Social Enterprise Canada

May 23, 2014

Part 1 – Artscape Toronto’s Tim Jones reflects on elements of scaling-up success

About 10 years ago, Artscape Toronto was slightly overwhelmed by the interest from others in what it had managed to pull off. There was keen interest to draw from the social enterprise’s success in brokering the needs and interests of artists with respect to space with the needs and interests of other people who are trying to grow cities.

Looking to scale in a way that wouldn’t distract from its work on the ground in Toronto, Artscape first attempted to provide consulting services. It soon found that work was less rewarding and less effective than desired, president and CEO Tim Jones recalls.

Tim Jones

The social enterprise has since been iterating its response, trying to build and share knowledge around the practice of creative placemaking it had pioneered while also continuing to grow its own organization.

Artscape defines creative placemaking as leveraging the power of art, culture or creativity to promote change, growth and transformation of place.

The ENP-CA news service recently caught up with Tim to discuss the organization’s experiences with scaling up to date and what new possibilities it’s working towards. This interview is an edited and condensed version of the interview.

What elements have been integral to success to your organization’s scaling-up journey?

The first part of it is to understand what the intellectual capital that we’ve developed really is.

About 10 years ago we coined a phrase called creative placemaking which was a way of framing the work that we do in a way that we hoped to be able to communicate more clearly to others what we were doing.

We spent a lot of time wrapping our heads and hands around the intellectual capital that we’ve developed over a long period of time, pulling together case studies and documentation and testimonials of various people and partners that have been involved in our projects, so that we’re better able to share that with others.

So the first step is understanding.

The second thing is learning the best ways to disseminate or communicate, engage with others and frankly at the same time build a revenue stream that will support that activity. We take a social enterprise approach to everything that we do and that kind of knowledge-sharing function needs to sustain itself as well.

In the early days it was about consulting. We realized three or four years in, however, that going out and doing a study didn’t often produce the impact we were looking for. So we’ve reoriented that work, which is still happening on a fee-for-service basis, to focus more on working as a mentor or coach to communities. It’s far more effective, we feel, and rewarding to operate as a coach than as a consultant. It’s a small distinction but it’s actually an important lesson we’ve learned along the way.

Can you explain a little more?

: Often as a consultant you’re there to work with your client to do a scope of work, deliver a report and then you leave it for them to figure out what to do with it. What we’ve found is the work that we’re doing is multi-stakeholder, complicated real-estate projects that are very difficult to manage. There’s an art and a science to it.

So now when folks are trying to do this work in other communities we provide ongoing coaching to help them through the inevitable twists and turns. It’s complicated stuff, and having a report doesn’t get you very far. The coaching relationship is a much better one. There is a not a report at the end of the day that is generated, but we’ve found it is more productive for the folks that we’ve worked with.

Examples of the folks that we’ve worked with through that program include the City of Melbourne where we’ve helped them create something they’ve called Creative Spaces Melbourne, which is a fantastic organization that is part of the city. We’ve also worked in smaller communities in Ontario like Guelph and Kingston. We’ve been doing a lot of work over the years in Vancouver.

Mentoring and coaching has been an effective way that we’ve been able to import our knowledge but also learn from other communities about their challenges and continue to grow the practice of creative placemaking.

We’ve also created more formal programs to address some of these things. We teach a university course on creative placemaking through the University of B.C.

We run a whole series of webinars where we bring together various folks who are experts in this field.

So one of the lessons we’ve learned, is that you can’t just do one thing. There are lots of different ways that people want to plug into this. Some people will use the resources that we’ve developed online. Other people feel it’s important that they hear from you directly, so we run out to conferences. Other people want to do a deeper dive and might enroll in the university course that we teach. So lots of different formats and different ways of building and sharing knowledge is an important success factor.

Related Story:
Part 2 – Scaling-up advice and caution from Artscape Toronto

This story is part of an ENP-CA news inquiry on scaling up social enterprise. To learn more, click here.

To join the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #scalingupsocent

Writer: Michelle Strutzenberger

This story is part of an ENP-CA news inquiry on scaling up social enterprise. To learn more, click here.

To join the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #scalingupsocent

- See more at: Michelle Strutzenberger
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