In early 2016, arts organisations around Victoria will be working on their submissions to the 2016 Creative Victoria Organisation Investment Program. In this blog series, Regional Arts Victoria will be sharing some of the work we’ve done to prepare us for our own submission, in the hope that it will of use to others in the sector. This post discusses Regional Arts Victoria’s Values.
When you’re working on a key governance document such as your Strategic Plan, two critical things to place front and centre are the Mission and Values of your organisation.
There are some varying definitions, interpretations and practical applications of both these terms across the arts sector. You can type them into your favourite search engine to find out more about the theory behind them (with some 50,000,000 results retrieved when we tried it), and many organisations will publish them on their websites (Regional Arts Victoria included).
Making things even more interesting, some organisations will add a Vision Statement to their suite of governance tools (adding another 25,000,000 or so results to your search engine retrievals). If you haven’t encountered these tools before, it can be a bit daunting to find a guide that is useful for you and your organisation.
In his 2014 Book of the Board: Effective Governance for Non-Profit Organisations, David Fishel provides some guidance on the Mission Statement, Vision Statement, and Values, as well as some useful insights into how to develop and monitor the progress of each collaboratively. This book is worth reading in full, and we won’t attempt to communicate all of it through this humble blog post.
Instead, in this blog series we present Regional Arts Victoria’s Mission, Vision and Values and a commentary explaining what we are trying to achieve with each, and how they were created.
At Regional Arts Victoria…
We are leaders. We know that what we say, and who we say it to, matters. We are committed to public and private advocacy for the arts, and we do it with integrity.
We are inspired. Art is at the core of our being. Artistic practice is the way we connect to the world and to one another. We actively facilitate work that is timely, honest and connected to place.
We adapt. We are open to new ideas, and regularly and rigorously test the ideas we already have. We reflect. We learn. We change. We are restless. We do not accept that what has been must always be so.
We are optimists. We take risks. We fail, but we are never defeated. We are confident.
We are it. We are the best we’ve got. We are people first. We trust us. We are generous. We are respectful. We make time, and we are not done yet.
Whereas your Mission and Vision might describe what you will achieve and why, your Values will document how you go about your work in an organisational culture sense.
Over a number of years, with the input of Board and Staff, Regional Arts Victoria sought to develop a set of values that were real, practical, and that defined the scope of our collaborations and our energies. We were a little suspicious of documenting Values because often they can seem empty or meaningless words applicable to any organisation; we wanted something which captured what it is like to work with us, and only us.
We think our Values do that. More so even than the Mission or Vision, your Values must be true to your organisation, and they should reflect the behaviours of your Staff, Board, Volunteers, Artists – everyone you consider to be part of what makes your organisation what it is. At Regional Arts Victoria, we think that Values tend to be noticed most in their absence; much of what is stated in them becomes internalised and understood just through working with us. (Our values will be reviewed as part of our strategic planning process in 2016. We’ll post an update once we’ve checked in on them.)
Your organisation could start with brainstorming some key words within your organisation about what it is like to work with you, and then try and group these into common themes. This might also help you determine what you want to change about your organisation culture, and how you go about doing this.
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.