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Moira Sinclair’s strategy launch speech

When I started work here in February, I said that the trustees had set a really compelling vision for the next five years, one that was very close to my heart; that the mix of work that the Foundation supports – with social justice running through like a golden thread – was just too hard to resist.

Nothing in my first 100 or so days has done anything to change my mind – it’s been a wonderful time to join the team here, to finalise the strategy that we are launching and to work on the design the programmes and Funds that sit behind it.

What I hope you will pick up, at the centre of the strategy are three commitments:

Firstly we will back people with great ideas. At a time when many are risk averse, we are making £25m of grant funding available per year to those at the forefront of thinking – in supporting young people, in addressing the complex field of migration, in increasing participation in the arts, in developing arts- based education and learning, in addressing our mission. This doesn’t mean that we are only interested in the ‘new’ – we want to make sure great ideas have the space and time to flourish, to have impact and to grow.

Which brings me neatly onto our second commitment…

We are in for the long term: you will see in the detail of our new Funds that we are prepared to develop long term relationships and to support organisations’ consolidation and growth – for lasting change. We intend to align all our assets to achieve our strategic priorities – financial, intellectual, convening and influencing power, data and our people – to do just that.

And our third commitment is to be thoughtful about our own culture. I don’t think we can ask others to develop – to be generous about how they share knowledge, to be critical of their practice, to learn from others – if we are not prepared to do the same ourselves.

We have a fantastic staff team here and very committed trustees, and we wouldn’t have got to this evening without their hard work and expertise – I’m enormously grateful for the welcome and support they have given me. But in conversation and paying attention to the feedback we have received, we know we are a smaller part in a much bigger wheel. We think we can and should be better partners – we can add more value by building and sharing knowledge and learning. We can use our overview to identify emerging themes and exploit synergies. We can be more open about what we do and why we do it.

In this strategy, we have moved away from a ‘one size fits all’ style of grant management – our advice, support and expectations around evaluation will be different, dependent on the scale and intention of the Funds. Our website has been refreshed – and we hope that it will be much responsive to possible questions – and over time, will become a valuable resource. Our ambition is that it becomes much more than a space for a two way dialogue between the Foundation and those we fund – it could be a site for sector wide learning and thinking, and we’d like to work with others to think about how we might place beneficiaries’ voices more centrally in our grant making too.

So it’s been a busy few months for me, and a busy and reflective (if that’s not too contradictory) year for the Foundation. And now we are launching our new strategy and new Funds, more details of which you can find on that website. So I thought I’d finish by giving you as taster of our six new priorities, which I hope will provide the impetus for further energetic chat.

Firstly we want to support imaginative people to nurture exciting ideas – and alongside our existing Awards for artists programme and the Breakthrough Fund for cultural entrepreneurs, we are launching an Ideas and Pioneers Fund. This approach is different for us – a small scale, light touch approach to support people who have an idea with unusual promise to improve the life chances and opportunities of individuals and communities in the UK. We’re not quite sure what will come to us, we certainly hope to be surprised and fired up as a result, to be in a state of anticipation when we open this Fund.

Our second priority is to widen access and participation in the arts – which many of you will recognise as a long standing focus. For us, in 2015, it will not be enough to simply increase numbers – our emphasis is on addressing inequalities of opportunity, and we are launching a new Arts Access and Participation Fund to help us, one that builds on our previous experience and programmes such as Artworks, Our Museum, Circuit and Paul Hamlyn Clubs.

Sitting alongside that, is our third priority – We want to improve education and learning through the arts. We believe, and many of us here are testament to the belief, that learning through the arts can engage and inspire young people, support key educational outcomes and develop skills that prepare young people for life beyond school. For many young people, particularly those experiencing the most disadvantage, the best opportunity to gain access to arts education is at school and we are worried that this work may be losing its traction and support, so we want to play our part through our Arts-based Learning Fund and our Teacher Development Fund in helping teachers and arts organisations to deliver and support the most engaging, the most enriching work that we can.

Our fourth priority, and one that is firmly linked to the previous two, is to show that the arts make a difference. We want to help to build the evidence base so that others, including government, can understand the difference they make to people’s lives and communities. So we will provide support grantees to capture and use better evidence and we will help to share that evidence, in partnership where it makes sense to do so.

Our fifth priority is to support the development and growth of organisations investing in young people and positive change. I hope you can see that much of our work aims to benefit young people but we know that it’s those who work directly with them who often make a difference to their lives, especially if they are vulnerable or face complex transitions to adulthood. And I know from the conversations with some of you in my first few weeks how difficult the current environment is. Because of this, our new Funds are designed to help such organisations, especially those who help young people to build on their existing strengths, build their own organisational resilience and capacity with a mixture of core and development support. We hope to make a considerable difference in the years ahead.

And our sixth priority, one that has its roots in Paul Hamlyn’s own experiences and in the lives of some of our other trustees and staff and is very heartfelt as a result, is to improve support for young people who migrate and to strengthen integration so communities can live well together. Migration is a global phenomenon, one that we believe generates opportunities for social, economic and cultural enrichment. It also creates challenges for those who have moved or been displaced, and those experiencing changes in their communities. It’s a large and complex field, being brought into our homes vividly in daily news reports – and our focus will be particularly to help young people themselves be heard more, and to increase the influence they have over decisions made that affect their lives so profoundly.

So there you have it. Alongside our important work in India, supporting NGOs to work in development in health, education and women and children’s rights, we now have a UK strategy launched and Funds ready to go. Of course, this is just the beginning. If we are to achieve that mission that our Chair, Jane Hamlyn, talked about – to help people overcome disadvantage and lack of opportunity, so that they can realise their potential and enjoy fulfilling and creative lives – well we know we need to build an alliance…of funders and of organisations, who share our sense of purpose and our values. We need to be generous and we need to have an impact. And we need to listen to and learn from people and groups, especially those experiencing disadvantage to make sure the change we seek to support is right for them and enduring.

We will look forward to working with you all in that endeavour.
Thank you

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  • Jacquelyn Bevan

    Thank you – you have inspired me to apply to your fund for increasing participation in the arts!

  • Debra Hill

    Just need to say Moira, I am very inspired after reading your, “new strategy launch” speech.

    Not sure where this renewed inspirational feeling will lead me but it’s refreshing to be recharged with the power of your heart-felt words – hope in some small way I can pass on this positive energy so we can all, in time, reap the benefits of ART in all it’s glorious forms.

    Debra Hill
    Administrator