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Public-private partnerships and the conversation about social cohesion

Business & Arts is a monthly column by Michelle Constant, CEO of Business and Arts South Africa (BASA).

The value of public-private partnerships should be flagged and, if done correctly, rigorously defended. BASA is a successful public-private partnership, which is supported by, and supports, both the public sector, i.e. the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and around 130 private sector members including the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and other big hitters. While it provides a partnership space, which is sometimes fractious, slow-moving and challenging, the value of the different sectors adds enormously to the conversation of social cohesion in society.
     BASA is currently working with two of its stakeholders – the DAC and the FirstRand Foundation – on a project that seeks to address greater governance and the growth of fiduciary skills of Schedule 3A Boards in the creative sector. The project has been a long journey, taking over three years, but the first phase is now coming to a closure. The knowledge gained during the process has been as great as what the final outcome aims to be. The original award, which was described as an ‘innovation award’, aimed to develop a stronger partnership between sectors, with the goal of strengthening the sector (in this case the arts sector). Political shifts, unexpected changes in the original goal, research challenges, diverse needs from diverse partners (both stakeholders and service providers) saw the project changing shape like a hydra. What it required, and received, was a flexibility to include change, sometimes failure and re-imagining. What was successful was the desire of all parties to make a difference to our sector.
     As we come to the close of the first phase, the anchor and ballast has been the FirstRand Foundation. Their insistence that we all keep returning to the process of ‘design thinking’ – the need to reiterate on the different goals of the project, to accept the failure of some, and then rework the process. Design thinking is extremely valuable as a problem-solving process, not simply for entrepreneurs, but also for the creative sector. The design thinking process includes the following stages: define, research, ideate, prototype, choose, implement, and learn. It accepts failure as simply a part of the process and, more importantly, as the space to transfer one’s gaze to other often less visible wins.
     To read more about Public-private partnerships and the conversation about social cohesion, purchase our July 2018 issue, or continue supporting the arts and culture industry by subscribing to our monthly magazine.

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