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“Stories from the Field” – Perspectives on Innovative Management Practices for Aboriginal and Culturally Diverse Arts Organizations

October 3, 20063 October 2006

Arts management / Human resources / Diversity

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Although awkwardly translated from the original French, this report contains important information about the management practices and the overall state of Aboriginal and culturally-diverse arts organizations in Canada. On the whole, it appears that Aboriginal and culturally diverse organizations have many more similarities than differences with other arts organizations, especially small arts organizations. Some organizational characteristics highlighted in this report include a reliance on project funding (sometimes from a single funder), high stress levels, a reliance on volunteers, a lack of organizational infrastructure, organizational precariousness, a need for training and networking, and difficulties in achieving visibility.

In addition, some of the “innovative practices” highlighted in the report seem to be similar to the practices of a number of small arts organizations: positioning the organization and its product; knowing your market and communicating with your clientele; and establishing partnerships or joint programming.

Some of the strengths of Aboriginal and culturally diverse arts organizations include their community grounding, leadership, commitment, courage, openness and teamwork.

The challenges faced by Aboriginal and culturally diverse arts organizations are numerous: limited resources; financial fragility; a lack of information about management practices; the challenge of “keeping the culture alive”; fatigue; isolation; feelings of marginalization; and difficulties in reaching outside of the community of origin (while maintaining a good relationship within the community of origin).

Among the possibilities for improving the situation of Aboriginal and culturally diverse arts organizations, the report indicates that mentorship would assist in skills development and information exchange regarding management practices. The report also suggests that multi-year funding, even if project-based, would help with organizational stability.

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