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Rethinking Governance by Dr Cara Courage

What does fit-for-pur­pose gov­er­nance for you, your way of work­ing, and your organ­i­sa­tion look like?


Over the summer, Dr Cara Courage met with organisations from the South West to talk about new and radical forms of governance. Here, Cara shares some of her thinking and references to support conversations about rethinking governance.

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Across the summer I had the pleasure to meet with VASW members b-side, Knowle West Media Centre, CAMP and AIM and in be in conversation with them around a wide range of topics pertaining to government.

Governance is so much of how we show up to each other and answer the questions of "who are we in the service of?" and "what is at stake if we don’t do this?" – questions that get to the core of our purpose and mission.

The work of governance is about how we gather – who do we talk to, for what purpose, when and where? – and model behaviours that support us in the work we do.

As a "co-thinker" or Critical Friend in the process, each conversation and set of actions is necessarily bespoke to each situation, but there are a number of starting points that I bring to each table. Thus, in no particular order:

Act Build Change
A learning community for changemakers with a mission to make community organising accessible to all and build a network of leaders committed to justice.

What We Do Now (WWDN)
Emanating from the arts-led community work of The Stove Network, WWDN is a creative placemaking network that supports partnerships between artists and community organisations across Dumfries & Galloway, co-creating with communities to develop new projects, local plans, training, and enterprise.

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters
Priya Parker sets forth a human-centred approach to gathering that will help everyone create meaningful, memorable experiences, large and small, for work and for play.

Heart of Glass
A St Helens, Merseyside-based collaborative and social arts agency with some of the deepest collaborative governance models.

Based in Pendle, in-situ works in an embedded way, through the formation of long-term relationships and dialogue.

Rising Arts Agency
The most genuinely youth-led creative agency, modelling new forms of arts leadership and governance.

Community Benefit Societies
Community benefit societies reflect commitment to the wider community, with profits being invested back into the business.

Grassroots Grantmaking: Embedding Participatory Approaches

A theory of governance that seeks to create psychologically safe environments and productive organisations.

Plymouth-based hyperlocal arts organisation on a mission is to nudge lasting change in surprising and enterprising ways to build a strong local community and economy.

Corporate Rebels
A platform dedicated to exploring and sharing the most innovative and forward-thinking approaches to work.

Neurodiversity in the workplace specialists.

Civic Square
A bold approach to visioning, building and investing in civic infrastructure for neighbourhoods of the future.

Liberating Structures
An alternative way to approach and design how people work together.

Book, an online portal, and an IRL network for climate and ecological breakdown justice.

Systemic Justice
Community-driven litigation for racial, social, and economic justice.

Working to decolonise and grow transformative, interdependent cultures, developing dynamic, inclusive ways of co-existing and walking towards challenge together.

Healing Justice London
Building community-led health and healing to create capacity for personal and structural transformation.

Out Of The Spiritual Closet: Organisers Transforming the Practice of Social Justice

I do not think good governance is depressing, it is one of the most electrifying and exciting things on the planet
Blog by David Jubb

Radical HR
Working to create radical, anti-oppressive approaches to HR and operations.

Nonprofit AF
Weekly blogs on a wide range of topics pertaining to governance and operations for culture sector for social justice.

Strike A Light
Gloucester-based arts charity working to change charity leadership and governance.

Be-Part Network
A 4-year project initiated by a network of 10 EU and non-EU partners that critically explores the politics and practices of participation in the arts field.

Framework for creative practices and ecological and environmental justice.

Dr Cara Courage has worked in the cultural and place sectors for over 25-years. In that time, she has worked across different artforms, crafting expertise in practices that are socially-engaged, community-led, and embedded in place; whether that place be a team, a city park, a national museum or a rural town high street. Cara works as a Critical Friend with creatives, established and emerging leaders, academics, and organisations to push at their practices: to think and think again about what they do and why/how/who with; to discover and live to purpose; and to foster healthy internal, programmatic and operational cultures. Her work is that of a Consultant, a Change Agent and an academic. She works with a multivariate roster of creative and cultural clients as a consultant-director; advising, devising, enabling, and critically, helping people hold their accountability to social, spatial and environmental and ecological justice. Current clients include Turner Prize nominees gentle/radical, Winchester School of Art, University of Sussex and The Culture Capital Exchange.

This resource is part of the West of England Visual Arts Alliance (WEVAA), a three year programme that includes professional development, commissioning, and support and resources. Find out more here

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