The Process of Relaunching Beyond

An experiment in artist-led decision making by TWR

By Laura Fisher on 05.05.22

May 2022 sees The Work Room re-launching the Beyond fund, trailing a new model for the selection and allocation of funds. The Beyond fund was first launched in 2018 to mark 10 years of The Work Room and a new individual giving campaign setup to support TWR’s activities through its charitable status.

The Beyond fund is made up of funds raised through annual membership fees and individual donations, to create a pot of seed funding to kick start members projects. The aim of the fund is to support projects and practices that take dance beyond the studio to connect more people to dance, while also fostering collaboration and artistic community within TWR membership.

Responding to feedback gathered through What Next? conversations, which identified a desire from members to minimise time spent on application processes, TWR engaged on a process of evaluation of BEYOND, including consultation with a working group of artist members, to develop an alternative application and decision making process. This round of BEYOND will trial the new model put forward by the working group, as an experiment and as research into possible alternative models of decision making.

In keeping with TWR’s core values or generosity, inclusivity and experimentation, TWR sees the re-launching of Beyond as a valuable opportunity to be led by our members and continue asking how to best support the independent artists in our membership.

Process

Following an internal review of Beyond carried out by TWR member and producer Laura Fisher, a working group met on Friday 21 January 2022 to discuss the evaluation and proposal document and make recommendations for a new model to adopt for Beyond. The group was facilitated by Laura Fisher and was comprised of three members who responded to an open call to all TWR members interested in taking part. The members in the working group were Penny Chivas, David West and Alexandra Tsiapi.

The working group reflected on positive and negative application experiences and discussed and reviewed multiple approaches and potential models for Beyond, including: non-competitive models such as an equitable split between all applicants, democratic models where all members could vote on projects, two step application/shortlisting processes and methods of peer endorsement/support to access funds.

In a sector where demand greatly outstrips resources and there are steep structural inequalities and barriers to opportunities, there is no perfect solution, but the group were keen to try and address some of the issues raised by members through a new approach and learn from the process. Following the meeting, two models were drafted based on the groups discussion. The working group chose the Seasonal Rolling Random Selection model 2.5 votes to 1.5 votes.

Some reasons the group put forward a method of random selection include:

  • The nature of the fund being comprised of members fees- as all members contribute, all members should have a chance at receiving the funding, if they wish
  • Placing trust in the validity of artistic projects/ensuring decisions aren’t about who can write the best applications or articulate their ideas in English most successfully
  • Making the application process short, straightforward and less time consuming
  • Transparency of process- often opportunities feel to artists like a ‘lottery’, based on who is on the panel, the dates/availability of the opportunity, who else applied etc and this process is transparent about the ‘luck of the draw’ element.
  • Valuing TWR as an artistic community, not just an entity which distributes resources. Those who apply have their idea read, discussed and responded to by peers and members are invited to Beyond Gathering to share reflections and input on supported projects

In deciding on the random selection model the working group also carried forward the following considerations into devising the model:

  • Care for community- without the rigour and care of an artist led panel, how to ensure the selected projects are ethical, safe and appropriate for the community engagement and relationships proposed.
  • Feedback and diligence shown to all applicants who have taken time to apply
  • Transparency of process- how to manage a selection process transparently
  • How to ensure this model is not reinforcing existing inequalities/statistically disadvantaging marginalised artists
  • Building in feedback of process for successful, non-successful applicants and members who did not apply, to feedback their thoughts on the process for TWR to learn from

The Work Room is learning and working to better address the systemic inequalities which have unfairly disadvantaged and historically excluded certain people from a career in dance and the arts. We recognise the potential of a chance based system to reinforce these inequalities by statistically disadvantaging those who may be within a minority demographic in our membership. In an attempt to counter this, of the two awards made in Summer 2022, a minimum of one award will be made to members who self-identify with one or more of the demographics identified as currently underrepresented in our programme. To ensure this, the first selection will be drawn exclusively from EOI’s of those who self-identify in this way and have elected to be included in this draw.

EOI’s in the first draw, which are not selected will be entered into the general draw for the second Summer Award, and as with all EOI’s, have the option to be entered into the next again draw in Autumn 2022, if it suits their timeline.

In devising the model, we particularly drew on learning shared by Chisenhale Dance Space (who used a similar two step process with a draw for marginalised artists as well as an open selection when they trialled a random selection method to allocate their residency programme in 2020) and statistacal data from Jerwood Arts (who trialled a random selection method in their recent 1-2-1 fund) as well as feedback from artists on the varying degree of success and failures of the programme.

We are conscious that those who have been historically excluded face different barriers and are not one homogenous group. While this focussed draw is an attempt to rebalance any statistical disadvantage a random selection might produce, we will also monitor both those who apply and those who are selected carefully, and withhold the right to adjust or refocus the parameters around the fund later in the year, as necessary.

We thank the members who took part in this proccess look forward to trialling this model. We welcome feedback from members on this approach, good, bad, indifferent, and hope to apply the learning across our wider programmes.

Those interested in reading a full report of the process, can download the full report document here.

Posted Thursday 05 May, 2022

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