Tactics for the Tightrope by Mark Robinson, published by Future Arts Centres, is available to purchase here.
A free download will be available on this site from October 1st 2021.
I have written a lot about adaptive resilience since 2010, and shared self-assessment tools and frameworks. In Tactics for the Tightrope I take a fresh look at the subject and define creative resilience rather differently than I did adaptive resilience. After a decade of working with these ideas I now put greater emphasis on the culture of shared purpose and values, on the power and agency to determine what you or your organisations does, and on how resilience involves resistance to existing conditions and shocks, as well as adaptation.
My working definition now goes like this:
Creative resilience is the capacity of organisations and communities of people to be productive, valued and true to self-determined core purpose and identity. This may involve absorbing disturbance, adapting with integrity in response to changing circumstances and positively influencing the environment.
The characteristics that tend to lead to creative resilience are as much ones of a system, collective and communal, as they are properties of individual entities:
Refreshing my take on this made me wonder how the Business Model Canvas, developed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Peignuer, and popularised first in their book Business Model Generation, might be adapted to design more creative and resilient businesses and networks. I have used their canvas with many, many organisations and individual artists and some years ago contributed to the business model resources on Culture Hive. It is an excellent tool for shaping a business model – and indeed for understanding the business model you may have not-quite-deliberately found yourself working within.
The Business Model Canvas describes a business model: what Alexander Osterwalder summed up as “the rationale of how an organisation creates, delivers, and captures value”. It’s important you understand yours, but it’s also important you understand the rationale for how you nurture and sustain the capacity needed to deliver your mission, your creative resilience. This will vary from one organisation to the next: a touring theatre company formed by a band of like-minded friends just out of university will need a different model of creative resilience than the main art gallery and museum in a town or city. The vulnerabilities or performance indicators of one may include starting families or meeting new partners, for instance, instead of capital development. Creative resilience is not about everything lasting forever. It is about having productive lives for organisations that are balanced and healthy for people involved and for the wider culture. You may be ‘the disturbance’ and not need to be around for 30 years – although you might see benefits in that too.
I now think there are some key things missing from the “classic” Business Model Canvas for creative and cultural work, in particular the nexus of values and purpose. The Creative Resilience Canvas gives a format for capturing the drivers of your creative resilience on one sheet, so you can see and understand them, reflect on them, and make changes if needed. Like the Business Model Canvas, you can play with it at design or review points. (In the book I use it to look back at a poetry publisher I set up many years ago, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and an expression of purpose I’m not sure I really grasped at the time.)
The Canvas model has become popular partly because it allows you to sidestep linear descriptions where helpful. The Business Plan and its close relatives the SMART target and the KPI are arguably the largest example of the distorting force of the linear sequential approach, and yet, paradoxically, they are of little use on the high-wire except in extremis. I would encourage an attitude of dreaming and play when using any canvas – to be combined with rigorous but equally imaginative analysis.
The book connects tools that you can use alone or with others, to arguments and frameworks that connect creative resilience to the work needed for a more equitable cultural sector, and for more creative communities – connected through what I call ‘the welcoming space’ of culture. This is one example: there are 25 in the book – one of which is actually a tiny compendium of 37 other ‘stray tools and tactics’.