We seem to have raced to define a new thing—the civic agenda—before facing what we really need to be talking about. In my experience we should be discussing permission, trust and control in our organisations.
Who is involved in decision-making, and why? Who isn’t invited to the table? What rights do arts organisations think they have to be leading a civic agenda? There is no way we can start talking about the promotion of civic roles, still less relationships with communities, without addressing the power relations of boards themselves.
I am speaking from my point of view as curator, facilitator and change leader. I have observed how change-making completely breaks down when boards seem to run a completely different organisation to their executive and workforce. I have experienced how enforced opaqueness based on position and status and an ambiguous attitude towards ethical practice thinly veils the dodgy governance of cultural organisations who claim to be sector-leading, deserving of more public funds and worthy beneficiaries of philanthropy.