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Meeting funding challenges with business support for enterprising libraries

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Libraries Deliver: how we'll achieve this

[Editor’s note: This post was written by Sarah Thirtle, Director of Business Support Programmes at Creative United, who are delivering the Prosper business support programme]

Local authorities are having to make tough decisions about the services they deliver, and solutions to their funding challenges are not going to be found quickly. Libraries are an important part of local infrastructure, so in the meantime, what can be done to help sustain these vital services and centres of learning and creativity?

Whether it’s finding ways to make precious funding go further, or moving to a social enterprise model, business support and advice can be transformational. This is why we, at Creative United, are launching a new Arts Council England-funded business support programme designed specifically for organisations in the arts, museums and libraries.

Business support for libraries

First things first, let’s tackle the question of what difference business support could make for libraries. From programmes that we have run before, we know that having one-to-one business advice improves the quality of business planning as well as confidence. Enabling a better understanding of what drives or stymies cashflow, audience engagement or innovation helps create agile strategies for a sustainable business, and, crucially, avoid mission drift. After all, libraries provide a public and civic service for social good, and are not entities for making profit.

However, getting equipped with the tools and knowledge to identify what works well in your organisation, what needs attention, and what might be holding it back, can generate improved audience experience and more engagement in learning and community activities.

The Prosper business support programme

So, could our Prosper business support programme be right for your library? I would suggest asking yourself and those in your team to consider:

  1. Is there an immediate threat or major challenge to the library? Could learning new ways of thinking about organisational strategy, audience engagement and business planning help?
  2. Is there an opportunity to be made the most of? Could approaches to new markets, innovation and digital technology make the difference?
  3. Would a different business model work for your library? Is there the scope and wherewithal to change into a social enterprise?

If any of the above questions sound familiar, and are currently in debate for your library, access to any of the following:

  • getting free one-to-one advice and access to masterclasses, workshops and webinars on subjects such as the business model canvas
  • identifying and monetising assets and IP
  • creating your own social impact model or theory of change

could make a real impact.

Not only that, but you’d join a community of other arts and cultural organisations, offering the opportunity to network and connect across disciplines, sharing ideas and learning.

The Prosper business support programme is open for applications between 27 March and 31 May, with business support activities set to begin in June 2017. We can only accept 70 organisations onto the programme, and we expect competition for places to be high. So, to find out more, and start your application, please visit our website:

Briefing events

We are also holding briefing events across the country where you can hear more about the programme, meet the partners and ask us questions. These are:

London, The Foundling Museum
Monday 27th March - 9:45am-11:00am RSVP here

Hull, Northern Academy of Performing Arts
Wednesday 29th March - 8:45am - 10:00am RSVP here

Norwich, Writers' Centre
Friday 31st March - 9:45am-11:00am RSVP here

Coventry, TechnoCentre
Monday 3rd April - 9:45am-11:00am RSVP here

Liverpool, Play Space
Thursday 6th April - 9:45am-11:00am RSVP here

Southampton, City Art Gallery
Tuesday 11th April - 9:45am-11:00am RSVP here

Newcastle, Arts Centre
Thursday 13th April - 9:45am-11:00am RSVP here

Keep in touch

To keep up to date with our progress, follow us on Twitter and look for the hashtag #ProsperSupport. You can also find us on Facebook and Linkedin.

Note: Prosper is delivered by Creative United in partnership with the Centre for Business in Society at Coventry University and the Arts Marketing Association. Additional funding has been received from Creative Scotland and Access – the Foundation for Social Innovation.

Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce.

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