Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship - ACE

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Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship - ACE


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Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship

ACE is a new AFAC special program in partnership with Drosos Foundation, and supported by the German Federal Foreign Office. It fosters a collective space for reflection on sustainability and is designed to inspire, invigorate and strengthen small and medium cultural institutions, based and working in the Arab region, and whose initiatives engage with communities. Twenty-four arts and culture institutions will benefit from three cycles during the period 2018-2021, i.e. eight per cycle. ACE comprises entrepreneurship training and mentoring components, as well as an incentive grant for the participating institutions to implement an innovation activity aimed at improving their institutional resilience. The novelty of ACE is that it is experimental, far-reaching and encourages learning from other sectors. It focuses on inspirational case studies, and intends to share best practices and experiences mainly South-South, and to share findings using an on-line interactive platform that benefits many other institutions not directly participating in the program. The program provides an opportunity for these institutions to re-examine their mission in light of a rapidly-changing globalized world; re-assess their relevance to their audiences and stakeholders; get inspired by peer institutions in other sectors and geographies facing the same challenges and opportunities; and finally to acquire new skills and capacities to improve their long-term sustainability.


The program is conceived as an experiment in “learning and doing” crafted and delivered by a group of specialists from the culture sector and beyond, that will continue to evolve in content throughout its planned three-year duration. ACE workshops’ modules include strategy, communications and fundraising; learning from leaders in microfinance, social media and entrepreneurship; case studies from peer institutions in Africa, the Indian sub-continent and South America; as well as reflections on global themes of inequality, technology and ethics. Each cycle spans one year and benefits eight arts and culture institutions. The director and deputy director of the respective institutions participate in the 12-month program that includes three workshops as well as mentorship and follow-up in-between. Participants will additionally be supported with a grant of $25,000 to fund a specific innovation activity, inspired by the program, to strengthen the organization’s sustainability.



Arts and culture institutions in the Arab region operate in an increasingly challenging environment. Dependency on any one type of support be it state, corporation, foundations or individuals, comes with potential pressure and risks. In cases where regulations are strict on institutions, many cannot make ends meet, let alone achieve their full potential. Few have opportunities to take time to reflect on their development and to re-invent themselves, further undermining their sustainability. With funding for arts and culture generally decreasing in this sector, and with the inevitable changes in the funding landscape, arts and culture institutions need to continuously adapt by thinking out of the box and diversifying their sources of funding.


One of the recommendations that came out of the ten years’ study in 2017 on AFAC was to consider supporting institutional resilience of cultural organisations. With its own track record in supporting arts and culture and identifying innovative sustainability approaches, AFAC is committed to take the lead on supporting a community of practitioners in their quest to revisit their raison d'être in order to remain relevant to the communities they address, and to develop more sustained operations that generate artistic and public value, and to be able to effectively communicate the impact of their initiatives.


As arts and culture institutions, we are public benefit entities with much to be proud of and with a profusion of questions that keep us on our toes. What is the value we generate? What is the social impact we create and for whom? How can we remain relevant and connected to our communities? How is what we do locally linked to global efforts for sustainable development? What can we learn from practitioners in different contexts and sectors? What kind of stories do we tell of our work and with what tools? How do we mobilize individuals, corporations and institutions in innovative ways to invest in arts and culture in our region? What are ethical considerations related to sources of funding? How adaptive is our leadership to espouse an entrepreneurial spirit? How do we inspire ourselves to innovate and what are our priorities? How can we work with a public and non-profit sector that aims to be as efficient as the private sector, and a private sector that tries to be socially-minded? What other aspects should we be busy with?


These are some of the queries that the Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship (ACE) program will unravel.


Selection Process and Criteria

ACE is a curated program and the process of application is through nomination. For the first cycle, 29 nominators were involved, both individual and institutions, with wide knowledge of arts and culture institutions in the Arab region. AFAC received 82 nominations, out of which 7 were recommended more than once, so there were in total 73 distinct institutions nominated. Out of those that AFAC contacted to apply to ACE, 48 institutions expressed interest and a total of 39 effectively submitted their applications. The jury selected 8 final candidates.


The three jury members who deliberated on the final selection for this first cycle of ACE were Khadija El Bennaoui (Morocco), Ahmed El Attar (Egypt) and Mokhtar Kokache (Lebanon/Syria). Rich discussions among the jurors reflected their focus on prioritizing those institutions that stood the highest chance to benefit from the opportunity that ACE offered and have existing or the potential for wider social impact. The two key criteria for selection were:



  • role or potential role they play within the arts and culture sector;
  • community engagement and reputation;
  • how internal reflections on challenges and priorities are linked to the ACE program in terms of modules and spirit;
  • the extent to which the institution will benefit from the program; and
  • experience and stage of development;



  • calibre of the management team;
  • their willingness to think outside the box;
  • how motivated and able they are to experiment with new tools and entrepreneurial approaches.



Meet the participants in the 2018-2019 cycle:

Zawya Cinema and Distribution (Egypt – Film)

Photopia Cairo (Egypt – Photography)

Nowhere Online Music Platform (Egypt – Music)

Beirut Art Residency (Lebanon – Visual Arts)

Minwal (Lebanon – Performing Arts)

Atelier Kissaria (Morocco – Visual Arts)

SJ Music Production (Palestine – Music)

Damascus Theatre Laboratory (Syria – Performing Arts)


Timeline of ACE 2018-2019

April 30 - Nominations are received from solicited practitioners

May 15 - Eligible nominees are invited to apply to ACE

May 20 - The call for applications is open

June 20 - The call is closed

July 15 - Announcement of selected participants

November - First workshop

December-February - One-on-one mentoring

February - Second workshop       

March – May - One-on-one mentoring                                               

June - Third workshop

July - August - One-on-one mentoring

August - Participants receive financial grant based on proposal


ACE First Workshop, 2-6 November 2018 in Beirut

The expert group of the first workshop comprised Oussama Rifahi, Carla Fonseca, Arundhati Ghosh, Moukhtar Kocache and Mike van Graan. This first workshop was an ice-breaker and a chance for the participants to meet and exchange first ideas about their context, their success stories and challenges in relation to the topics evoked by the program’s specialists and mentors as well as with experts from India, South Africa and Brazil.  Discussions touched on the relevance of the institutions’ work to their communities, sustainability of their operations, and the latest trends in storytelling and development/fundraising. The participants heard from the program experts about the latest trends in their geographical areas and from representatives of the corporate world about their needs, requirements and visions. The group reflected on the acceptance and relevance of sustainable development goals and creative economy methodologies in a global context and how the diversity and inequality debate is shaping /distorting their work on the ground. The group interacted with representatives from the private sector and engaged with two local peer institutions in Beirut as case studies, finishing the program with a competitive exercise focused on project strategy development and pitching in front of a three-member jury coming from different sectors.


For more details on the program of the first workshop, download the full program


Online Platform

AFAC is keen on sharing resources with the wider community of arts and culture, and not only those participating in ACE. The ACE online platform incorporates references to different geographic arts and culture contexts as well as related ACE themes such as entrepreneurship, sustainability, storytelling, fundraising, outreach, and audience development. AFAC will continuously add reading and visual material, curated expert videos, podcasts, and good practices stemming out of the workshops, mentorship, incentive grants, and eventually research findings during the 3-year program.


ACE Workshop 1 – Presentations and Reference Material


The Context

The world around us is evolving at a rapid pace. Can we talk about progress or regression with the current headlines? What are the major forces shaping our world today and tomorrow? Are the principles and values that we believe in personally and at the core of the work of our institutions unchanged? Are we still relevant to our communities and audiences as cultural actors? Where do we focus the meagre resources at our disposal to further the mission of our institutions? What are the skills and attitudes needed for the cultural leadership of the future?


Presentation by Oussama Rifahi


Read more about global risks

The Global Risks Report 2018


Positioning and Value: Locating Ourselves Within the Arts and Culture Ecology and Framing Our Societal Value

In an increasingly discordant and competitive cultural and civil society landscape, how can arts and culture organizations better position themselves and describe their missions? How can that process help them be more strategic about their energies to secure increased social and financial stability? For a variety of reasons, both intrinsic and extrinsic, the arts and cultural sector falls short in proving its value in a way that can be understood by funders, recipients and the public at large. What are some of the categories, strategies and methodologies that can help artists and cultural leaders better outline their contributions and value to the “public good”? What are the misconceptions, opportunities and pitfalls of increased specificity, measurement, evaluation and classifications in the arts and culture sector?


Presentation by Moukhtar Kocache


Read more about positioning and impact






International Cultural Policies and Their Relevance to the Making of Art

Culture and Development. Cultural Diversity. The Creative Industries. Cultural Diplomacy. Cultural entrepreneurship. The Creative Economy. All these terms. All these policies that keep changing. All we want to do is create art! But we keep having to adapt our projects to fit into the policies as they change, because they come with resources.  Because our governments don’t support our creative work. And we are reliant on the Goethe Institute, the British Council, the French Institute, the European Commission. So, we conform to their policy directives. This session will provide an overview and a critique of some key contemporary policy instruments that shape the discourse and practice of contemporary art-making and distribution, and suggest ways of negotiating these, as creative practitioners.


Presentation by Mike van Graan


Read more about international cultural policies

UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of the Artist

UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

Sustainable Development Goals

Numbers that prove the future is African

Towards fairer international collaborations in the arts

Advocacy toolkit


From Corporate Social Responsibility to Impact Investment and the Future Work

From philanthropy to corporate social responsibility, the relationship between companies and arts has been changing substantially over the past decades. Currently, many businesses operating in various industries state that their involvement with the cultural field is strategically driven. What benefits do they expect to reap? How do they select cultural projects and what evaluation criteria are used? We’ll see a list of inspiring and eye-opening examples of such companies from a number of countries.


Presentation by Carla Fonseca


Read more on the creative economy

Creative Economy Report 2013


See videos related to CSR, impact investment and the future of work

Creative economy as a development strategy (trilingual EN/SP/PT)

Creative clusters

Culture and urban transformation (EN/PT)

Deloitte’s video

ILO programme

The Future of Jobs Report 2018


Revealing India: Not a Single Story

This presentation will take you through the context within which the arts and culture community in India survives and thrives. Over the past decade there have been many shifts – economic, political, social and technological – in the country. The session will attempt to analyse the impact of these changes on the environment and the ways in which practitioners of arts and culture as individuals and collectives are building solidarities and sustainability. Through examples from a diverse range of artistic practices, it will also raise the questions, concerns and challenges that the sector is encountering in the current milieu.


Presentation by Arundhati Ghosh



Revealing South Africa: Shedding Light on Africa

There are many – sometimes competing - narratives about the African continent.  With its population of more than 1 billion people and relatively high economic growth rates across numerous countries, there is the optimistic narrative of “Africa Rising”.  The more dominant view however, has been of “the dark continent”, reflecting both a race-based narrative and its links to the underside of human history: poverty, disease, illiteracy and backwardness.  This session will provide an introductory overview of the African continent, and concentrate on South Africa – its past and present – as a metaphor for our contemporary world with its structural and cultural inequalities.


Presentation by Mike van Graan



Revealing South America: Focus on Argentina, Brazil and Colombia

Home to 428 million people, South America is a mosaic of cultures within each country. From indigenous people to the biggest Italian, Japanese and Lebanese communities outside their original countries, dispersed from the Caribbean to Patagonia, the region encompasses completely different realities and a number of common challenges. This session will focus on three specific countries - Argentina, Brazil and Colombia - offering a critical view of their political-institutional cultural framework, policies, their most important cultural programs in place, as well as highlights of specific laws for cultural funding.


Presentation by Carla Fonseca


Storytelling Retold

We love to tell and consume stories. Whether it be fiction, history, gossip, news or autobiography, stories permeate every aspect of our lives. How is storytelling changing and evolving with human culture and technology? In competing with mainstream entertainment for the attention of audiences and investors, do we learn to become as savvy as professional ads agencies, or remain true to the authenticity of our narratives?

Presentation by Carla Fonseca and Oussama Rifahi


See videos related to storytelling

Storytelling increases museum visitor numbers

Storytelling, brands and some words of wisdom


From Patronage to Partnerships

Giving away money has never been so fashionable among the rich and famous. The new enthusiasm for philanthropy is in large part a consequence of the rapid wealth-creation of recent years, and ironically, of its uneven distribution. We will look at some statistics, dwell on motivation for giving, on vocabulary, trends in philanthropy and the paradigm shift of development and partnerships, before engaging in a discussion with our four invitees.


Presentation by Oussama Rifahi

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