External Analysis: Social

In early 2016, arts organisations around Victoria will be working on their submissions to the 2016 Creative Victoria Organisation Investment Program. This is the next in a series of posts in which Regional Arts Victoria will be sharing some of the work we’ve done to prepare us for our own submission, published in the hope that it will of use to others in the sector.

Arts organisations don’t exist in isolation, and neither should your Strategic Plan. A useful exercise in scanning your environment is to brainstorm with your team on what Political, Economic, Social and Technical developments or trends might impact on you in the life of your Strategic Plan.

These terms don’t need to be organised too rigidly; they can be used simply to guide your thinking when considering the big wide world outside. At Regional Arts Victoria, we wrote a short post under each heading for our team to read through before our Strategic Planning brainstorm sessions. Below is the third of these, under the heading ‘Social.’


Small Town Transformations information session in Clunes

Full house at the Small Town Transformations information session in Clunes



The people we work with are, well, actual real-life people. Their interactions with our organisation are impacted by many factors outside our own experiences, including a number of wider social trends changing the way we live and work.

The increasing casualisation of our workforce, particularly in the not-for-profit sector, is one example of this. Employers can offer staff more opportunities to work from home as well as flexible hours to complete their tasks. Regional Arts Victoria’s own Quiet Fridays is one example of the type of offerings becoming common in workplaces.

Many employers are also recognising the importance of caring for the mental health of their employees. This issue gained some traction in the arts in 2015. As well as our organisational employees, our sector has a high number of contract and freelance workers who do not always have access to strong networks of support when they are dealing with periods of poor mental health.

It is exciting to read that in the Australia Council for the Arts report ‘The Arts in Daily Life’ that 85% of people believe the arts make life richer and more meaningful, and that 94% of people engaged with the arts as audiences in some way. Just under half also creatively participated in at least one art form.

The same Australia Council for the Arts report also highlighted some challenges, however, finding that people living in regional communities were less likely than those living in cities to agree that there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in the arts. This was also cited as a reason why they do not participate in the arts creatively, with 50% (compared to 29% in metropolitan areas) suggesting there are not enough opportunities for them to do so close to home.

Arts and culture attracts residents (and investors) through contributing directly to a sense of place, in turn offering individuals a better quality of life. The arts can also play multi-faceted role in education, with partnerships between arts organisations and schools consistently delivering positive impacts on student engagement, social learning, improved creative skills, and increased student confidence.

These kinds of impacts, among others, are increasingly acknowledged in and outside of the arts sector. Just how successful arts organisations are at measuring their individual and collective impact is less certain, though the Cultural Development Network is doing some work in creating common impact benchmarks and measures.

Evaluating the depth, as well as the breadth, of the social and cultural impact our organisations have on our target audiences (including artists) will become a stronger focus of organisations such as Regional Arts Victoria in future years.


Further reading:
Galt, G., 2016, ‘The importance of managing mental health in the workplace’, The Globe and Mail.
Ní Shé, É. And Lymn, J., 2015, ‘Film festivals have impact, sure, but we need to measure that’, The Conversation.
Salt., B., 2014, Trends Shaping the Arts in Victoria, Creative Victoria.
Sander, L., 2016, ‘10 Ways Work Will Change in 2016’, The Conversation.


We don’t pretend to be the sole authorities on arts organisation governance. This post should help start discussions, not end them. Disagree with what we’ve said? Want to add some wisdom of your own? Great! Please post your contributions in the comments section below.