Strategic Review

Those interested in what goes on behind the scenes at HVA will have been aware that business consultant Carol Stokes carried out a free management audit of HVA resulting in recommendations. Members were invited to attend her resulting presentation on Tuesday 19 January.

There was a good turn out in the boardroom, and an enthusiastic crowd, packed like sardines, saw the slides summarising the report and heard Carol's comments. There was also a question time at the end.

Of course we are all keen to hear what happens next...

"As Chair I would like to thank Carol Stokes for the magnificent piece of work she has produced for HVA in this strategic report. She went back to basics, talking to a lot of members, as well as the OG, and creating and running an email research questionnaire, checking costs and researching what other Open Studios do. When Carol (who originally spoke to us about the Open Studios opportunity, and then decided that was more time than she could commit) offered to give HVA 10 days of her time, I was delighted to be able to undertake the sort of objective and professional research and review we have not had the resources to attempt. But Carol - as we volunteers do - clearly got sucked in as this piece of work clearly represents a lot more than 10 days work. The feedback from Carol's presentation of the strategic review has so far, like Belinda's comments below, been positive, and I certainly am keen to get on with implementing the key recommendations, but before we press all the buttons (we will start planning the changes and beginning the recruitment process), we would welcome any further thoughts from members" said MEL HILBROWN


Out of the frying pan into the future…

Out of interest I attended the presentation by Carol Stokes setting out a possible future vision for HVA. I’m glad I went because it turned out to be an inspiring meeting. Although I resigned from the Organising Group (OG) last year, as an HVA member I’m still interested in what goes on and how we are going to develop.

The first thing that struck me is the insurmountable evidence that the majority of us love what HVA does for us artists – and we can’t see a replacement or other option available. I interpret this enthusiasm to mean that “we don’t want to see HVA fizzle out and become history on our watch.” Though underlying this enormous appreciation for HVA I’ve been aware of some rumblings, mutterings, frustrations even, that people want to see HVA move forward in various ways. In any healthy organisation there is surely always a tension between keeping things going and wanting to do more.

The OG have always, quite rightly in my opinion, been very careful about our reserves. These are essential because much of the groundwork that costs the organisation money, such as the Call for Artists posters, happens just before members renew subscriptions to HVA and Open Studios. So cash goes out before cash comes in and the reserves are our buffer. If the subscriptions do well we top up the buffer again. If they don’t we lose a bit of buffer. At first our finances were significantly unsettled when local government funding was withdrawn and this seems to have settled into a pattern of losing about £1K of buffer every year.

The report is quick to appreciate what the OG has done, competently led by Mel, to reduce costs. Nevertheless the current choice as I see it, in fact as I think the report indicates, is to EITHER let the buffer run down by about £1K a year until we are at the point where the reserves are no longer big enough to cover costs when required; OR do something a bit more radical while we have the cash in reserve to take action.

The main thrust of the proposed plan is to spend approximately £7K of buffer on not only upgrading the look and feel of the website but also to ensure it is something that can be viewed on smart phones and tablets as well as notebooks, laptops and PCs. A single change like this puts all sorts of possibilities in motion. For example, once you have a more interactive front page with space for advertising and links – then you can draw in more members and investors. A bigger membership brings a bigger knowledge base to the organisation with growing possibilities of mentoring, projects, idea-sharing opportunities and special interest groups. A bigger membership also creates a wider range of Open Studios to visit. It could well mean greater potential for earning both for individual members through sales and HVA as a whole through investors’ advertising. Better technology not only creates more opportunity for income it also has the potential to reduce some costs, for example, it could eventually lead to less printing.

These are all things that the OG has considered time and again. However lack of clear research to support the ideas and lack of funds has always stopped action. Now, this extremely well-researched report, in effect ‘gives HVA permission’ to spend some reserves on what will take an already successful organisation to the next level. It’s a very exciting time for an organisation run by volunteers and now in its 26th year. 

Mel and the OG have done really well in involving Carol to research and collate a document that presents a great future vision. I know change isn’t going to happen overnight because things like a better future take the careful planning and management that we’ve come to expect of our volunteers on the OG. Nevertheless as a member artist I’m looking forward to what the next couple of years will bring…


P.S. I did my 5 years’ worth of volunteering on the OG. More volunteers are needed now– and it’s a very exciting time to join the team!