Principles of government support

Paul Bogen

The role of the government is to be arms-length, not to be control obsessed, not to command and control, not to facilitate other people and groups to create and manage and develop culture. They should have a strategy in the policy but they should be working in partnership with the private sector and the not-for-profit sector. But what they shouldn't do is run everything by themselves because usually they do it badly and it's also much more expensive financially. 

If you have an NGO that received money from the city, usually that organisation can double that money from other sources; whereas if it's run directly by the state, usually the only money is the money from the state because people don't see a reason why they should give money to a state-run organisation. So it's cheaper and it's out of political control. Therefore they should be doing that and particularly in terms of the buildings and spaces, they should have regeneration policies to make buildings accessible. These buildings are not going to be used for anything else. 

They should also act as brokers bringing together property developers and cultural oragnisations or real estate companies as they have that power in the planning process and the political process.

A positive example of government involvement - Helsinki

One positive example of government support would be the old Nokia cable factory in Helsinki. Local artists started a campaign to turn it into a cultural centre. It's a huge building and there was no way the artists could afford to buy this building. So the city bought the building but then it set up an independent management company to run the building. The city doesn't give this managing company any funding but it gave them the building. So you do have iniciatives where the city authority is directly involved; quite often they give the building or they build the building.

Negative examples – problems with government involvement 

There are also lots of negative examples. The main problem is that in democracies the governments change. Sometimes you have 3 or 4 or 5 years and then when the government changes, the policy also completely changes. You thus can have a situation where there is an agreement made, there is a plan, there is support, and all of a sudden that is taken away. That's a real issue if you, as a cultural organisation, rely on government funding or government support. It's quite dangerous if the make-up of the government changes from left to right or right to left or whatever. You have a war going on and you have politicians who want to make a name for themselves and want to leave a legacy, so you get some politicians who just decide they're going to build a cultural centre for no reason except that they want to be remembered for building a cultural centre, or theater etc. Also, a lot of politicians are just stupid so they have no idea about cultural policy, they don't come from a cultural background and they just make stupid decisions, but that happens everywhere.

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Paul Bogen

Paul Bogen

Consultant, project manager, researcher, fundraiser, writer and trainer

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