The Stage offers an overview of a new energy-purchase club formed among UK arts venues. Banding together as a buying consortium allows the organizations to buy in bulk without actually getting bulkier.
The idea of purchasing groups isn’t new to the world, and not even new to the arts. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has coordinated shared purchasing and shared services — from office supplies to health insurance to marketing purchase — for many years. While the setup logistics can be complex, the rewards are obvious.
It seems increasingly likely that arts organizations will need to be deeply cautious about whether and how they grow. They’ll need to retain a vital core around their essential work. But all the other stuff outside that core will be ripe for outsourcing, elimination, or shared services (elsewhere this is described as a Protean Corporation).
The input market (energy, supplies, services) seems to favor the huge and the global. The output market (audiences, communities, funders) favors the nimble and focused. Shared services can offer the opportunity to buy big while staying small.