Opportunities for local people
Generally, more localised commissioning with cultural or community arts organisations should be better able to focus on particular local needs. Meeting local need with provision can be more effective, as local organisations are often more engaged with communities than large companies and have a vested interest. Where organisations are commissioned there is also a knock on effect on employment and the local economy.
Local cultural providers make a particularly strong contribution to the quality of life in a place and therefore to social value. They have the added skills and ability to draw on local heritage and have real local resonance; their strong sense of place and ability to capture the imagination are unique qualities.
Cultural sector responses to service delivery will tend to be more holistic than other providers, considering families for example, or local relationships arising from issues like faith. Where arts and culture are involved in delivering broader local services, people gain a new route into activity that might have previously been seen as elite or out of reach.
Benefits for commissioners and heads of service
Strategic leads and those commissioning services are keen to have a broader market to draw on if they can commission the cultural sector and commissioning the cultural sector will help them to achieve this. From a commissioner’s point of view, cultural providers offer excellent value for money. They are passionately committed and tend to be values-driven helping services to meet their social value commitments.
The arts and cultural sector are particularly good at engaging young people and making contact with people who might seem 'hard to reach'. They can offer a more appealing route into something that is 'good for you'.
Collaborations or consortium bids give commissioners the opportunity to work with smaller, more locally focused providers. It is unlikely that they will commission small organisations directly as the contract management would be too onerous.
Commissioners are under pressure to show value for money and some arts and cultural organisations might currently lack some of the business skills needed in this environment especially when it comes to articulating outcomes using commissioning language. However, by being open and honest both the arts and cultural sector and commissioners can manage or overcome these risks for a way forward that is beneficial to all.