The management diaspora is adept at creating new jargon for itself; very often these new buzzwords provide measly grist for media placements and opportunities for a couple of specialist-consultants to churn crisp books on the “new”. Beware the latest buzzword: Corporate Cultural Responsibility (CCR)!
I remember when Sanskriti, the unique movement to return dignity to Indian culture spearheaded by one enlightened crusader (O P Jain), celebrated its silver jubilee with a discussion on CCR, where eminent speakers analysed what limits corporations in India from engaging in culture. The dialogue revealed that corporate India was utterly confused as to how to engage with Indian culture responsibly. Several grey areas were identified which cloud boardroom decisions on what kind of collaborations can yield dignity (and other quantifiable rewards) to the corporation.
From the perspective of the creative community, two issues need to be emphasised. The first is information and transparency. Artists first need to know what partnerships are being offered to them and what the costs will be; for let us disabuse ourselves of the view that the corporation extending its hand is a gesture of abhaya (benign munificence). The hard-as-nails decision-makers in corporations are, but of course, seeking hidden advantages, and will often seek associations with cultural brands rather than cultural processes.
If CCR has to bring any additionality to Indian creativity, then ensuring information access and transparency to the processes become key. The first step is to encourage corporate literacy of the Indian arts. The arts community will need to create new dialogue mechanisms with corporations and educate them both about the arts and about what they would gain by partnering the arts.The other worthy goal to be pursued is sustainability. As an artist, one tires easily of one-off partnerships where the short-term goals of the corporation, in tandem with immediate media gains, really serve no larger purpose to art. If corporations wish to engage in enlightenment with the arts, then they need to assure sustainability to partnerships that can free the artist of the mundane and enable them to focus purely on the creative aspects of their work. But sustainability can be reached only when corporate cultural education leads to enlightened decisions in the boardroom.
Thus new rules need to be in place: artists need to be trained on how best to communicate their creative needs to interested corporations, and at the same time we need to create modules by which corporate decision-makers can engage in enlightened decisions on the arts. Synergy between the two can probably augur a better future for the creative arts in India, even while reassuring the corporations of clearly assessable benefits, in the long-term.
A recent dialogue on Public Private Partnerships initiated by the dynamic Jawhar Sircar, Secretary, Ministry of Culture and led by the National Culture Fund’s CEO Shobhita Punja explored how the cultural community can efficiently liaise with willing corporates on a wide agenda of cultural activities.
The meeting discussed, among other initiatives, preservation of cultural landscapes; restoration of traditional and local architecture; support to museums and exhibitions; documentation of archives and libraries; sponsorship of local craft communities and artists; protecting intangible heritage and exploring the concept of an emergency fund for heritage at risk.
The dialogue was an excellent first step at awakening awareness of the issues across both sectors: the community of artists and the corporates. Of course, much more administrative work will need to be engaged in by both sides to ensure that artistic need is cleverly and seamlessly enmeshed with corporate greed!
The writer is founder-president of Natya Vriksha, Delhi. She is both a performer and teacher. E-mail: email@example.com