Needs assessment

We have produced an overview of the perceived and identified Continuing Professional Development (CPD) needs of cultural sector leaders on the basis of surveys, documented workshops and in-depth interviews, which are reflected in our publication Narratives by Cultural Change Makers (see list of sources below).

At a general level, the CPD needs can be summarised as a need for (increased) professionalisation. The Fika Project is aimed at people who are already in positions of responsibility in the cultural sector and who are therefore not interested in basic skills. Generally speaking, their organisations have neither the time nor the money to be without key employees for lengthy periods of time, and so it must be possible to combine the training with the regular job. For this reason alone, several of our informants have underlined the importance of ensuring that the training is truly useful and can make a difference; it has to be worth the sacrifice made by both the individual and the organisation.

The perceived CPD needs can be divided into three categories, dealing with personal development, the organisation’s internal work and the organisation’s outward-facing work.

Personal development: having opportunities to:
share experiences with colleagues and self-reflect
become aware of our own drivers
bring our own ‘hidden’ knowledge to the fore
improve self-confidence through training and networking

Internal work: become better at
contributing to a creative working climate that is sustainable in the long term
managing conflict
managing stress
dealing with discrimination and power inequalities
managing and developing resources
analysing the organisation in terms of purpose, resources and capabilities

Outward-facing work: become better at:
analysing how our work influences, and is influenced by, the world around us
managing insecurity, risk and changeability
working interculturally with others
working with the private, public and voluntary sectors
building networks
identifying alternative forms of investment
negotiating with potential funders
arguing the value of our organisation
arguing against tendencies towards instrumentalism, bureaucratisation and politicisation
communicating with users
exploiting digital media

The question, however, is what is meant by the ‘professionalisation of cultural leadership’. One answer is: a general level of competence and universal tools that are suitable in all contexts and circumstances, irrespective of whether the organisation is large or small, commercial or not-for-profit, traditional or innovating. Many examples of cultural leadership training focus on this interpretation of professionalisation, which in practice often means that the training features large or medium-sized, established and heavily-subsidised cultural institutions as the norm.
The Fika Project represents a different interpretation of professionalisation. We question received wisdom about context-free skills and hierarchical organisations and conventional notions of authority and expertise. But we also challenge a number of preconceptions that are widespread in the cultural sector: that public grants are preferable to other types of funding, large organisations are models for smaller ones, cultural organisations in cities are more vibrant than those in rural areas, cultural organisations should copy the operational methods of the business world, and artistic activity is fundamentally different from all the other work in an organisation.

In our understanding, cultural leadership is always practised in a three-dimensional reality; the operational dimension must, in our view, be complemented by a contextual and a relational dimension. Without an understanding of the context and of relationships with colleagues, external parties, users and funders, skills and tools may be ineffectual. Views on what a cultural leader is expected to know should be adjusted accordingly. ‘Capability’ is an umbrella term that embraces knowledge, skills and competences.

The Fika Project does not view professionalisation as a universal tool but as empowerment, an opportunity for individual participants to work alongside peers and supervisors to develop their capabilities operationally, contextually and relationally.