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Unpacking the Debut Programme

A partnership between Business and Arts South Africa NPC, the Department of Arts and Culture and the National Lotteries Council, the Debut Programme identifies emerging creative talent in all nine provinces in South Africa and supports them with knowledge and skills development. As the first iteration of its kind comes to its conclusion, Nadia Pisanti set aside some time with BASA’s Head of Programmes, Tumy Motsoatsoe, to unpack the maiden programme, and to get her sense of its overall success. 

Tumy Motsoatsoe

Nadia Pisanti: Would you say, overall, that this programme can be considered a success? 
Tumy Motsoatsoe: The Debut Programme, partnered by the Department of Arts and Culture and the National Lotteries Commission, was definitely an overall success! Over the years, I have come to accept that success is not necessarily perfection, and what is important, especially in this particular case, is that the programme achieved that which it set out to do, and managed to apply many of the learnings as the programme continued. It was this agility and responsiveness that created room for improvement to ensure accessibility, relevance and impact, which made the first iteration a success.

NP: In terms of your process for identifying potential artists and arts organisations to support, what was your criteria? What was the selection process and would you change your process for the next one?
TM: The criteria for the Debut Programme is deliberately broad, as per the mandate from the Department: you have to be a young South African artist/creative, working in any discipline and living in a community where access to information and skills training is limited. The programme is aimed at individuals looking to launch new ideas/productions/offerings etc. To make the process easier, we decided to use WhatsApp as the platform for applicants to send their videos, through which they explained who they are, what they do and how they thought they could benefit from the programme. 
     25 diverse artists in each province were selected by the BASA team for the first phase, and for the second phase and final phase, both of which had a grant component, independent panels of adjudicators were identified to judge the post-workshop task and to select the top ten. 
     If there is anything we will definitely keep, it is having the independent panel selecting the recipients of the grants, to ensure fairness and equity across the phases. I think it will also need to think about inclusion and diversity quite intentionally as we move forward.

NP: Is scope provided to the emerging creatives to identify, select and request their own mentors, or is it a collaborative process, where full support is offered by DAC/BASA in terms of guidance and connecting with the relevant contacts, based on your assessment of what each applicant requires to take that ‘next step’ in their career? 
TM: The mentorship phase was structured in such a way that participants could identify and select their own mentors in terms of the creative practice. Participants also got an opportunity to identify an event/conference that they wanted to attend with the hope of meeting and engaging with other potential mentors in their discipline, and in their province.
     With regards to the administrative, business, legal and the financial aspects of running their own initiatives, it was a collaborative process where they guided BASA in terms of their key challenges and areas where they wanted to gain more knowledge, which then guided BASA in terms of the selection of the mentors for the collective mentorship. 

NP: In terms of the independent panels that select the top achievers in each province – how are these members selected? 
TM: The adjudication process is mainly facilitated by BASA, but the independent panels comprise individuals nominated by both DAC and BASA (such as Board members, etc.) and includes individuals from the creative and business sectors. The panels differ in each province and operate on an ad-hoc basis.

NP: Can you share any insights into what you and DAC have planned for the next programme? 
TM: There are a number of things that worked really well in terms of the first iteration that we will be strengthening for the second offering. This includes: accessible and inclusive recruitment process, co-facilitation with local creative practitioners, the adjudication process with independent panellists, and, of course, the reporting process which cultivates a good sense of accountability.
     The vision we have for the next offering is to open a dynamic alumni network that will ensure that we continue the relationship with and support past participants. This platform and/or network will help us strengthen the element of peer-to-peer mentorship and to offer space for continuous engagement among the participants. We are also excited because we will be able to reach more artists and to create more jobs in the various provinces.

READ MORE ARTICLES ON THE DEBUT PROGRAMME:
DAC Debut Programme Intro
Meet the 9 DAC Debut Programme Provincial Winners
Unpacking the Debut Programme

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