CNZ just picked embattled agency We Are Indigo for a $5m+ digital arts platform

An arts organization contracting to provide a ‘digital service’ is not usually newsworthy – but Creative New Zealand’s announcement today will raise a few eyebrows. Sam Brooks explains.

Today, Creative New Zealand, the government’s arts funding organisation, He announced Will invest more than 5 million dollars in creating a digital service for the arts. While this isn’t the first investment of its kind by CNZ, it is the first time the organization has made such a large investment in the digital space, and despite the announcement, it was also unusually publicized. Long procurement and due diligence Processed it.

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Active release because the recipient is a subsidiary of We Are Indigo, the company involved A long and ugly dispute over secret minute reports Compiled by another government agency, the Callaghan Initiative. A procurement report published by CNZ states that “Management was satisfied with We Are Indigo Ltd’s explanation of the situation and noted that various media reports were based largely on social media posts, not Callaghan’s initiative or We Are Indigo.” Instead of information received from Ltd.

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We’re Andy Hamilton, Patrick McPhee and Monty Betham of Indigo (Photo Design: Tina Taylor)

Here’s an explanation of what this means for New Zealand’s arts sector, with commentary and clarification from CNZ CEO Stephen Wainwright where appropriate.

Who is involved?

Creative New Zealand (CNZ) is a Crown agency responsible for developing, investing in and supporting the arts in New Zealand. It falls under the umbrella of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and receives funding through them. These processes have been in the headlines recently due to two notable institutions that did not receive funding under these programs, and The media scream That happened.

Tui Ki Tua is a new company founded and wholly owned by We Are Indigo. We, Indigo, are a self-described “innovation company that arms you to challenge the status quo”. It was founded in 2019 by ex-fighter captain Monty Betham and ex-Xero executive Patrick McPhee. Earlier this year, we are Indigo Reporting matter By the NBR that government agencies have hired private auditors to look into the company, and A study Spinoff’s Duncan Grove revealed a controversial battle over confidential minute reports, which are currently being released before the ombudsman. Grove’s reporting was based on substantial reports and interviews with senior Callaghan sources, including board members.

Backup, what is a “digital service”?

Wainwright says this new digital service forms an important part of New Zealand’s creative strategy. “If you were to build a creative New Zealand in 2022, digital infrastructure would be very high on that list.”

At this stage, the digital service is broadly defined by Creative New Zealand. The Service will actively seek opportunities for artists to secure intellectual property, curate their work through digital platforms, and commission digital content on those platforms. It will also increase engagement with audiences and connect artists with services and providers to create, develop and promote their work. There is a special focus on training and skill development around these platforms.

If this sounds vague, that’s because it is. Within these parameters, a digital service can be anything from a new streaming service to an education provider. Wainwright highlights that it will be “an enabler for all types of professionals with digital ambitions”.

The main parameters will be defined by Tui Ki Tua in 2023 in “consultation” with the arts sector. “Toi Ke Tua will engage more closely with the community on how it can help companies, groups and individuals become more capable and comfortable in the digital space,” says Wainwright.

Why is CNZ even doing this?

“The demand for public funding is greater than the supply and many experts say it’s a real challenge and they want the tools to be more self-sustaining,” says Wainwright. “I think a lot of people are saying we need to sort of organize the ‘yes and,’ which is digital and live experience. We’re geared more towards the latter than we were as an ecology before.”

This type of investment is not unusual for CNZ – the Arts Council has created organizations such as the Arts Foundation, which enables philanthropic grants specifically for the arts and tourism, which supports travel across the country. – Initiate and build infrastructure around the arts sector in particular. Similarly, the service will be one that CNZ invests in, but does not run directly.

Where does the money come from?

The total amount of money we will receive from Indigo is $5.3 million over the four years from the end of this year to the beginning of 2027, while the initial term of the contract runs until June 2024. Of this, $2 million comes. The Manato Taunga Cultural Sector Capability Fund, which is set to contract for 2022/24. The funding was created in 2020 to enable the arts sector to meet the “challenges of the post-Covid-19 environment”. The remainder of the Creative Investment New Zealand funds will be spent over the term of the contract.

Importantly: It doesn’t come from the same pool of money that would fund, say, a show in the basement, an art fair, or a nationwide Shakespeare festival for high school students.

If there is not enough public funding for the arts, how will it help?

CNZ has been exploring options for building the arts sector’s digital infrastructure for several years, largely spurred by Covid-19. Many organizations, especially live performance companies, have turned to digital throughout the pandemic, with varying levels of success, but many have gone back to “in-person” performances.

The outbreak highlighted the need for the arts and culture sector for CNZ to engage with the opportunities digital technology offers. While Creative New Zealand has invested in many services that serve as a compliment to live infrastructure, there has been no similar investment in digital service.

Member of the Arts Council, Creative New Zealand and Toi Ke Toa. (Photo: CNZ)

How did we get the Indigo contract?

CNZ put out a call for “providers” in early March this year. After the 21 providers were reduced to three, it was decided that we are Indigo based on many factors (the model of government, the establishment plan, its knowledge and implementation of the principles of Te Teriti and Whitingi, etc.).

In a statement, We Indigo said, “Our approach to delivering this solution is unique, in that it seizes the opportunity to lead this change in a way that supports Te Tiriti and Waitangi, Māori outcomes, and the “The Pacific represents people. Underserved communities, at the heart of our solution.”

After the company was selected by CNZ, what Wainwright called the “gold standard” due diligence process was carried out. It can be read in full on the CNZ website over hereBut in short order, the organization became aware of reporting on We Are Indigo by several mainstream media outlets. On November 1, 2022 (same day Spinoff published the Grove investigation) asking the Arts Council’s management to stop signing funding and partnership agreements. After the Audit and Risk Committee was briefed, it was found that a “significantly extensive process” had been carried out and the issues raised were “baseless allegations”.

Wainwright is aware of the reporting, so the due diligence process was “more extensive” than the usual approach. “We’ve done everything we can, and we’re sure these are the people we want to connect with, and we are,” he says. “In the past, there’s been a bit of red-raw about what goes south. In an enterprise that’s not entirely unusual, I don’t want to comment on why things go south with other people. goes

But is it necessary?

Without knowing what the platform is yet, it’s hard to say. One thing is clear: the current funding model is not working, and even people outside the sector are starting to take notice. There is also an undeniable factor of accessibility that Wainwright points out – digital service has potential (read: possibility) to allow people who do not have access to the arts, due to disability, distance or income, to access experiences that live life to the fullest.

“Although most of the conversations most people want to have with us have to do with funding, we don’t control the funding lever,” Wainwright says. “We really need to find some new ways that can shift from being a participant in the system to a deal, when the system is working well, providing new opportunities for creativity to work, giving new skills to work and This work has already been distributed both indoors and outdoors.”

“Our role is really to invest in the sector and create value for the sector and for the people.”

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