Curating Leadership

by Hilary Carty

The Cultural Leadership Programme was created as a £12m government investment to strengthen leadership across the cultural and creative sectors.  Acknowledged as a key contributor to the UK economy, with an enviable international reputation for world-class innovation and creativity, the cultural and creative sector faced a ‘crisis of leadership’ as it entered the 21st Century.  Responding with a sector-wide remit, the CLP set out to build on existing leadership practice, incubate new models, augment sector performance, and create a stable infrastructure to embed sustainable leadership development within a dynamic and fast-changing landscape.

The initial ‘Call for Ideas’ served to scan the sector, exploring the scale of the challenge and allowing for early provision to be shaped by six priority areas that were revealed: intensive courses; work-based learning; online learning; governance; diversity; and entrepreneurship. From the outset, the CLP was determined to create a ‘blended’ approach to leadership learning, offering multiple points of access and an innovative and diverse range of interventions. This dispersed model underpinned CLP’s governance and infrastructure as well as provision, and it operated with a deliberately slim core, utilising a process of strategic commissioning to build a family of collaborative partnerships across the sectors, assisted by the strong sector-facing profile provided by the Board.

The majority of CLP’s leadership development activities were delivered under the key strands of Work Based and Intensive Learning opportunities, commissioned and structured to build an interactive ecology of leadership.  In addition, the CLP also explored provision across a range of cross-cutting ‘Development Priority’ areas including: Diversity, Artist Practitioner Leadership Development; Governance and International Engagement.  Diversity in particular was prioritised and strategically laced through the full range of programmes in order promote best practice in accessibility and inclusion, and avoid the ‘ghettoisation’ that some sector provision had previously seen.  

Alongside programmes and development priorities, the CLP created an independent space where questions and issues could be reviewed and debated, giving voice and profile to issues and challenges, and creating benefit for the sector at large.  With an ambition to be an advocate for change, the CLP aimed not simply to be a provider of leadership activity, but a resource and pivotal agent, delivering added value through research, innovation and strategic cross sector interventions.

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