong focus, high-quality impact, specialised; 4) Charity Shop: a “hippie model”, run by volunteers, artists are paid, activities are highly connected to communities. Of course, there are also hybrid models that combine these different profiles, and while the models here are based on “commercial” enterprises, they’re used to describe culture activities.

Next, he spoke about the project Creative Lenses: Stronger Arts and Cultural Organisations for a Greater Social Impact (2015–19) which poses the question: What are the most valuable ways for the arts to be meaningful? No doubt, a tall question to answer and it’s worth checking out the website for case studies. Creative Lenses also undertook an 18-month experimental process called the Catalyst Programme. In it, 8 cultural organisations were selected to participate and gained training on audience development, consultation on business model innovation, plus 20,000 EUR to implement their changes. The organisations were given space to shake things up in a different way, to see what would happen.

These Catalyst Programme participants aren’t the only ones trying to figure out how to do things differently. In his book Reinventing Organizations Frederic Laloux describes a new paradigm of organisations who are radically changing the way they operate. He puts forth the concept of “Teal” organisations, as those who are able to keep in mind our humanity and our evolutionary purpose while creating sustainability.

José says there’s no recipe, but he does recommend a methodology for risk-driven business model innovation. The key is in the decisions and decision-making process. Consider who is making them, when they are making them and what type they are making. If you change who, change when, or change what type, that will bring transformation. 

– Business consultant Julie Aldridge (UK) spoke on how organisations in the CCSs might innovate their business models as a way to better deliver their visions brilliantly.
Edgar Garcia Casellas from the Catalan Institute for Cultural Companies (ICEC) told how the public Catalan model for CCSs has been reshaped to create a unique support and financing system that helps both non-profit organisations and for-profit companies in the creative sector to realise projects successfully.

See also: Beyond Cultural Model video lecture by Julie Aldridge & José Rodríguez (25´07 min).

Jana Renée Wilcoxen reports (see FULL REPORT) from the “Beyond the Cultural Model” conference (Oct. 16, 2018). Organised by Motovila Institute (CED Slovenia) within the Centre for Creativity platform, a programme run by the Museum of Architecture and Design, and in the frame of the Beyond Horizons study visit from Ukraine.