CultureWorks is a management commons for the arts, heritage, and creative community. We are a platform for sharing the human capital, space, technology, systems, policies, and practices that cultural practices need to flourish, whether as an individual or as an organization.
We support individual artists, curators, and producers in all fields including music, dance, theatre, visual arts, design, architecture, film and other media (as well as disciplines and hybrids yet-to-be-named). The history and heritage community also is welcome under our tent: museums, historic sites, collections, libraries, journalism, and the humanities, making us one of the most multi-disciplinary organizations in the region.
CultureWorks’ business model is cooperative, meaning that we do not have to compete (in perception or reality) with our members for ongoing charitable support. We raise philanthropic funds only for capital investment in the development of our programs or services, not ongoing operations. Each our members spend a portion of their revenues on the “share” of supporting resources they need.
We believe there is safety in numbers. The more individuals and organizations in our commons, the stronger it becomes and the more we can invest in new services. Our four programs—Cowork, Copilot, Trust, and Venture (the latter in development)—all financially sustain themselves individually and backstop each other against unexpected bumps in the road. Sharing resources internally across our programs and within our membership also allows us to provide holistic support at affordable and sustainable rates.
We were established in 2010 as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Our affiliate, CultureTrust Greater Philadelphia, through which we offer our general administration services, was declared as a 501(c)(3) Pennsylvania trust in 2013.
CultureWorks reaches communities throughout the Philadelphia and tri-state region, including southern New Jersey, Delaware, and southeastern Pennsylvania. If you can get to us (or we to you) for a meeting within an hour or so, we can have a relationship. Unlike many technology-based companies today, the value we offer is not delivered online or at arm’s length. We believe that problems are best solved locally, face-to-face, by people with a thirst for solutions, boundless imagination, and deep knowledge of the landscape.
We provide arts, heritage, and creative practitioners affordable access to the resources they need to flourish.
As we continue to develop our programs and services, we look to four design principles:
1. Become a co-fiduciary and a co-manager.
Build mutual trust, shared risk, and management stake with our members.
2. Integrate whole systems.
Bring together all of the elements of a comprehensive management system.
3. Make resources affordable, flexible, and responsive.
Make programs immediately accessible, flexible, and proportionately priced.
4. Operate everything, own nothing.
Take no interest in intellectual and real property, or cash assets/debts.
The idea for CultureWorks began with the restless desire to solve a problem, make people happy, and leave the world better than we found it.
We dreamed of a world with affordable, effective, and abundant support for people with the will to create the things they imagine. We were weary of the inefficiency and impracticality of traditional organizations and the aged infrastructure around them. So we built a platform for the cultural and creative community to share insight, expertise, brute labor, space, ideas, technology, coffee, laughter, and an ever-expanding list of other things.
To build this platform, we just looked to our peers in other fields. There are already well-tested solutions to persistent problems out there. We found ours in the social services and start-up incubators, borrowing ideas from comprehensive fiscal sponsorship, social venture accelerators, coworking, and management consulting. We adapted these adjacent solutions to the unique needs of the cultural sector, and assembled them as a toolkit under one roof, which is the only innovation we can claim.
Thomas Edison had it right when he said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Inspiration is easy. Ideas are a dime a dozen. The work that it takes to make those ideas come to life demands a lot of grit and perspiration. But it gets a lot easier when you can share that work with others. That is the purpose of CultureWorks.
Do what you love. Do it now. Be happy.
CultureWorks is a platform for sharing the resources critical to building and managing creative and cultural practices and organizations.
We have organized these essential resources into an efficient, flexible, and affordable toolkit of programs. You can participate in one or more of them at any time, changing, adding, and subtracting resources as your needs require. Our core resources are:
The United States is home to the most flourishing cultural and creative community in the world.
We believe that making and preserving are essential to human flourishing.
The term “flourishing” is borrowed from the field of Positive Psychology, in particular the work of Martin Seligman, who is credited with founding the field. Without getting into the expansive literature on this concept, flourishing is wellbeing and happiness realized at a high level. It entails many elements, but it is the best purpose we can find for art and culture to exist. And thanks to the last 30 years of developments in the social sciences, we can define and even measure flourishing. As a result we are in the process of working on a “Flourishing Index” (working title) as our chief metric of success and impact.
We think that making and preserving—the two fundamental activities in arts and culture—contribute significantly to flourishing. Why? Because no artist, writer, curator, or tinkerer has ever walked through our door at CultureWorks asking us to help them make kids smarter, bring communities together, generate economic impact, make places more “creative”, or any of the other instrumental purposes that are placed on culture. Their motives are much simpler. They all say (in so many words), “I like doing this particular creative thing, because it makes me happy. Help me (or us) keep doing this and sharing it with others in a sustainable way.”
So what’s the barrier to doing just that? The equitable distribution of and access to the resources necessary for cultural practice of any size or nature to flourish. It’s a matter of cultural equity, to which there are many barriers, most of our own invention. Here are a few. The good news is that with a slight shift of thinking, many of these barriers can be eliminated.
- Live Free or Die: We are fiercely independent and associate freedom with independence. This is not just the motto of New Hampshire, but practically the motto of our country. It’s not surprising that there are about 110,000 arts and culture nonprofits in this country, and that’s not counting the increasing number of folks working outside the nonprofit structure. We think that independence (our own ____ fill in the blank) itself is an absolute indicator of wealth, success, value, etc. It can be so, but it is not necessarily so.
- The Golden Rule: They that have the gold make the rules. Our chief measure of health and impact is money. Per the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy, 55% of contributed income in 2009 went to the 2% of arts organizations with budgets over $5 million. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, 1% of arts organizations—those with budgets over $10 million—received close to 50% of all contributed funding to the arts in 2012. As a result, we are writing policy for the organizations that receive the most funding and largely disregarding smaller scale practice. We think that money is the main indicatory of stability, health, impact, and policy. It can be so, but it is not necessarily so.
- Bigger is Better: We’ve all heard the capitalist mantra, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Of the 110,000 nonprofit arts and culture organizations, 70,000 operate with budgets below $25,000, while 40,000 have budgets greater than $25,000. Most cultural practice is small by design, based on the vision and desires of those surrounding it. While we need the entire ecology, from large to small, smaller scale practice is where we get innovation, risk taking, diversity, and reach into otherwise remote corners of our communities. Bigger is not always better. It can be so, but it is not necessarily so.
- Management is Cultural: There are as many cultures of management and governance as there are cultures of practice. Making a culture of management “conform” may jeopardize the work. We need to provide a platform where their management can meet business management. “Best practices” are not always “best” for everyone. They can be best, but are not necessarily best.
- Life is Short: Time and will, not knowledge or skill, hold us back. The crisis we face in capacity building is not knowledge, skills, or aptitudes, but lack of time in the creative day to do the work. It is boots and hands that we lack. The answer is not to make artists better managers in a mainstream business sense. (In fact, they are pretty good managers of what they do.) Instead, we should be concerned with how to deliver the essential management support the cultural community needs.
So our theory of change—the impact we want to have on the world—is pretty simple. We think that the more we share, the more we eliminate the above barriers. As a result, cultural equity will increase, as will human wellbeing and happiness—our ability to flourish.
By becoming a member and joining our management commons:
Your fixed costs become variable costs.
Revenue sharing and monthly flexibility make fixed costs easier to carry.
You realize all of the benefits of a merger without the muss and fuss.
All of the efficiencies of a merger at a fraction of emotional and financial cos
You join a platform for collaboration, co-employment, and shared solutions.
Cohorts of members can share employees and sourcing with greater ease.
You have a resource for managing start up, re-structuring, or wind down.
We can be a transition resource for organization, re-organization, or ending.
As a service organization and community, we believe in transparency and information sharing with our peers, supporters, and stakeholders. All of the below information is publicly available, but we are pleased to provide it here for ease of access.
CultureWorks was formed in December 2010, as a successor to a pre-existing nonprofit organization, Peregrine Arts, which is now an independent organization named Hidden City Philadelphia and wholly separate from CultureWorks.
Our first fiscal year was 2011 (FYE 06/30/11), and FY2011 and FY2012 were both focused on separating from our predecessor, establishing our baseline model, and building our initial constituent base. This process is reflected in the financials for FY2011 and FY2012. Our first year of full program operations was FY2013.