Cultural undertaking & investment: from intuition to decision making

Cultural undertaking & investment: from intuition to decision making

Forum d'Avignon 2011 – From intuition to decision: who decides who invest in culture? 100 interviews, a frame of reference and 4 case studies by Kurt Salmon

How is the decision to invest in cultural projects and equipments made? What are the criteria and triggering factors behind? What are the justifications offered to favor and promote cultural projects? How do the different key players position themselves: artists, institutions, firms,…? What are the underlying “strategies” at the origin of a project? 

These are the questions answered by the study realized by Kurt Salmon for the Forum d’Avignon 2011. “Committing and investing in culture: from intuition to decision”: the title of the study summarizes well the stakes. The decision chain has been highlighted thanks to hundreds of interviews, realized for the study during 2011, all around the world: the origins, the idea, the concept. Then intuition gives way to the classical rules of management and finance: how to implement it, to concretize it, follow up in the long range or, in other words, ROI!

The economic weight of culture cannot be questioned: in 2002, cultural industries represented 12% of the American GDP, 3.8% of the Canadian GDP and already 1.48% of the Chinese GDP. The main economies and their decision makers have understood it: beyond the cultural sector itself creation spreads innovation by waves to all other economic fields and society. The decision to invest in culture cannot be made lightly or by a single player: cultural investments principally federate economic players, investors’ collectives, donors, public institutions and philanthropists. Culture is not a traditional sector, with innovating financing models, and remains a strategic field of activity.

How can the non-economic consequences of culture be measured? If the study does not have the ambition to offer a fixed framework of analysis, it remains a precious tool box for any decision maker, allowing a precise evaluation of his investment and justifying it to people who could still question its legitimacy. 8 main types of stakes are highlighted by the study: 4 economic ones, related to influence and notoriety, economic development, knowledge economy and the promotion of the heritage. 4 other ones refer to a more societal dimension: social cohesion and enterprise culture are reinforced and so are the societal responsibility of investors, the offer and usages develop in the cultural field; at last creation and artistic expression are renewed.

The next steps are identified: this frame of analysis is a first step toward the evaluation of the cultural impact of each investment. The study values the figure of the cultural entrepreneur and concludes on the need to reinforce the competitiveness of economy through culture. This ambition implies the constitution of clusters federating the various key players involved in each project. The last proposal being to put together a new financing model – tailor-made to fit culture’s characteristics – a responsible and performing pattern, thanks to “cultural and committed savings”. 

In addition to this study, four case studies focus on innovating projects: the centre Pompidou Metz, the Festival of Aix en Provence, the digitalization process of the Royal Belgian Library, the Design Fashion Architecture (DUTCH) in the Netherlands.

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