Can you believe it? It’s been a year since proposed changes to the Cultural Economic Development Program (CEDP) were first announced. Last October, Jerry Dick, TCR’s Director of Heritage, and Lucy Alway, CEDP’s Heritage Officer, stood before delegates at the Museum Association’s annual conference to outline the changes and collect feedback. With multi-year funding, revised admission standards and tiered operational support tied directly to the achievement of best practices and standards on the table, the “new and improved” CEDP was a significant departure from the original program.
The heritage community responded to these changes with relatively little fuss. Largely, I suspect, because important details, like the revised admission requirements and funding formula, were still in the works. Well, that’s all changed ... sort of.
Last weekend, Lucy reprised her appearance at MANL’s conference to present an update on the CEDP review process and an overview of the latest round of changes as proposed by the program’s Advisory Committee. But before we get to those, here’s a quick recap.
Last October, the following changes to CEDP were proposed:
- All CEDP applicants would be required to complete a detailed survey of their current operations and activities.
- Using a combination of survey results and a review of requested documents (for example, an organization’s mission statement, collections management policy, strategic plan, etc.), each applicant would be placed in one of three streams. Placement would be based solely on an applicant’s demonstrated ability to meet the minimum standards for a particular stream.
- Operational funding would increase with each successive stream. Simply put, an organization placed in stream II would be eligible for more operational support than an organization placed in stream I. As with the current model, funding would be calculated as a percentage of the applicant’s annual operating budget. However, under the proposed revisions, the higher the stream, the larger the eligible percentage. It was hoped that the promise of increased funding would encourage organizations to improve their standards of operation and strive to meet best practices.
- Applicants who did not meet the minimum standards for Steam I by 2016 would not be eligible for CEDP funding for the next three years. Applicants could re-apply for admission, or seek reclassification to a higher stream in 2019.
Now, jump forward to Spring, 2013. A draft of the detailed survey was circulated to a sample group of ten organizations. They represented a cross section of current CEDP applicants and included a mix of large, small and medium-sized museums, archives and heritage societies. Participants were asked to complete the survey and provide feedback on the process. The results were eye-opening:
- Many of the participants (including some of the larger ones) did not meet the requirements for admission into stream I. Which meant, under the proposed system, they would not be eligible for CEDP funding unless they implemented improvements in their operations.
- Few participants were able to complete the survey in its entirety. Many reported that they found at least some of the questions unclear and/or were confused by the terminology used.
- All participants noted that completion of the survey (including locating copies of all required documents and policies) required a considerable amount of time ... in some cases, a full day or more. For anchor attractions, exchanging a day of their time for tens of thousands of dollars in operational support is an excellent investment. But what about the nearly 80 organizations that currently receive less than $3,000 in annual funding? Were we making small, volunteer-led organizations with limited capacity jump through a whole lot of hoops for limited reward?
- There was a huge variation in the quality of documents provided. For example, the collections policies submitted ranged from comprehensive documents that included templates for key forms and agreements, to a few sentences that very generally described the focus of the organization’s collecting. It was clear that each submitted document would need to be reviewed and approved or, reviewed, rejected and feedback provided to the submitting organization. The draft survey identified 23 separate documents for submission. Hmmm .... 23 documents x 120 current CEDP applicants .... Holy cow! That’s a whole lot of paper to peruse.
In August, members of the CEDP Advisory Committee met to chew over the survey results. We considered ways of simplifying the survey, reducing basic admission standards and - the elephant in the room - the lack of additional program monies to support a tiered funding model. Unless more money was added to the CEDP pot, organizations in stream I would need to receive a reduction in their current funding to accommodate increased funding for streams II and III. Some members of the Advisory Committee questioned whether the provincial government possessed the political will to reduce or deny funding to organizations - particularly the anchor attractions - when overall program funding was not being cut. And if they did, would the increases for streams II and III really be substantial enough to justify the considerable work required by organizations to advance through the ranks? Clearly, a re-think was required.
A New, New CEDP
Ultimately, it was decided that neither the sector nor government are ready for a program that ties operational support directly to a tiered system of standards. Instead, a new, new CEDP was drafted. Here are the nuts and bolts of the program as presented by Lucy last weekend:
First, all applicants will be required to meet the program’s new entry requirements. Specifically, by 2016, your organization must:
- Meet current eligibility requirements
- Comply with the Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism Board’s Tourism Assurance Program (TAP). Specifically:
- Possess public liability insurance (policy number required as proof of insurance)
- Demonstrate the ability to respond to inquiries within 24 hours
- Provide an up-to-date web presence (e.g. website or Facebook page) AND an up-to-date profile on either MANL’s or ANLA’s web listing
- Possess all necessary licenses and permits
- Deliver actual experiences and services as advertised (note: this includes your opening hours)
- Be in good standing with the province’s tourism complaints system
Next, your organization must possess the following two documents. These documents must be customized to meet the specific needs of your organization and must be formally approved by your board:
- Mission Statement
- Collections Policy
And that's it. The CEDP Advisory Committee will work with applicants to help them meet these new standards. However, organization who cannot meet these entry requirements by 2016 will not be eligible for CEDP funding.
Applicants who are eligible for an operating grant of $15,000 or more will be required to meet a set of “enhanced standards”. These have not yet been finalized.
Pending budget approval, the program’s funding formula will remain the same. Currently, this sits at 16% of an organization’s eligible operating costs.
Apart from the entry requirements outlined above, operational funding will not be tied to the achievement of standards or best practices.
A Carrot Instead of a Stick
Government and our sectoral organizations agree that everyone involved in the preservation, presentation and promotion of our province’s heritage needs to increase their awareness of standards and best practices, and commit to implementing them within their organization. And we’re not just talking about our smallest museums and heritage societies. We mean each and every one of us. Yes, there’s a whole lot of incredible heritage work going on out there ... but we can all do better.
However, instead of mandating standards/best practices by linking them to operational funding, the Advisory Committee will encourage improvement through the creation of a separate, tiered recognition program (e.g. bronze, silver and gold). Entry into the program will be voluntary and could possibly be opened up to include organizations who are not eligible for CEDP including natural heritage sites and privately owned and/or for-profit heritage attractions. As organizations move through the tiers, they will become eligible for a range of bonuses or rewards. These could include increased/special promotion by TCR (e.g. on their website and/or in the provincial Tourism Guide), public recognition through a plaquing program, access to special services and training, etc.
Both the CEDP Advisory Group and delegates at last weekend’s MANL conference seem to like this approach. However, there are still some significant challenges that need to be overcome. For instance:
- The perks/rewards offered to participating organizations need to be sufficient enough to warrant the significant amount of work and resources required to move through the program’s tiers. However, without an infusion of new funding (which is unlikely in the short to intermediate term), the development and delivery of those perks/rewards cannot require a significant outlay of resources. Simply put, to ensure success, we’ll need to come up with a series of perks/rewards that will be appealing to participating organizations and can be delivered by government and/or the sectoral organizations with little or no additional cost. Ideas anyone?
- Obvious rewards, like increased/special promotion, will require cooperation from TCR’s Product Development and Marketing divisions. Their primary concern is the quality of the visitor experience - those elements of an organization’s operations that visitors experience directly. Let’s face it, if TCR is going to actively promote specific organizations, they’ll want to ensure that the things visitors see and do at our sites, and the service they receive, meet expectations. However, in any standards program, it is easier and less resource intensive to focus on policy rather than practice. For example, it takes much less time and money to to review and approve an exhibit policy than it does to actually assess the quality of interpretation offered by the same organization. The first requires reading a document. The second requires a site visit by qualified professionals. The fear is that without additional funding to implement the rewards program, we’ll end up with a system that encourages the development of policy documents, rather than the implementation of that policy. This is a problem when we are publicly promoting these sites to the public as our best.
Clearly, CEDP remains a work in progress and we welcome your input and feedback. Lucy’s session at MANL’s AGM included a discussion of possible perks/rewards, but time was tight and we know that everyone was not able to attend. But fear not, there are lots of ways you can contribute:
- If you're a community/regional museum, contact the office of the Museum Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.
- If you're a community/regional archives, contact the Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Archives
- Post your comments on AHI’s feedback wall (yes, I live in eternal hope!), or click on the comment button below
- Contact Lucy Alway, CEDP Program Officer at email@example.com
CEDP funding is essential to the operations of heritage organizations throughout this province. Please take some time to review and consider the proposed changes and provide your feedback. Your concerns can only be addressed if you voice them.