The Prosper business support journey

Prosper took its cohort of participants on a journey through awareness-raising and understanding to support via a network of expert business advisors in order to improve their resilience, commercial capacity and investment readiness

Prosper was a business support and action research programme, designed and managed by Creative United, running from March 2017 to March 2018. It provided:

  • one-to-one business advice
  • workshops
  • masterclasses
  • webinars
  • a free-to-access online business support resource

to 70 arts organisations, museums and libraries.

The Prosper business support journey

Key findings

 

Delivering business support to the creative cultural sector

  • Designed from previous understandings of 'what works' in business support to the sector, Prosper was very successful in engaging the target sector, achieving 416 online registrations, and 208% of its contracted target.

  • Design included a credit system allowing clients to self-select from a suite of business support activities (Business Advisor and/or Group Learning Events as well as free to access online resources).

  • Application data confirmed Prosper’s successful engagement and recruitment of the diverse target market - by art form, geography, size, business/organisational type, and life stage.

  • Two-thirds of applicants had not used business support in the previous two years. Those that had, showed evidence of impact of increased confidence against a range of business development skills in comparison to the broader applicant population.

  • Over the nine-month project, Prosper achieved high levels of participation (87% of credits used, minimal client drop-out) and high levels of satisfaction (95% would recommend a Prosper project to peers).

  • Usage was overwhelmingly through Business Advisors (91% of 715 Prosper hours used), with very high client satisfaction.

 

Prosper business support outcomes and impacts

Following Prosper business support, and across different data collection methods, there was an increase in confidence expressed consistently by the cohort as a whole for all of the business development outcom

The Prosper cohort is moving towards greater commerciality and/or diversity of funding and/or resilience:

  • 18% of clients had launched a new product or service and a further 50% planned to do so
  • 17% had diversified their funding and a further 67% planned to do so
  • 27% of respondents were implementing investment readiness steps

On exit from Prosper the cohort reported an understanding of the value of business support:

  • 82% stated they would invest in more business support in the future
  • 95% stated that they would recommend a programme like Prosper to their peers


Conclusions

1. Prosper has been a successful national investment in business support to improve the resilience of the arts, museums and libraries.

2. Prosper has demonstrated aspects of 'what works' and good practice in business support to the arts, museum and libraries sector, based upon the 'managed brokerage' of one-to-one business advice.

3. Prosper has confirmed (Arts Council England) evidence of national demand for tailored business support for cultural creative organisations.

4. Evidence from Prosper suggests gaps in, and under-utilisation of, business support in the cultural creative sector.

5. The cultural creative sector continues to demonstrate an aversion to the 'language of business support', but not to its activities.


Recommendations

  • Invest in tailored business support to the cultural creative sector to fully access latent and expressed demand and maximise the development of a culture of enterprise, innovation and sector resilience.

  • Future business support programmes should recognise the continued evidence base for the effectiveness of tailored business advice through sector-based advisors.

  • Continue to reflect the culture, values, organisational diversity and languages of the cultural creative sector to ensure the delivery of efficient and effective business support.

 

You can read the executive summary of the report or the full report in detail, and if you're interested in funding activities that work to increase the resilience of the sector, we’ve love to hear from you.

 


Creative United was grand funded by Arts Council England and match funded from other funders and programme partners: 

Access – The Foundation for Social Investment
Creative Scotland
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Heritage Lottery Fund
Centre for Business in Society at Coventry University
Arts Marketing Association

Prosper has been a successful national investment in business support to improve the resilience of the arts, museums and libraries.