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Building resilience through online learning with Curve

How Curve our online learning tool is helping arts organisations to be resilient

Arts Council England has a big ambition: ‘great art and culture for everyone’. One of its five goals is ‘resilience’: helping arts organisations up and down England to adapt to change, and to find alternatives to state funding.

This is a big shift and demands new skills, but smaller arts organisations rarely have the time or budget to send people on traditional face-to-face courses. So in spring 2015, John Orna-Ornstein at Arts Council England and Julie Aldridge at AMA asked Wolff Olins through its online learning tool Curve to develop a new way to help meet that need: we proposed a set of three online courses that are affordable and engaging, and that arts managers can take whenever and wherever suits them, to strengthen their ability to build resilient organisations.

The online courses were created with a view to inspire thinking about resilience within arts, culture and heritage organisations and to share best practice across the sector” Julie Aldridge, Executive Director at AMA
Two heads are better than one

To create these online courses, we teamed up with the Julie Aldridge and Laraine Penson at the AMA, the leading organisation in networking and learning in the arts sector. With AMA, we defined the core learners, looked at their learning needs and built three online courses for them. We set some objectives for the course, and agreed it would have three modules.

The first online course would help people define a big purpose for their organisation, in order to win the long-term commitment of funders, employees, volunteers and audiences. The second would go into the detail of building a business model that would bring in new and lasting revenue. And the third would help learners change the culture of their organisation to be more agile and effective.

For each online course, we picked a lead educator, and defined the ‘theory’: the content we wanted users to learn.

We aimed to create three powerful online courses, which provided a flexible learning space for arts professionals to discover and share ideas with each other.” Laraine Penson, Associate Producer at AMA
A practical journey

We then designed the learner’s journey in detail. Each online course followed its own path, but the basic pattern had four stages – all rooted in real-life experience, and designed to be highly practical. This would provide thought-provoking content, real life examples, models and frameworks, and alternative perspectives, encouraging learners to apply these principles and perspectives in their own organisations.

Wolff Olins took the lead on the purpose course, AMA led on business model, and we jointly created the culture courses with the independent expert Mark Wright. In all three courses, we worked hard to get examples from a range of different kinds of arts organisations – from heritage to theatre – and from all over the country.

The aim is to reach hundreds of arts and cultural professionals, to equip them with the skills they will need for the future.” Julie Aldridge, Executive Director at AMA
Make, test, make

By the end of 2015, we’d created a prototype, using our technology platform, Bridge, and early in 2016 we tested it with potential users. This gave us a wealth of feedback on the kind of depth, tone and language that would resonate with learners.

Next we made the videos that bring the content to life, working with our film partners, Spindle. For the purpose course, we filmed at dawn at Hampton Court Palace, which is run by Historic Royal Palaces, whose purpose has helped drive ten years of growth. The business model footage was made at Brighton Pavilion, where the AMA was running a lively workshop. And we filmed the content on culture at Live Theatre in Newcastle, which has a fascinating working culture that’s both experimental and entrepreneurial.

Finally, we packaged it all together and thoroughly beta-tested the product. At the same time, we helped AMA plan a marketing campaign to attract learners. And in April 2016, the new course, called Building Resilience, was ready to go.

This insight along with the expertise and vision Wolff Olins brought meant that we were able to work creatively and collaboratively to develop a new way to help our members make a bigger impact.” Laraine Penson, Associate Producer at AMA

To find out more about how these online courses can help your organisation become more resilient please click below.