Creative Feel - - CONTENTS - Busi­ness & Arts is a monthly col­umn by MICHELLE CON­STANT,

Michelle Con­stant looks at pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships and the con­ver­sa­tion about so­cial co­he­sion.

The value of pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships should be flagged and, if done cor­rectly, rig­or­ously de­fended. BASA is a suc­cess­ful pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship, which is sup­ported by, and sup­ports, both the pub­lic sec­tor, i.e. the Depart­ment of Arts and Cul­ture (DAC) and around 130 pri­vate sec­tor mem­bers in­clud­ing the Jo­han­nes­burg Stock Ex­change and other big hit­ters. While it pro­vides a part­ner­ship space, which is some­times frac­tious, slow-mov­ing and chal­leng­ing, the value of the dif­fer­ent sec­tors adds enor­mously to the con­ver­sa­tion of so­cial co­he­sion in so­ci­ety.

BASA is cur­rently work­ing with two of its stake­hold­ers – the DAC and the FirstRand Foun­da­tion – on a project that seeks to ad­dress greater gover­nance and the growth of fidu­ciary skills of Sched­ule 3A Boards in the cre­ative sec­tor. The project has been a long jour­ney, tak­ing over three years, but the first phase is now com­ing to a clo­sure. The knowl­edge gained dur­ing the process has been as great as what the fi­nal out­come aims to be. The orig­i­nal award, which was de­scribed as an ‘in­no­va­tion award’, aimed to de­velop a stronger part­ner­ship be­tween sec­tors, with the goal of strength­en­ing the sec­tor (in this case the arts sec­tor). Po­lit­i­cal shifts, un­ex­pected changes in the orig­i­nal goal, re­search chal­lenges, di­verse needs from di­verse part­ners (both stake­hold­ers and ser­vice providers) saw the project chang­ing shape like a hy­dra. What it re­quired, and re­ceived, was a flex­i­bil­ity to include change, some­times fail­ure and reimag­in­ing. What was suc­cess­ful was the de­sire of all par­ties to make a dif­fer­ence in our sec­tor.

As we come to the close of the first phase, the an­chor and bal­last has been the FirstRand Foun­da­tion. Their in­sis­tence that we all keep re­turn­ing to the process of ‘de­sign think­ing’ – the need to re­it­er­ate the dif­fer­ent goals of the project, to ac­cept the fail­ure of some, and then re­work the process. De­sign think­ing is ex­tremely valu­able as a prob­lem-solv­ing process, not sim­ply for en­trepreneurs, but also for the cre­ative sec­tor. The de­sign think­ing process in­cludes the fol­low­ing stages: de­fine, re­search, ideate, pro­to­type, choose, im­ple­ment, and learn. It ac­cepts fail­ure as sim­ply a part of the process and, more im­por­tantly, as the space to trans­fer one’s gaze to other, of­ten less vis­i­ble, wins. It also high­lights it­er­a­tion and re­it­er­a­tion. Work­ing with an ex­cel­lent team, which in­cluded the Wits Univer­sity Cul­tural Pol­icy and Man­age­ment team, and former Mar­ket The­atre CEO, Annabell Le­bethe, as well as the In­sti­tute of Direc­tors in South­ern Africa (IoDSA), saw some real re­wards in the process. Di­rect en­gage­ment with a team from the Depart­ment has also been ex­tremely valu­able, al­low­ing us to con­stantly frame the project in re­la­tion to the real needs.

Per­haps what be­came most strik­ing for me was the chal­lenge for board mem­bers to bal­ance ab­so­lute gover­nance, the rigours of the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act, or the PFMA, and the need to drive the man­date of the or­gan­i­sa­tion – its abil­ity to cre­ate change, equal­ity, so­cial co­he­sion, and work cre­ation in the cre­ative sec­tor. It’s a bal­ance that needs to re­main equally weighted in the board ed­u­ca­tion process. In­deed, we should up­hold the cre­ative minds as, ‘cre­ativ­ity will be­come one of the top three skills work­ers will need. With the avalanche of new prod­ucts, new tech­nolo­gies and new ways of work­ing, work­ers are go­ing to have to be­come more cre­ative in or­der to ben­e­fit from these changes,’ ac­cord­ing to the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum.

What strikes me too about this process, and I pull on my SA Tourism Board hat here, is the real need for us to start cross­ing sec­tors more de­lib­er­ately. There is no doubt that cul­ture, in par­tic­u­lar, is both a pro­gres­sive en­abler and an op­por­tu­nity to di­ver­sify – the need for it to cross sec­tors, to be ac­tive on di­verse boards ex­pands op­por­tu­ni­ties in ed­u­ca­tion, tourism and more – prom­ises to change the shape of our so­ci­ety.

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