by • 1 Jul, 2017 • Inspiration, StrategyComments (1)10138

Valuing community impact with more than money

  • If people can see another future, they can make that future theirs. The task of cultural institutions is to give people a view on another future.
  • Every community around the world has assets of value. Community wealth is our wealth.
  • Culture and communities are never not the same thing.

Deborah Cullinan of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts rocked this MuseumNext when she presented CultureBank, a new investment model for culture and the arts. (The paraphrased quotes above are hers.)

YBCA is a world-leading community arts center, which does not only present leading edge contemporary arts, but strives for what they call a ‘culture of invitation’. Last year, in Dublin, Deborah already presented her strategy for generating culture that moves people.

CultureBank is something different though, and something beyond a deep focus on community engagement and partnerships. The initiative started with the observation that in many community-driven cultural projects, traditional ideas about financial investment and ROI fall short. They only measure money in and money out. Community impact, however, generates much more than only a financial ROI. It changes lives, communities and society.

CultureBank tries to show that other definitions of ROI are possible, and can create lasting social and economic change in communities.

For instance, private art collections are used as capital that is invested in social impact artists and entrepreneurs. Their work generates other returns on investment than only money, such as for instance new art that can become part of the collections.

Value and money are often mixed up. Cultural institutions, especially those working with communities, are very good at value, and typically less so at money. CultureBank offers a promising model to make them less dependent on money, and more able to leverage their value. It’s still early days for CultureBank and I would love to learn about more tried and true examples of how their methods will work.

CultureBank had me think about an amazing campaign by my own bank, Buy The Change, which helps everyone to spend their money with entrepreneurs and businesses that have social impact. For instance, it helps you find a fantastic summer spot in Amsterdam to have a ‘good’ drink, or where to buy clothes that make a difference.

Both initiatives with fresh perspectives on money, value and social change inspire to think differently about how to value community impact, and how to pay for invaluable community engagement projects. I’m very much looking forward to where this may be going in the years ahead.

Header image: Andres Virviescas /

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