Loving congrats to winners – but warning to ACE: Excellence is not the monopoly of NPOs!

I sat on the train back to Yorkshire yesterday, obsessively tweeting to see the NPO results. We are currently an RFO and have been for ten years. But, as an ‘umbrella organisation’ working across all artforms and not directly producing work, I had no expectations of CIDA transmogrifying into an NPO. I was, I thought, entirely reconciled to that. Our core purpose is to ‘help creative people realise their dreams’ so of course we totally and wholeheartedly endorse the principle that the money should go to the artists. But then a strange thing started to happen as I read the tweets. This was further compounded by the quotes attributed to Liz Forgan in her media interviews which then made me pick up my metaphorical pen.

There seemed to be a growing sense yesterday that, if you didn’t become an NPO, then you were not ‘excellent’, certainly not first rung. Probably induced by media reporting shortcuts to headlines, I began to feel provoked. The truth is that our assessment is really good! So much so that I am going to reproduce it here – all except the financial bit that quotes figures which are inevitably commercially sensitive. I really want to reassure both our clients AND other good companies who didn’t get in for non- quality reasons that not being an NPO does not mean we aren’t very good at what we do! And I just wonder if ACE mightn’t have a think about this – difficult, I know, because clearly some organisations didn’t get the funding because they don’t deliver, but for those of us who do and have been judged as doing so, we need something – maybe even just a party!

National portfolio funding programme:
Assessment summary report
This report sets out a summary of our assessment of your application.
Our assessment was split into two distinct stages. The first stage was an assessment of the application itself, looking at your organisation and the kind of contribution it would make to our goals and priorities. It looked at the governance, leadership and management of your organisation. It also looked at its financial sustainability and included an overview of the funding situation.
As a result of this, your application was awarded either a strong, good or weak rating against three criteria: ‘contribution to our goals and priorities’; ‘governance, leadership and management’; and ‘financial sustainability’. A recommendation was then made of either ‘met stage one criteria’ or ‘did not meet stage one criteria’.
The second stage of assessment involved a judgment about how well your organisation would fit into a balanced portfolio of funded organisations. This stage looks at a range of areas where we need to find a balance across our investment in the arts. These include artform, size and type of organisation, geographical spread, contribution to our goals and priorities, and diversity. …..This is a framework against which we made an informed judgment about how each organisation might contribute to the overall mix. There are applications that were strong in the first stage assessment but were not funded because in the second stage they did not fit into this overall picture of a balanced national portfolio.
Once these two stages of assessment had taken place, funding recommendations were then discussed and agreed by the appropriate Arts Council regional council, and then finally by the Arts Council’s National Council.
Applicant: CIDA
Arts Council region: Yorkshire
Artform: Not artform specific
Summary of stage one: assessment
CIDA is a regularly funded organisation that develops programmes of training and advocacy across the region and beyond for artists/arts organisations and delivers programmes that evidence the impact of creativity. The range of CIDA’s programmes has potential reach across a range of public bodies, and the organisation’s reputation is good. Evidence of longitudinal impact of their work is lacking and much of what is offered appears generic rather than art form focused. However they do demonstrate how they will contribute to our goals through two specific new programmes.

Goals – good
Development of the programme ‘Making Adaptive Resilience Real’ appears relevant to goal 3. It aims to increase the resilience of arts organisations and includes coaching. The second programme ‘Skills for Diversity and Leadership’ is aimed at Black and minority ethnic participants and has the potential to deliver strongly on goal 4. However, no research or evidence of demand is included and no venues or partnerships identified. Whilst these two programmes might require further development, they are clearly identified areas for national portfolio organisation funding and separate from the organisation’s core costs which may help with clearer output monitoring in the future.

Governance/management – strong
CIDA demonstrate strong leadership and have an experienced and highly engaged board.

Finance – good
CIDA’s income streams are diverse and at times complex. Cashflow management and analysis within the organisation at executive and board level are seen as diligent.

Stage one ratings Met stage one criteria
Meeting our goals and priorities Good
Governance, leadership and management Strong
Financial sustainability Good

Summary of stage two: balancing the portfolio
The application makes a good contribution to our goals and strongly meets our governance criteria. Panel noted that the applicant does not directly produce or distribute art. We cannot fund all good applications and within the context of our limited budget and the need to balance the portfolio we were not able to recommend funding.

This application had the potential to make a contribution to the goals set out in Achieving great art for everyone, and scored well in the first stage of assessment.
However, when creating a portfolio of funded organisations which is balanced across size, type, artform, geographical spread, diversity and contribution to our goals, Council agreed with the second assessment stage decision that other organisations fitted better into the national picture.