A recent report commissioned in Western Australia stated that while 75% of hospitals indicated they delivered arts in health activities, there was little or no evidence of any overall co-ordination, planning or agreed strategies in place to underpin and sustain this activity.
So why is it that so many creative projects and programs are failing to develop a strategy?
In order to create robust, sustainable programs we must take time to think about what we hope to do; what we don’t want to do; why we are undertaking this work; how it will be carried out; what the benefits will be etc and then using all of this information, and more, we can develop an agreed strategy document.
Many people I’ve met over the years have been honest enough to admit that they don’t know where to start writing a strategy, or what should and shouldn’t be included in this kind of process. Considering and creating a formal strategy isn’t the most exciting piece of work we undertake, but it is absolutely crucial to creating successful, coherent and sustainable projects and/or programs. It is also likely to be crucial to gaining, and maintaining, any reasonable level of funding from whatever sources. If we can’t show that we have have clearly contemplated what we are planning to do, how can we expect any funding body to provide funding?
There are several things that we should consider when developing a strategy for any given project or program…
Why, why, why…? There are lots of why questions including. Why are we doing this? Why should people take part? Why should the funder fund this? Only once everyone is clear on the why questions can there be mutual understanding and appreciation of what we are doing and why.
Where we are now, where do we want to go? What we might aim to deliver? Consider carefully proposed plans and if these are feasible in the particular environment. Over the years I’ve been approached with so many completely inappropriate project proposals for hospital settings. We must take time to think carefully if this is really appropriate to both the participants, the audience and the setting.
Who should lead creative programs? Arts in health programs should be run by project leads who are qualified, experienced, competent arts professionals. It’s not, and never should be, amateur hour
Governance and guidance. With who’s delivering creative projects covered, consider who’s managing them and how the program is being monitored? Committee style management of creative projects in healthcare, have been shown to be very problematic and can lead to endless, unsolvable problems which will prevent any program getting off the ground before it begins.
Are there policies and procedures that need to be developed? With robust policies in place we can avoid problems before they arise.
Who are the stakeholders, peer organisations and potential partners? We need clear understanding of the interests, expectations, needs and wants of everyone involved as well as other stakeholders who may not be directly involved but who will have an interest in the running of the project, for example hospital management or local community. For arts health projects we also need to be fully aware of the specific medical needs, restrictions etc of those involved.
How will we evaluate, document and promote the work that’s done?
Once we have considered all these issues and more, we are ready to draft a strategy. Strategy documents provide our project or program with direction. What we want to do and why. It is important to understand that our strategy should not be confused with operational or forward plans, which focus on detailed information on how to achieve the direction provided by the strategy.