Pamberi Trust is a Zimbabwean art NGO that operates Book Café and the Mannenberg venue in Harare, stages 900 arts events annually and manages the widest-ranging arts development program in Zimbabwe. African Synergy Trust is an African cultural network started by Pamberi Trust, Johannesburg.
The dependency trap is dangerous.
Gradually, cultural development is turning towards partnership with creative ‘enterprise’ – that is the full gamut of non-grant funding income, creative economy, commercial resources and corporate linkage in culture , as an alternative to grant funding, which is spiralling headlong towards dependency according to Paul Brickhill, creative director at Pamberi Trust:
- The dependency trap is dangerous in Africa. State support to cultural advancement is weak outside South Africa. Without viable state support, while an art output in Africa is increasing, it remains patchy and fragile, evidenced by the emergence of arts festivals in the last decade, some of which have already collapsed (within 2-3 years). The signals are clear, too much art output and infra-structure in Africa is sustained by external funding, and when this reduces, art initiatives collapse.
Brickhill is addressing three questions in particular:
How does the ‘creative economy’ adopt strategies that sustain growth, where external funding is a source of expansion, and not the bottom line in survival? Can this ‘creative economy’ nurture the emergence of a generation of young artists, rather than sustain only the top 15% of established stars? What is the right linkage between ‘cultural space’ and democracy without compromising artistic integrity?
The Hybrid Partnership
Pamberi Trust represent the single largest arts program in Zimbabwe, however the NGO is not large or well-resourced. Its strength lies in innovation and strategic use of its resources. The level of output and audience development is achieved by a ‘hybrid partnership’ between a development NGO (Pamberi Trust) and two venues (The Book Café and The Mannenberg) which are currently 85% self-sustaining.
The gross profit from this commercial turnover is applied such that it effectively serves development outcomes. A formal agreement between Pamberi Trust and the commercial venues is necessary and a close relationship between the two, under the same management. The venues provide stages, rehearsal space, workshop and training facilities, office space, services, such as support staff, café space that is de facto the ‘artists meeting place’ free of charge for the artists supported by the NGO. This is funded by the commercial income from the venues.
- To conclude, venue operating expenses and fixed assets are applied to project outcomes. The venues themselves are not funded; however they operate currently at a 15% deficit, and this only as a result of economic collapse in Zimbabwe – we would normally expect the commercial operation to be entirely self-supporting, says Brickhill.
The Impact for Pamberi Trust and the Artists
Pamberi Trust, unencumbered by a large proportion of institutional and project overheads, is able to apply a greater proportion of its resources to projects. The hybrid system has proved resilient in extremely harsh conditions (the local currency, banking system, and much of the economy collapsed in 2008 while political crisis resulted in 4 million people leaving the country, including two-thirds of all professionals).
- The model has taken 13 years to fine-tune. It is unprecedented in Africa. It is challenging in terms of management, systems and some aspects of financing, but the results are indicative – Pamberi Trust has - at minimum – achieved three-fold increase in project output, artist facilities and support, and number of artists supported in projects, given the level of external grant funding to development. In other words, if Pamberi Trust did not have the support of the venues in a ‘hybrid’ relationship, project output would fall at least 60-75%.
In Pamberi Trust they now refer to the development a sustainable model for an African ‘creative economy’ as ‘Creative Africa’. For them, it is based around the hybrid partnership model, a pioneering model in Africa, which can already show that every dollar of grant funding received is matched by equivalent self-generated income and resources. The systems have been created over painstaking years but the results have proven to be fruitful and sustainable.