AMA’s Small Scale Development Programme (SSDP) is designed for small arts and heritage organisations focused on developing their business.

SSDP ran as a residential in previous years, then in 2020 we went virtual, and focused on specific challenges during the pandemic.

The virtual course delivered 18 hours of face-to-face training and support over a 3 week period, covering 5 modules. The course is designed to fit in with your “day job”, with approx 1.5 hours learning each day, 4 days a week, delivered by three “best in class” trainers.

The programme was subsidised by Arts Council England. Arts Council Wales has provided bursaries for Welsh organisations to take part. 

SSDP delegates standing during a workshop

Past Participants

Participants are leaders of small organisations. Almost 300 people have taken part over the years.

The professionalism and experience of the people who led sessions was really impressive, and having participants from different regions, artforms and types of organisation added to the richness of the dialogue

David Drake, Director, Ffotogallery

Organisations who have taken part previously include:  

  • Arcola Theatre  
  • Black Arts Forum 
  • Creative Junction 
  • Deafinitely Theatre 
  • Ensemble Reza 
  • Full House Theatre 
  • Grand Venue 
  • Hummadruz 
  • Independent Opera 
  • Just So festival 

Hear from previous participants

*Please note, participants quoted may have attended the residential SSDP  

[Michelle speaks to camera]

I’m Michelle Innis and I’m from Pitch Lake Productions, which is a theatre production company. I’ve been on the AMA Small Scale Development Programme for three days and before coming, what I was really hoping was that I would be able to make some decisions where I’m going to next with my company and also actually with me as well, so individual and also for the business.

It was definitely useful to come on the course, I’m so happy that I came, I really, its beyond my expectations actually, what I’ve got from the course, so I was at a crossroads and I no longer feel as though I am at that crossroads, I’ve actually stepped in to the next phase of where I want to be now and in the future and also with the company as well.

Together with the brilliant workshop leaders, have all been brilliant and all given more than 100% of their knowledge expertise and their warmth and consideration for everyone’s individual needs, as well as collective needs.
I’ve got an essential toll kit I’d say to go back home and mull over for the next few months I’d even say, so I’ve got something I can work on now and something to work for as time goes on onto the future, so I feel really happy with the networking aspect of it as well, I’ve met people who are similar, in similar space to me and a similar place where they are with their own particular organisations, I’ve met people who work on their own, which has been really actually quite inspiring for me to know that it is possible and I can do that too, so, and yeah it was a really lively time away as well and being able to focus on exactly what it was I wanted to focus on, which is the company, marketing, audience engagement, development, so many different aspects have all come together in that essential tool kit.

Would I recommend it to anyone? Of course, definitely, without a doubt. It’s one of the best courses I’ve actually been on of this type. I think its met my, as I said at the beginning my expectations and more. Thank you.


[Charlotte speaks to camera]

Hi, I’m Charlotte Desorgher and my company is Company of Dreams, which is a dance company.

We’re a new company and we’ve only been going a year and as a result of that year, we’re kind of like really reassessing where we want to go and this has come at the perfect time because what I had hoped to get out of the course was an opportunity to get a lot of input from people who obviously have a lot of experience, also to get to network with other people who are also in small organisations, probably going through change. Also, because we are a new company, I really don’t know very much about running an Arts organisation and so I really hoped that IO would get information from people with a lot experience but also to network with other people who are in the same sort of situation as me.

It’s been an absolutely brilliant couple of days, I really can’t tell you how amazing it I, just to be able to completely immerse yourself in your subject, to get you away form the day-today and you know, I think probably like all people running small Arts organisations, I’m just doing too much all the time. I have lists and lists of tasks to get through and don’t have very much time to just stand back and be strategic and to think and that’s what this has given me. It exceeded my expectations, really it has and it has been fantastic to be talking to people, networking with people, hearing all sorts of different experiences and learning from them and I would recommend it to anybody.



SSDP is made up of 5 modules, including an online workshop followed by group sessions with up to 20 peers, hosted online. The programme closed with a session to reflect on the programme and discuss next steps, to make immediate plans for practical impact. 

Module 1: Relevance & Value

Go through a situational analysis and explore implications and expectations for your organisation over the next 3, 6 and 12 months. Think about business model shifts and income sources. 

Module 2: Business Strategies for Recovery

Look at the components of a Recovery Plan. Develop scenario plans and find the right strategies to get your business through the current crisis – and beyond – while staying true to your purpose. 

Module 3: Audiences Post-COVID

Understand who your audiences and stakeholders are pre/during/post Covid. Engagement models are shifting – explore new ways of thinking to sustain audiences and income. 

Module 4: Brand & Experience

Organisations have responded in varying ways during this crisis, with some brands emerging as winners, and others suffering purpose drift. What makes the difference, and how can you articulate your brand in a way that builds real value for your organisation? 

Module 5: Managing Change

Managing change is about managing people, and there are tough decisions being made. What do you need to know to handle this? How can you take stakeholders with you on the journey – and make sure you are supported yourself? 

SSDP delegates sitting in a circle


SSDP has helped over 230 organisations over the past 5 years. SSDP is independently evaluated, and the evaluation notes that “SSDP sessions have enabled assumptions and layers of received wisdom to be peeled away, leading to clearer processes for governance and interrogation of who and what their organisation exists for”.

In terms of the impact on my organisation…. I have the knowledge and strength of conviction (from the AMA programme) to develop and put into place the kind of marketing strategy that could actually be shown as a good example to other organisations similar to us.

Sian Hughes, Freshwater Theatre Company

The course was thorough, relevant throughout and above all easily applied in the real world… I have already recommended it to several of my peers

Mark Tattersall, Artistic Director, Dorchester Arts


Our 2020 trainers are featured

Mel Larsen

Photo of MeL Larsen

Mel Larsen is an experienced marketing strategist, business coach and trainer, having worked in the arts, culture and business sectors for over thirty years.  

Helen Palmer

Helen Palmer Headshot

Helen is a marketing and audience development consultant, and has consulted with a diverse range of small to large-scale cultural organisations, networks and partnerships throughout the UK and internationally, helping them to become more audience focused.  

Guy Turton

Guy Turton Headshot

As a Director of MHM, Guy leads MHM’s cause-led division, and on MHM’s most complex and strategic consultation projects, such as segmentation, membership and branding, across the cultural sector.