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About the Inquiry

About The Civic Role of Arts Organisations

The relationship between the public and arts organisations is changing. Institutions receiving public investment need to articulate more clearly the value they bring, including to their local communities.

Some arts organisations are showing initiative and leading the way, acting as platforms for unheard voices and places where people can come together in uncertain times. Others are interested but worry they will alienate current audiences by embracing new ones.

We aim to connect all those who believe the arts are central to society and want their arts organisation to play a ‘civic role’. Our ambition is to build a movement of change-makers, with impact in their local communities, across the UK and internationally.

The Panel

In our Inquiry phase, we were lucky enough to be guided by an expert panel from the arts and social sectors.
View the panel

Aims of the Inquiry

Our History: The Inquiry Phase 

In 2016, The Inquiry into the Civic Role of Arts Organisations was launched by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) to celebrate our 60th anniversary. The Inquiry was guided by an expert panel and International Reference Group. After a year spent researching within the sector, through What Next? workshops, a survey, academic analysis from King’s College and The Institute of Cultural Capital, and 40 in-depth case studies, we released a report Rethinking Relationships

Rethinking Relationships explored the themes we had uncovered, and identified barriers and lever for change. These included:

  • the need to develop people and skills, particularly leadership teams
  • the desire for deeper cross-partnership working
  • the desire to scale up successful models
  • the need for more flexible funding, which value ‘the civic’
  • more diversity in staffing, visitors and work
  • the need for a common language for this work. 

Since the publication of Rethinking Relationships we have been working with numerous partners to develop programmes, networks, training opportunities and more which address the barriers and levers identified. 

As we transitioned from Phase One of the programme to Phase 2, we dropped the words ‘The Inquiry’ from our name. We have finished our research and are now focused on what advocacy influence and approaches we need to undertake to bring about systemic change.

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About Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (CGF) is an international charitable foundation with cultural, educational, social and scientific interests, based in Lisbon with offices in London and Paris. The purpose of the UK Branch in London is to bring about long-term improvements in wellbeing, particularly for the most vulnerable, by creating connections across boundaries (national borders, communities, disciplines and sectors) which deliver social, cultural and environmental value.