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The well-known military adage about the limitations of well-laid plans could hardly be more instructive for these Covid times.


The swaggering business canvasses, SWOTs and PESTLEs of just three months ago now seem faintly absurd.

What we seem to be reaching for instead is something akin to the ‘scenario planning’ of the 1970s and 80s: a practice which assumes ongoing systemic shocks, multiple possible futures and the nimbleness to jump between them.


Planning at a systemic level like this means taking the entire ecosystem into account, not just the Darwinian struggle for survival of a single entity. As our favourite science writer, Ed Yong, says in The Atlantic:


"In a pandemic, the strongest attractor of trust shouldn’t be confidence, but the recognition of one’s limits, the tendency to point at expertise beyond one’s own, and the willingness to work as part of a whole."


What is true for dealing with pandemics is equally valid for the process of recovery and renewal we are about to embark on. But do we have the imaginative capacity – let alone the political and institutional tools – to achieve this?


In this, the emergency stage of the crisis, countless collaborations have sprung up between artists, organisations, sector bodies. In the UK the new alliances being forged in the Music Industry and across the whole creative sector are truly impressive. The recent creation of a Task Force, headed by a Commissioner for Culture and the Recovery is a more topdown approach. These are necessary survival tactics and, who knows, may evolve into longer term arrangements.



Whether though Task Forces or other means, it will be the planning and collaborative capacity of funders and strategically placed actors like cities, which will really make the difference in next recovery and renewal phases.


The place-based work that funders like Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund have done with Great Place puts them in a good position to plan collaboratively for the recovery: to think in new ways how to improve the system as a whole rather than simply to ‘save’ existing organisations.

Cities Mayors have for some years been thinking about culture eco-systems and infrastructure so they are in an ideal position to plan strategically in a world emerging from lockdown. (We will be offering more observations on this from a global perspective shortly).


Of course, planning by itself won’t provide all the answers. Human virtues of courage, skill, industry, and imagination come into play as never before. Echoing Peter Drucker’s celebrated advice, we need to find ways of creating the future rather than simply anticipating it. Planning systemically for a world still reeling from the impact of coronavirus will call into question all our existing assumptions and models. Having access to the widest range of possible scenarios and the robust data that supports them has never been more important.

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Nov 4, 2021

How are major cities around the world responding to climate change through cultural policies and programmes?

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Culture and the Recovery: Levelling Up Culture?

Dec 4, 2020

Culture can play an important role in recovery and renewal across the UK, if the right local decision-making is put in place

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Central London’s celebrated

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This focused, coordinated set of measures can not only rescue the sector, but position it to lead the recovery

Central London’s celebrated cultural offer is in peril

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Aug 21, 2020

Three big questions as applications close for Arts Council England’s Cultural Recovery Fund

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COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #2

Jul 30, 2020

The UK’s £1.57 billion recovery package: priorities for a New Deal

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COVID-19: Cities, Culture and the 3 ‘P’s: powers, partnerships, place

Jul 20, 2020

Cities are using their unique capabilities to lead recovery and renewal

COVID-19: Cities, Culture and the 3 ‘P’s: powers, partnerships, place

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COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #1

Jul 7, 2020

Investing in recovery, planning for transformation

COVID-19: Government support packages for culture and creative industries #1

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COVID-19 is a triple blow to culture and the creative industries

Jun 30, 2020

Recovery and renewal will depend on how we address the three dimensions of the crisis

COVID-19 is a triple blow to culture and the creative industries

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Take planning and collaboration to whole a new level.

Jun 3, 2020

In the face of radical uncertainty leaders and policy-makers will have to take planning and collaboration to whole a new level

‘Plans are useless, planning is essential’

Paul Owens

Relief, Recovery and Renewal

May 13, 2020

Nobody knows what will happen next, but we have a good idea of the three necessary steps out of the crisis

Relief, Recovery and Renewal: navigating our way to a new kind of future

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The Golden Thread in the 2020s

Dec 20, 2019

A cause for optimism

Weaving the Golden Thread into the 2020s

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By BOP Consulting

Paul Owens

Co-Founder and Director

Paul is a leading international advisor and practitioner in cultural policy and creative economy. He is Co-Founder of BOP, and alongside his fellow directors he has pioneered now well-established methods to measure the impact of cultural policy. 

Paul Owens - Founder and Director | BOP Consulting

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Paul Owens

Paul Owens

Co-Founder and Director