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Community Feedback Report: BC Arts Council 2022 Operating Assistance Application / Backgrounder & Executive Summary
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Note to Readers: This document is provided by GVPTA as an alternative accessible version of the Backgrounder, Report Considerations, and Executive Summary of our Community Feedback Report: BC Arts Council 2022 Operating Assistance Application. To read the report in its entirety in PDF format, click here.

The final report and recommendations has been shared with the BC Arts Council, and Dr. Sae-Hoon Stan Chung, Chair of the BCAC, has provided GVPTA with the BCAC’s response letter, which you can read at this link.


Based on anecdotal input from members of B.C.’s arts and culture community, GVPTA, in collaboration with a group of B.C. arts service organizations, developed and disseminated a

survey to better understand and identify common experiences with the BC Arts Council’s Operating Assistance grant program with the September 15, 2022 application deadline.

The objective of the survey was to convey to the BC Arts Council community feedback about the most recent application process to consider as they continue to make updates to their programs to align with their Extending Foundations: Action Plan 2022-2024.

Who was invited to complete the survey?

The survey link was distributed through a network of arts service organizations across British Columbia, via social media, newsletters, and by direct email outreach to publicly listed/reported recipients of BC Arts Council operating funding in 2021-22.

Online survey responses were collected between October 4-24, 2022.

Arts service organizations that collaborated on the survey development included: Arts BC, BC Alliance for Arts + Culture, BC Museums Association, BC Touring Council, CADA/West, Craft Council of BC, Le Conseil culturel et artistique francophone de la Colombie-Britannique, and

Heritage BC.

Data collection, analysis, and reporting of the survey results was led by GVPTA.

Report Considerations

Additional Notes

Questions about the survey or report can be directed to GVPTA executive director, Kenji Maeda at

Executive Summary

We (GVPTA and our ASO colleagues) embarked on this research because of an unprecedented number of unsolicited comments from the community about BC Arts Council’s September 2022

Operating Assistance application. While we encouraged members of our community to give direct feedback to BCAC, we recognize that not everyone is comfortable (for various reasons) contacting BCAC directly to offer feedback.

We recognize that BCAC is in the midst of their Extending Foundations: Action Plan 2022-2024 where Reconciliation, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Access are core to their strategic vision.

This report is an offer to BCAC, and potentially other interested grant makers, as one opportunity to hear from the arts, culture, and heritage sector, to reflect on and strengthen their programs moving forward.

This executive summary is a reflection through the lens of the research lead, GVPTA executive director, Kenji Maeda, whose experience includes equity-centred community conversations

and consultations.

Respondent Overview

Over the course of three weeks (Oct 2-24, 2022), we received 181 responses from arts, culture, and heritage organizations from across British Columbia about their recent experience with the BC Arts Council’s Operating Assistance application. Of those responses, 175 applied to one of the nine program streams, and six did not submit an application.

A quarter of the responses came from folks who applied for the Community Arts Organization program stream, another quarter were applicants of the Performing Arts Organizations stream. I should note that although nearly 50% of the responses came from two of nine program streams, which may seem disproportionate, those also represent the two largest Operating Assistance streams. When comparing the number of 2021-2022 Operating Assistance recipients for each program stream to the number of survey respondents for the same (or similar) streams, almost all program streams had 50% or more respondents. *See pages 18 and 19 of the PDF report for a breakdown of respondents by program stream.

Let’s get to the core of this report!

The report provides further details on the perceptions, appreciations and challenges experienced by community members for the application itself, along with the application portal's Designated Priority Group and Equity Data Tool.

What I share below are covered in four sections:

As the questions were primarily open-ended, what emerged in their responses are the themes that were top of mind. While some themes have a high percentage of mentions, it doesn’t mean themes that have fewer mentions are less important or less valuable to consider.


What was clear across the responses is that most people had a common understanding of why BC Arts Council chose to make changes to the program. There was broad appreciation for that intention.

When asked to put in their own words why they thought the changes were made, 74% reflected on aspects of the BCAC strategic priorities, specifically mentioning the Extending Foundations: Action Plan, a commitment to reconciliation, making applications more accessible and equitable,

supporting EDIA practices, shifting the funding resources to be more equitable, and supporting rural communities.

Other folks felt the changes were to meet objectives that were more politically motivated, and a handful also expressed that they were made simply to "make it more difficult" for organizations to access funds.

Positive Reflections

Respondents shared that they appreciated that rural and equity-deserving communities were being recognized and prioritized. What stood out was that when asked specifically about the Designated Priority Groups and the Equity Data Tool, rural respondents (61%) expressed their appreciation, almost double than their non-rural colleagues (31%), and when asked about the application itself, a higher percentage of non-IDB respondents (57%) mentioned intention as

something they appreciated, compared to their IDB (45%) colleagues.

Many people noted that BCAC Program Advisors were responsive, knowledgeable, and helpful, especially while navigating the changes to the program. The info session was appreciated, both for the opportunity to get an overview and ask questions during the live session, and access to the recording for those who missed the live event.

Some folks shared that this year’s application process gave them pause or an opportunity to reflect on their organization’s values, commitments, and programming in a way that may not have been done in previous years.

There was a sense of hope or opportunity that the data collection through this new process could be useful as a long-term strategy for change in the sector, whether as an accountability tool, or to measure and track benchmarks for future initiatives.

Guidelines and Deadlines

Guidelines were specifically mentioned by 35% of respondents, including clear guidelines and the fact that the portal was opened earlier for their program stream compared to previous years, which allowed for additional time to prepare. There was also specific appreciation with the return to multi-year funding.

Nearly one-third expressed the change of deadline made it more challenging. This includes the shift of approximately two weeks from the end of September for some program streams, and moving the deadline by 6 months for those streams that previously applied in the spring.

While recognizing the positive intention of moving the deadline away from September 30 (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation), the earlier date proved challenging for organizations that typically have summer programming, annual holidays, or individuals who are impacted by the start of the school year. For many, this year’s more complex application process exacerbated the feeling of a deadline crunch.

Online Platform

40% of respondents shared that they appreciated features of the online platform that allowed them to prepare more efficiently and effectively, specifically auto-save, multiple users on the account, and storing of organizational details that could be used for future


The most common challenge experienced with the platform was related to the table-based data,

specifically the Budget and Stats (for applicable program streams), and Activity Summaries tables. The tables were not as responsive as respondents would like, and the additional labour required to enter the data, for some, took hours. The hope is that there could be more efficient and flexible ways of inputting data, for example, through uploading existing CSV or Excel files,

and a more user-friendly interface.

Internal Challenges

While the opportunity to reflect on the questions were mentioned as a positive for a handful of respondents, internal challenges was mentioned by almost half (44%) of respondents.

Not only was additional time and labour required for this year’s application, organizations facing labour shortages, financial precarity, and the expectation there would likely be no increases to operating grants experienced greater difficulties in applying.

Some expressed that they felt they didn’t have the experience or expertise to respond to equity-focused questions, while others also shared their challenges planning for an uncertain “post-pandemic” future.

Application Questions

One in five respondents shared that they appreciated the type of questions being asked and that the word count encouraged brevity. They appreciated that audio and video responses were accepted for some of the questions, and having downloadable questions

helped for preparation.

While there were some positive reflections, the theme of application questions also had the highest volume (73%) of criticism, questions, and concerns.

There was common frustration that the application questions felt repetitive and disproportionately focus on equity when compared to the assessment criteria, with inadequate opportunity to speak to the organization’s artistic practices, programming, and activities. There was a feeling that they were “checking boxes to show how EDI we are,” which was expressed as tokenistic and reductive by some, and also felt that the increase in complex and nuanced questions combined with the available word count created challenges to adequately offer their responses.

There was considerable confusion and conflating of the terms “Designated Priority Groups” and “Equity-deserving communities”. Based on the responses, my perception is that even though “Designated Priority Groups” and “Equity Data Tool” was specifically for the organization profile, it impacted the responses for the application questions related to “equity-deserving communities.”

Multiple respondents, exclusively Community Arts, found the budget portion of the application a challenge – whether difficulty aligning with internal financial categories, or the labour entering in the data.

Designated Priority Group Questionnaire and Equity Data Tool

The overall sentiment was that the rationale for this was positive, as it recognized groups and

communities that have been systemically and disproportionately excluded, under-resourced, and underrepresented. For some respondents, it opened up opportunities for self-reflection, and there was also an expression of hope for how the data could be used for future change.

Similar to the application questions, the most concern and challenge was related to the questions and how their responses would be interpreted. There was discomfort and feeling “intrusive” with asking staff, board, and artists to disclose personal information (eg. race, gender, sexuality, etc) for the purposes of the grant. There was also considerable challenge to calculate the 51% threshold, without further guidance.

Respondents questioned how privacy laws and HR policies would impact what can be disclosed and what assurances they would need from BC Arts Council to share that information. While names of individuals might not be disclosed, some had concerns that aggregate stats from small organizations (one or two staff) would unintentionally be personally identifiable.

Sections that included both regional considerations along with other equity-deserving communities proved to be challenging as some respondents shared that the challenges faced by rural organizations are distinct from organizations led by and serving equity-deserving

community members.

Some respondents questioned how the priority groups were determined and why other marginalized and equity-deserving communities were not included.

Requests and Considerations

The following are a list of requests and considerations for BC Arts Council, in no particular order.

Application Deadline and Timeline

Organizational Profile


Application Questions and Structure

Community Engagement

Equity Data Collection

Table-based data

Other Considerations

To review the full report and recommendations, with details of the survey findings (PDF format), click here.

Report prepared by the Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance  |  | January 10 2023