Arts Council England
Three pioneering diversity research projects around staff and consumer inclusion in UK arts and culture
1. Investigating how children and young people engage with the arts
Arts Council England (ACE) first commissioned us to report on the different experiences of the arts for younger groups, together with recommendations for equality action-planning. Our diversity research team was led by Mark Robinson and Imogen Blood.
Following a period of desk research in which we synthesised available research data from ACE and elsewhere, we conducted semi-structured telephone interviews with 23 individuals involved in arts and culture with, for or by children and young people. These were structured around themes emerging from the initial review period, including potential barriers to – and enablers of – engagement by diverse children and young people.
Our approach cut across all nine protected characteristics, but also factored in socio-economic status and educational attainment. This allowed us to identify:
- Patterns of cultural difference
- Barriers to engagement
- Specific gaps in current ACE provision.
We were also careful to take into account the impact of changing governmental policy, of digital and social media, and the importance of location and parental support on how these groups interact with various art-forms.
Our final report – ‘Every child: equality and diversity in arts and culture with, by and for children and young people’ – was published on the ACE website, along with an equality and diversity infographic and action plan. The resulting findings and recommendations were used internally to develop strategy and to inform policy.
We also provided recommendations for improved diversity data collection and monitoring, plus guidance on programming, funding and strategic leadership. Our recommendations were featured in an article in ArtsProfessional magazine – ‘Arts Council must “radically improve” young person diversity monitoring’ – in February 2017.
2. Identifying trends, barriers and opportunities for disabled people working in the sector
Arts Council England called on EW Group to look into sector workforce development as it relates to disabilities. In 2016, the level of disabled representation within the arts and culture workforce was as low as 4%. The aim of the research was to improve understanding within the organisation of disabled people’s experiences and perceptions of the arts and culture workforce. ACE also wanted to identify any barriers to entry and progression, and gauge what can be done about them.
Our fieldwork brought together a range of audiences for face-to-face and online consultations, including:
- Disabled employees across the sector
- Disability champions from ACE NPOs
- Disabled young people pre-employment
- Disabled candidates who have been unsuccessful in job applications
- NPO HR Directors, Learning and Development leads, and Chief Executives.
The centrepiece of the data gathering was a full-day Open Space workshop. This provided best practice examples of talent attraction, recruitment and retention, as well as recommendations for future diversity strategy.
Our final research report, ‘Making a Shift’, was published in January 2018. It includes sets of recommendations for short-, medium- and long-term action planning, clustered under the following themes:
Awareness and Understanding – increasing understanding and awareness of the creative achievements and potential of disabled people, and of their access needs.
Entry and Progression – creating a more supportive environment for disabled people to progress in the arts and culture workforce by making a shift in how the sector works.
Support and Shift – making it possible for more disabled people to have productive and varied careers in arts and culture.
ACE Chief Executive Darren Henley, speaking at a special diversity event at Contact Theatre in December 2016, had the following to say:
“Disabled representation within the arts and culture workforce now stands at 4%. We all have to do better – and I include the Arts Council in that challenge. Last year, we commissioned research from the EW Group to help us get a better picture of why this figure is now so low. This showed that disabled people still face significant barriers to employment, especially around access to work. We’ve expressed our concerns to Government about recent changes and their impact on the ability of disabled artists to develop their careers. We’re watching what happens next and will continue to make representations.”
3. Producing a Practical Guide to Culture Change for Arts and Culture Organisations
Our latest project for Arts Council England was the design and production of a Culture Change Toolkit: a good practice guide to diversity, culture change and people management to be made available to the whole arts and culture sector. ACE wanted a practical, accessible and stimulating guide to employing, promoting and supporting diverse talent, from entry- to board-level.
The guide was created in close consultation with representatives from across the sector. These included existing staff and artists from music, theatre and visual arts organisations of various sizes, and across various strands of diversity. We wanted to get a clear sense of what the sector needed most, and what would be most practical for its employers, employees and other key stakeholders.
The guide to culture change was built around the following key sections:
- How to find and grow diverse talent
- How to recruit diverse talent
- How to support diverse people
- How to develop diverse leadership
- How to create diverse boards
- How to collect and use diversity data.
Each section was supported by a set of case studies, reflecting real-life, sector-specific examples of good practice in the relevant area. These were reinforced by signposts to available resources, as well as our own downloadable tools, including templates, checklists and other forms of go-to top tips.
The final Culture Change Toolkit was published in December 2017, and made available to an array of user organisations, sector leaders and recruitment heads.
As part of the Culture Change Toolkit, we also provided a list of recommendations for effective actions on the themes of:
- Diversifying the talent pool
- Diversity in recruitment and selection
- Performance management and diversity
- Employee data collection
- Inclusive leadership
- Board diversity.