The role of diversity in building adaptive resilience

The role of diversity in building adaptive resilience

By Tony Nwachukwu


Discover how embracing the creative case for diversity and difference can support the adaptive resilience of arts organisations. This paper features ten case studies, recommendations of helpful things to do and a framework for self-assessment.

Purpose and methodology

This document aims to support conversations between Arts Council relationship managers and arts organisations, and to support the creative case for diversity in the arts.

The context of this work is threefold: the Arts Council's 10-year strategic framework, Achieving Great Art for Everyone, the repositioning of the Arts Council's equality work to what it calls the Creative Case, and finally the Equality Act 2010. These three elements combine to ensure that when the Arts Council talks about diversity it is describing the broadest definition, not only areas of race, gender or disability, for example.

The Arts Council's diversity and equality work is integrated in the framework of Achieving Great Art for Everyone. It is informed by the creative case for diversity, which is an arts-driven approach that seeks to find the best approaches to liberating artists from imposed labels by making the discussion first and foremost about quality art.

This document builds on the case for diversity as culturally productive for artists, audiences and communities. It positions diversity as a way to increase the adaptive resilience of organisations, making them less vulnerable to unexpected change. It is designed to support conversations about business planning and Key Performance Indicators, as well as to be useful in the context of ongoing work around equality schemes, which will be required by April 2013.

The key elements are:

  • a framework identifying eight characteristics likely to increase the adaptive resilience of organisations, and how embracing diversity can help build these
  • a case study from the private sector illustrating the business case for diversity
  • a set of case studies of arts organisations that embrace diversity
  • 10 key lessons drawn from the research
  • a set of questions that may be useful for stimulating discussion within organisations considering the benefits of embracing diversity

Resilience, diversity and diverse are such bandied-about-words, it is worth defining what we mean when we use these terms. Adaptive resilience is used as defined in Mark Robinson's paper Making adaptive resilience real (Arts Council England, 2010):

'Adaptive resilience is the capacity to remain productive and true to core purpose and identity whilst absorbing disturbance and adapting with integrity in response to changing circumstances.'

Diversity and diverse are predominantly used here in their broadest and most literal sense: to refer to things or people that are not the same, that are different from each other, divergent, various in nature. This encompasses what might be called specific diversities of particular relevance to Arts Council England's strategic frameworks:

  • Creative diversity - a range of inclusive approaches to the arts and artists rather than a single dominant aesthetic, methodology, technology or framework
  • Workforce diversity - an inclusive, representative range of people, with particular reference to gender, race, religion, class, sexuality and education rather than a place where people look, sound and think the same as each other
  • Audience or market diversity - markets or audiences for the arts which are inclusive rather than excluding any particular groups or communities and different from each other rather than essentially very similar to each other

Download the report (PDF) to read more

Resource type: Case studies | Published: 2014