Leading a City Differently: the Arts, Partnership and Public Services (background paper) - RSA

Leading a City Differently: the Arts, Partnership and Public Services


  • Arts and culture
  • Public services

This paper describes the predominantly arts-led work undertaken by The RSA and The Map Consortium to support collaborative leadership and the culture of public service delivery in Peterborough during 2011 – 2012 and beyond. It offers a summary outline for those considering creative practice as an approach to reshaping relationships between key institutions, people, and services.

Within a context of competing needs and sharply decreasing financial resources, there is no choice but to innovate by exploring new ways of working together, which in turn prioritises the building of trust and co-operation. It is no longer a nice thing to have but a fundamental way of delivering public services. Behaviours matter more than words. If local authorities want to promote deeper more generous relationships between citizens then councils’ own practice must reflect this.

The roots of the programme

In 2011 Peterborough’s local strategic partnership, the Greater Peterborough Partnership (GPP)launched an ambitious ten year transformation agenda with a set of underlying principles requiring a substantial shift of culture in city-wide service delivery, the Single Delivery Plan (please see appendix for a description of the plan and its key principles).

The RSA and The Map Consortium, already working together in the city through the Citizen Power Programme, proposed establishing an Innovation Forum to support and accelerate this culture change. The ambition of this programme was to foster a new city-wide leadership ethos, inspire innovative working practice and in particular, to engage the arts and other practical, creative processes to help make this happen. Creative practice draws on the thinking, processes and structures of the arts (such as theatre, visual art and curatorial practice) as channels and catalysts for defining new ways of working.

In the context of the Innovation forum this involved a carefully designed and facilitated range of techniques, exercises and structures, offering participants a distinct experience of themselves, each other, and their work. Habit and the ongoing pressures of delivery make it hard for leaders, however responsible and diligent, to step outside their existing parameters. Creative, arts-led facilitation was pivotal to this leadership uncovering their own potential, developing new relationships and revealing the possibilities existing in the city. The Map and RSA team had a mandate to offer an ‘invited disturbance’ within a carefully constructed programme.

pdf 681.7 KB


Picture of Jocelyn Cunningham
Jocelyn Cunningham
Director, Arts and Society, RSA

Picture of Chris Higgins
Chris Higgins
Co-Director, The Map Consortium

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