Sustain-Ability is on the finishing line

Maurice Pefura, Portrait III, 2015. Per gentile concessione dell’artista

Time flies. Three years have rushed by. It’s the butterfly strategy…

I will start from the principle, since the origin of things is fundamental to their essence and meaning. Three years ago we have just developed our 3-year strategic plan. We had to sweat through it and in theory, to see it all on paper, everything seemed logical to us. Once we had to put into reality we realised that we were just starting to climb the mountain. And it was clear that we could not do it by ourselves. So the grant of Cariplo Foundation called Sustainable Culture seemed to us like a perfect sign. Perhaps a mirage. But it was so much in line with our thinking that we had to try it. Now it was a question of who would have tried together with us. The idea was bizarre, the vision too ambitious: to build a prototype of a Balanced Score Card for Culture. Already the name was impossible to pronounce.  If we do it let’s call it “Pinocchio”, we joked at our first encounter with Nicola Rossi and Elena Argolini of Kwantis. The first fearless allies that could have tipped the balance: they are the experts of risk management, if they were to tell us that we were crazy we were ready to choose another way. But no. They have embraced the idea with competence, lightness and joy.

One is always full of energy when starting an excursion. So, with the same bold spirit we have enrolled Bertram Niessen with the team of chefare and Doppiozero with Why Africa? . We had long discussions and we have confronted, argued and comforted each other. We have tried to build a shared vocabulary that would allow the engineers, managers, sociologists, journalists and musicians to “explain themselves”, to have a dialogue and give sense and clarity to what we were doing. And when the ground was becoming slippery and started to sink… I always had my mantra in my head: the strategy map of the Lyric Orchestra of Boston demonstrates how the performance of the organization can be measured even when the result is as intangible as a beautiful piece of music and an aesthetic experience[1]. What a great encouragement for those who pose themselves a question of how the culture can be measurable, and more than that, sustainable, and so on and so forth, for 3 years in a row.

But here we are with our prototype: the case studies, the schemes of the quantitative and qualitative analysis, the Excel sheets that often seemed to have the consciousness of their own, mixing themselves as they pleased, so you had to start all over again… because the things never go smoothly, we know that, but we have to at least try to domesticate them.

And yet it works. I mean, generally speaking. Because as any prototype, it has to be tested and re-tested, modified and refined. The path is long and should be taken one step at a time.

It’s a bit like a butterfly strategy that I mentioned at the beginning of the story. From the caterpillar to the cocoon to the butterfly. “Two births and two deaths, it’s an insect of shimmering colours that flies lightly in the air. There is enough to make a symbol out of it and create mythological tales”. [2]

This is what this result is like, for all of us: symbolic and inebriating.  Tough work that has taught us a lot of things. That was the goal: to learn, to share in Creative Commons what we have learned, put our little piece into the mosaic of the collective future of culture and knowledge. If anything, this path has definitely contributed to our own sustainability. We are proud and grateful to all that have participated.

In the downloadable Kit of the Balanced Scorecard for Culture you can find our case study, that was our point of departure, and the case studies of Atir, Connecting Cultures, Wikimedia Italia. As well as the prototype of the Balanced Score Card for Culture. And should it intimidate you, just call it Pinocchio…

[1]  Strategy Maps, Converting intangible assets into tangible outcomes. Robert S. Kaplan – David P. Norton HBSP press 2004

[2] La strategia della farfalla, Marco Belpoliti. Piccola biblioteca Guanda. 2016

Text by Tania Gianesin, lettera27 President.