Increased Focus on Technology: 2013 - 2015

Much of 2013 was also spent working on a comprehensive Information Technology Strategy for SaskCulture.  Since beginning, two new web sites, one for SaskCulture and one for Creative Kids, and an online granting platform were built and implemented by Structured Abstraction, a technology firm out of Calgary, AB and a customized Creative Kids application database designed by Lesia Design out of Saskatoon.  In 2016, SaskCulture and Creative Kids also invested in a Theatre Manager database software, developed by Arts Management systems, which made significant improvements database management.

By 2015, the new Online Grant Platform had been launched to the public for applicants applying to the Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Leadership Grant and the Métis Cultural Development Fund. Besides the enormous amount of work by staff and developers, Structured Abstraction, the start-up process went well with very few problems.  By 2016, all the grant applications were online, including the Annual Global Funding (AGF) Application.  SaskCulture was now an Internet-based business and had to adapt accordingly.  Staff spent the rest of the year working on follow-up forms, historical data transfer and the visualization map development process.  In 2017, work was also completed on a Visualization Map, which showcases the reach of lottery funding in Saskatchewan, as well as an online peer assessment (jury) portal to address the jury review aspect of the online grant experience. 

In 2013, the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan were added to the Minister’s Eligibility List and became the first Indigenous cultural organization to receive operational funding from the AGF. The list of eligible funded groups had not changed much over the years: 31 groups in 2000, 26 groups in 2008, after the cultural industry groups started receiving funding from the General Revenue Fund, and groups in 2012, with the addition of the four direct-funded groups and one of the cultural industry groups (CARFAC), were brought back into the fund.  By 2015, Architectural Heritage Society of Saskatchewan was removed from the list, bringing the total funded Eligible Cultural Organizations to 30.  A new category called Emerging Eligible Cultural Organizations, which included Children’s Discovery Museum and the RCMP Heritage Museum, was added in 2014, but dollars still flowed through SaskCulture’s operations.

In addition, the three heritage organizations – Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society, Architectural Society of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Genealogy Society – worked with a consultant on identifying a new shared direction, but were unable to come together.  After a lengthy process of consultation and discussion, Heritage Saskatchewan took on and subsequently revitalized the Saskatchewan Youth Heritage Fair Association’s popular program in 2013.                                           

Off to a good start in 2014, the Tri-Global Partnership and government celebrated with the signing of a new five-year Lottery Licence Agreement for 2014-2019.  The partnership worked on increased promotion of the impact of lottery funding on the network, and new ways to evaluate the delivery system.  The Hon. Kevin Doherty, Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport, advocated strongly on behalf of the lottery-delivered system to Treasury Board, resulting in a stable licence fee of 3.75%.  Since this period of time, the Ministry has had several ministers and new staff, always requiring new education and awareness as the partners move forward to negotiate a new agreement.

In 2014 and 2015, SaskCulture surveyed its membership about training needs, identifying the areas of human resource management, networking and evaluation as key areas of interest. Volunteer board members identified succession planning, volunteer recruitment and retention, and financial reporting.  Other research showed the governance, risk management and communication remained high on training needed.  A series of Communication Network Meetings held in 2014 and 2015 also showed the interest in learning more about communication and marketing.  In 2016, two separate governance workshops, called Board Basics, held in Regina and Saskatoon were well-intended, as the interest in building governance in organization continues to remain a big issue.

Over the course of 2015-2017, lottery sales started to go into a decline.  Annual spending relied heavily on reserve funding.  In 2017, the partners began work to negotiate the next Lottery Licence with the provincial government in an environment of low oil and gas revenues and huge provincial spending cuts.  By mid-year, Premier Wall had resigned as Premier and political posturing was renewed as the leadership race commenced.  Return to lottery negotiations continued at a slow pace.

In both 2015 and 2016, the Community Engagement Animateurs were part of SaskCulture’s renewed efforts to build a stronger outreach program.  Formerly part of Culture Days, the Animateurs expanded their roles to help SaskCulture develop new relationships with the Districts for Sport, Culture and Recreation and increase concentration on communities identified as interested in more focused engagement work. The Community Engagement Animateur program was suspended in 2017, so time and energy could be spent on the Canada 150 project, Resilience and Respect: Canada 150 and Beyond.

By 2015, SaskCulture was also working with many new faces at Saskatchewan Arts Board.  Changes to the board in 2013, and changes to management in 2014-15 at ArtsBoard, resulted in some operational changes that impacted the delivery of some programming.  Michael Jones was hired as the new CEO of the Saskatchewan Arts Board in August 2015. The approval of a new operational agreement between SaskCulture and the ArtsBoard was completed in early 2016.  Changes to the ArtsBoard Board of Directors in 2017 has the partners working to build a stronger relationship going forward.

NEXT...