One of the big themes of 2016 and for my mentees has been ‘what comes next?’ – especially as the continued political climate in the arts becomes increasingly hostile to ‘innovation from within’. And ‘innovation from outside’ is also becoming harder as arts workers slip deeper into a freelance ‘precariat’.
Mar Dixon, originator of many of the most successful arts/heritage hashtag campaigns of late, writes, “we are losing amazingly talented people from our sector who once gone will probably never return. These aren’t people after an easy life, riding on the back of funding streams to allow them to do as little as possible (though be honest we’ve all known at least one). No – these are talented, creative professionals who bring hundreds of thousands of pounds to our sector and recognised all over the world, but are leaving because they can’t battle any more”.
Retention is hard at the best of times, but now it has become almost impossible in some parts of the world.
So what is a digitally-skilled arts worker to do?
I’ve been discussing with my mentees the value of repositioning their talents and looking at where the broader digital industries are heading in terms of titles and skills. My own teams have actively recruited ‘product manager’ roles in recent years – and more organisations in the arts and culture sector are cottoning on. This is part of a broader trend that sees digital staff being hired for their ability to understand the wider business context of their work, and help drive structural change by better aligning the needs of users and the organisation. A ‘product management’ methodology is highly valuable to an organisation as it moves forward, well beyond the boundaries of ‘digital marketing’ and arguably brings ‘digital’ as a whole, closer to the core operations of the organisation – not to mention a greater user/patron/customer/citizen focus in decision making.
In the museum sector this trend is perhaps most pronounced. Lucie Paterson at ACMI has written about her experience moving from a product management role at Southbank Centre to her current role in Melbourne.
Let’s hope things improve in 2017.
Header Image : Sadler’s Wells © Stephen White LightSpace by Michael Hulls