Culture Commons are convening partners to explore the future of 'cultural devolution' in the UK. Thinking about how devolution might impact you, your organisation or your area? This one is for you...
We intend to co-design a new package of policy measures that could support a more equitable and sustainable flourishing of creative and cultural activity in all parts of the UK. We're bringing together stakeholders from local government, the creative and cultural sectors, researchers and policymakers to do this.
Responding to the opportunities and challenges the creative and cultural sectors are facing, but that also respond to the direction of travel recently signalled by major UK political parties, we have identified five potential policy areas that a ‘partnership of the willing’ could help shape proposals in.
We will run a circa 18-month open policy development programme, followed by a national advocacy campaign, which will explore five themes and propose possible policy solutions for a future UK Government to adopt.
We are currently seeking ambitious organisations, whether local government, academia, industry or third sector, interested in developing national level policy influence, to co-partner with us in this journey.
Our full programme, outlining the remit of the policy focus and investment needed to sustain the programme, is set out below. Please do get in contact with any questions you have.
You can download our project documents here:
Both the UK Government and Opposition parties have been putting forward several new policy positions and funding proposals in recent months, including significant plans to devolve new decision-making powers to local government to support the growth of the creative and cultural sectors.
However, there is a large body of evidence that shows the infrastructures associated with the creative and cultural sectors are unevenly distributed across the regions and nations, are less available to certain groups in society and that communities do not have a meaningful say on how they are being developed.
If ‘cultural devolution’ is not delivered more strategically and equitably with appropriate oversight mechanisms, we risk fragmenting the growth of these sectors and further replicating geographical inequalities.
We believe that a new programme of intensive policy design is now needed to unpack the opportunities and challenges faced by the creative and cultural sectors and propose new way that the current gaps in central government and opposition party proposals might be narrowed.
We lay out a full rationale for the open policy development programme in Annex A.
How we'll do it
Our proposed programme of activity is broken down into two distinct phases: the ‘co-design’ phase and the ‘advocacy’ phase. We make a distinction between these two phases to ensure that all the policy positions arrived during the process are widely supported by the coalition of partners we intend to bring together before engagement with policy makers commences.
Phase one: Co-design
Culture Commons will convene a new ‘open policy development programme’ that will bring together key stakeholders across local and national governments, academia and the creative and cultural sectors to co-design a series of policy proposals ready for adoption by a future UK Government.
The policy co-design process will be guided by a Panel, consisting of senior representatives from policy, the creative and cultural sectors and academia. The Panel will be supported by Working Groups, each focusing on one of the five key policy themes we have identified.
Culture Commons will act as a project secretariat throughout the 18-month period, making our in-house research and policy team available to the Panel and Working Groups throughout the process. We will guide the co-design team through some of our tried and tested policy development processes.
An indicative programme for the five themes, along with key meeting dates for the panel and working groups, is set out in Annex B (all subject to agreement with project partners).
Immediately following the co-design phase, Culture Commons will lead in the development and publication of a policy paper, summarising the key recommendations for key decision makers with an anticipated publication in Q2 2024.
Phase two: Advocacy
Culture Commons will then coordinate a national level advocacy effort that will draw attention to the co-designed policy proposals from high profile local and national decision makers. We will also identify opportunities to embed the policy proposals into formal policy making processes, for example by securing inclusion of some of the principles behind them into party manifestos ahead of the next UK general election.
Throughout the advocacy process, Culture Commons and partners will also work iteratively to build the evidence base, refine the proposals, and engage relevant government departments to improve the likelihood of implementation post-election.
At Culture Commons, we know that having policy impact is about being clear and targeting specific asks at the right moment. Our team have experience bringing ideas into law, having worked in government and political parties at the local and national levels. We know that building successful policy requires careful planning and strategic partnerships.
By building a ‘coalition of the willing’, we’ll be well-placed to draw together high-level experts from across the research community, the creative and the cultural sectors and local and national governments and ensure that the resultant policy proposals we make together are robust and backed-up by the qualitative and quantitative data coming through for our partners and Panel members.
Working in an iterative and reflexive way in a partnership of experts will also aide us in the advocacy efforts that will follow. To land the policy in the right way, we must demonstrate to central policy makers that we have not only formed evidence-based policy proposals with a clear rational, but that the ideas are widely welcomed by the key stakeholders who stand to benefit from them.
Along the way, we must consider the potential barriers and perceived risks associated with the policy proposals we put forward to decision makers, recognising the political constraints placed on them as the election period hots up; this is a central component of the kind of work we do at Culture Commons, distinguishing us from other research and policy development organisations.
The panel & working groups
Culture Commons will assemble a group of senior decision makers and stakeholders to sit on a Panel. The Panel members will hold collective responsibility for the final policy package and sign off on the final policy proposal publication before it is placed in front of decision makers. We anticipate that Panel members will be influential and command the attention of policy makers, and sector leaders, across a variety of sectors.
The Panel will be supported by working groups where the majority of the research and policy design work will take place. The Working Groups will consist of policy experts, practitioners and academics with experience and insight relevant to each of the given policy areas. Drawing on our rationale set out in Annex A, we propose that a Working Group be formed to address key questions behind 5 themes
In the context of deeper and extended devolution of power to local government, how can we ensure an accountable, strategic, and equitable approach to devolution of cultural policy and funding?
As the UK Government and opposition parties develop plans to grow the creative industries, how can local and national governments work together to sustainably and strategically grow local pockets of creative and cultural business and workers that bring wider benefits to all?
Funding with Purpose
Considering the limits of ‘competition-based’ central funding models, how could a new mission driven’ national funding schemes for culture be designed and delivered?
What national level programmes might be needed to ensure that the public are included in decision making about the creative and cultural life of their area?
Culture for All
Taking inspiration from Brown Commission’s proposals for a UK constitution, can we explore what a ‘right to culture’ could look like at either the local or national level?
Further detail on the types of questions we might cover within each of the policy Working Groups are outlined in Annex B.
Join the programme
In joining the programme, you will work with the core Culture Commons team and the programme partners over a circa 18-month period.
Acting as secretariat, Culture Commons will guide you through the overall research and policy development process, taking care to ensure you are able to focus on specific and clear policy areas and/or research tasks that fit with your area of expertise.
As an Expert Panel member and/or working group member, we ask that you/your organisation attend a series of meetings throughout the 18-month period to:
contribute your research, insights and views on the policy areas being explored
respond to other leading thinkers in the cultural policy space
engage and share your work with senior decision makers at the local and national levels (including officials and elected representatives)
shape a live policy development programme that will have national level impact
be fully acknowledged in all appropriate public facing materials published in relation to the programme
Culture Commons will work with you to pursue opportunities to spotlight your work within the programme Panel and the impact these could have with the policy, research and reputational objectives you may have in your own area or research disciplines.
In addition, Panel members (and/or their assigned research teams – see below) will be expected to support with specific evidence gathering activities, including conducting/supervising others to deliver desk-based research, supporting local advocacy efforts on an ad hoc basis, and supporting the core team to gather evidence that will help with the overall policy development process.
Once we’ve confirmed our Panel members and formalised programme partnerships, we’ll be in touch to confirm the exact schedule of meetings and the timeline of programme activity, clearly detailing the moments we’d require your input.
Given the current political context and fiscal environment, at Culture Commons, we believe now is the moment for experts and practitioners to inform the policy thinking. We believe that there is a real risk that without a robust evidence base drawing on the practical insight of real-world delivery at the local level, new models to devolve cultural policy and spending decision could be ill conceived and poorly deployed.
Over the past six months Culture Commons has expressed this concern to both the UK Government and other major political parties. Using our existing networks, we have secured an opportunity to work with mainstream political parties to put across some policy proposals for consideration.
As part of our Phase two ‘advocacy’ phase (see pg3), we will utilise our existing networks, as well as the networks of our programme partners, to share the programme’s emerging findings and recommendations. Our core objectives behind this phase are to secure:
agreement on key proposals and the principles behind them from key government/opposition politicians
opportunities to co-design with UK Government departments after the next General Election
support from creative and culture sectors for the policy proposals
acknowledgement and publicity from other key networks, policy organisations and academics
This is the moment for us to draw on your expertise, as well as your existing research and/or local delivery programmes, to reach decision makers implementing the next UK Government’s programme and legislative agenda.
For researchers, universities and think tanks considering this proposal, we hope you feel the proposed programme offers an exciting opportunity for you and your organisation to apply your existing and ongoing research/work in a live policy context.
For local government officers and representatives, we believe that this will be a key moment for you to help shape future policy at the national level in a way that works for you, ensuring that policy commitments to local culture are fit for purpose now and into the future.
We are now proactively securing partners to help us build the ‘open policy development’ programme, including securing Expert Panel members and members of the Working Groups, who will ensure we are able to sustain the proposed activity through to completion.
We are in early-stage conversations with several academic partners who have expressed an interest in working with us, as well as several local and combined authorities we’ve been working with who are keen to influence policy in this space too.
As the development of election manifestos is now underway, we have also commenced dialogues with key political stakeholders at the regional and national levels on the objectives of the proposed programme.
A timeline can be found above.
Our ask to you
Recognising that the benefits that accrue from the policy will ultimately be shared by a wide range of stakeholders, we propose that each of our partners contribute financially to the programme in different ways depending on the level of resource available to them. This will ensure that the programme is appropriately sustained through to completion.
Should we generate many proposed contributions, we would be in position to review the level of contributions of the interested partners. We’d be very pleased to talk with you about how you and your organisation might be able to contribute in a more appropriate way.
If there are partners from the same geographical areas joining, we would be happy to explore a joined up ‘local place partnership’ arrangement covering involvement from academic, local and combined authorities.
We ask that interested parties get in touch with the Culture Commons team to discuss your involvement. Please email email@example.com in the first instance.