Prosper was a business support and action research programme for the arts, museums and libraries. It was designed and managed by Creative United, and ran from March 2017 to March 2018.
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.
Seventy participants took part in the programme and received:
- one-to-one business advice
- a free-to-access online business support resource
Following an open call for application, 70 creative and cultural organisations – arts organisations, creative enterprises, museums and libraries – were chosen to participate in the programme for free. They took part in masterclasses, workshops and webinars delivered by industry experts online and in person across England.
View the 70 participating organisations
64 Million Artists, AΦE, Antlers Gallery, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (Library Services), Burnley Youth Theatre, Cambridge Live, Candoco Dance Company, Clowns Without Borders, Coney, Creative Arts East, Creative Future, Creativity Works, Criterion Theatre Company, Culture&, DaDaFest, darts (Doncaster Community Arts), Derby Museums, Exeter Phoenix Ltd, Festival of Thrift, FRONTLINEdance ltd, Gateshead Council, Libraries, Geese Theatre Company, Greenwich Dance, Jasmine Illustration, Jazz re:freshed Limited, Kala Sangam, Kings Theatre, Kirklees Theatre Trust, The Lawrence Batley Theatre, Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, Live Theatre Winchester Trust: Theatre Royal Winchester and Hat Fair, London Borough of Hammersmith and, Fulham (Libraries and Archives), Luke Emery Productions, Meadow Arts, Metal Culture Ltd, Middle Child Theatre, Modern Art Oxford, Museum of Army Flying, New Brewery Arts, New Writing North, NYMAZ, One Latin Culture Ltd, Philharmonia Orchestra, Photographic Archive Miners CIC, Photoworks, Poet in the City, Polly Tisdall Sole Trader, Polysemic Ltd, Red Herring Productions, Rhythmix, Ripon Museum Trust, Ruth Singer, Salford Community Leisure, Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust, SoCo Music Project, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, Somerset County Council/Somerset Libraries, Soul Labels, Spike Island Artspace Ltd, Stellar Projects and Events LLP, Studio Peascod, The Architecture Centre, The Farmland Museum, The Mill Arts Centre, The Wardrobe Ensemble, Turned On Its Head CIC, tutti frutti productions, UK Young Artists, Vane, Virtual Migrants and Wild Rumpus CIC
“It's easy to feel clueless, alone and unsure where to start in these situations. But the Prosper programme has definitely been a springboard to greater things.” Prosper participant
Prosper business support outcomes and impacts
Following Prosper business support, and across different data collection methods, the research showed there was an increase in confidence expressed consistently by the cohort as a whole for all of the business development outcomes
The data demonstrated that the cohort has moved towards greater commerciality and/or diversity of funding and/or resilience. Specifically:
- 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
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 has been a successful national investment in business support to improve the resilience of the arts, museums and libraries.
- 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.
- Prosper has confirmed (Arts Council England) evidence of national demand for tailored business support for cultural creative organisations.
- Evidence from Prosper suggests gaps in, and under-utilisation of, business support in the cultural creative sector.
- The cultural creative sector continues to demonstrate an aversion to the ‘language of business support’, but not to its activities.
Read the report
Creative United has enhanced understanding of what works for business support provision in the creative and cultural sectors, but we want to do more. Whether you’re a potential funder or partner, a local authority or university, contact us to discuss how we can work together to boost resilience in these sectors.
- 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.