So many of our current discussions about new business models and funding structures for arts and culture take it as a given that the organization is the appropriate frame of reference. How can we make arts organizations more vital, more responsive, more sustainable? As if the organization is some universal unit of measure, and always the best unit for understanding and advancing positive change.
- Existence — Why do firms emerge, why are not all transactions in the economy mediated over the market?
- Boundaries — Why is the boundary between firms and the market located exactly there? Which transactions are performed internally and which are negotiated on the market?
- Organization — Why are firms structured in such a specific way? What is the interplay of formal and informal relationships?
- Heterogeneity of action & performance — What drives different actions and performances of firms?
- Coordination — Arts and cultural production is often extremely complex and interconnected. Arts organizations can establish contracts and processes and relationships networks that can coordinate those complexities better than a group without a formal organization. This, of course, is changing as the Internet enables coordination without formal organization.
- Control — Full-time employment contracts presume that the employer can direct and evaluate the performance of their staff. Organizations, therefore, have a greater level of control not only of the assets they own, but the people they employ (in theory). It’s certainly possible for groups of people to work toward a common goal without a common employer. But it’s also more challenging to hit a specific target. Of course, the sibling of central control is stasis. The costs of central planning and coordination are growing ever higher when the world changes ever faster.
- Capital — Actually a combination of coordination and control, but worth its own bullet item. Arts and cultural endeavors often require large amounts of capital — highly specialized buildings or equipment like fly rigging and Stradivarius violins, and aggregations of monetary resources that provide endowment interest or balance the roller coaster of cash flow. The organization allows the persistent collection of capital, rather than attempting to coordinate other people’s capital all the time. It can buy and control real estate, attract and hold contributed income, or sign rental/lease agreements for access to capital. The organization isn’t the ONLY way to do this. And this may well be the most active innovation area coming in the next decade.