Good Faith

I participate from time to time in Wikipedia the free online encyclopedia. This minor addiction started when I searching for articles on Nova Scotia music and culture, and found a horrible and misguiding article about Music of Nova Scotia on the wiki. I promptly re-wrote it and was hooked. Wikipedia operates because of the assumption of good faith:

“Assuming good faith is about intentions, not actions. Well-meaning people make mistakes, and you should correct them when they do. You should not act like their mistake was deliberate. Correct, but don’t scold. There will be people on Wikipedia with whom you disagree. Even if they’re wrong, that doesn’t mean they’re trying to wreck the project. There will be some people with whom you find hard to work. That doesn’t mean they’re trying to wreck the project either; it means they annoy you. It is never necessary that we attribute an editor’s actions to bad faith, even if bad faith seems obvious, as all our countermeasures (i.e. reverting, blocking) can be performed on the basis of behavior rather than intent.

“Of course, there’s a difference between assuming good faith and ignoring bad actions. If you expect people to assume good faith from you, make sure you demonstrate it. Don’t put the burden on others. Yelling “Assume Good Faith” at people does not excuse you from explaining your actions, and making a habit of it will convince people that you’re acting in bad faith.”

The arts and culture community in Nova Scotia lacks this idealistic approach to politics and relationships. I know this is an oversimplification, but this american style approach, that people with different ideas and approaches are the enemy, is not particularly productive in a polity that has less than a million citizens. Assuming bad faith and vilifying the other side in the ongoing argument/debate over funding and arts administration arguments cannot be productive, as the politicians and bureaucrats involved in culture will be in those positions for years, and decades. And for the most part, the negativity is misplaced.

There has to be an assumption of good faith on the part of the participants. Politicians are generally supportive of the arts, but the arts has to show them how they benefit, not just in a macro, world view way, but in the nuts and bolts ways that politicians are paid to be concerned about. The case is clear that there is systemic underfunding of key, province wide agencies and organizations in arts, culture and heritage. Who will deny it? But strategies need to have goals, and goals lead to outcomes, and the more clearly these can be articulated, the less resistance there will be to allocating resources.

Politicians want to see things that make them look good to constituents and things they can cut ribbons in front of. But they NEED accountability, they need measurements and benchmarks, and they need to know that the auditor general will not later rake them over the coals for handing out investments with minimal reportage and oversight. Understanding their needs (and even wants) can drive a strategy to meet their needs by more clearly articulating our own.

For example, province wide culture federations and industry associations should make the unified case for slightly increased operating funding, and a one time, fill in an application for project funding for the year. If the Feds got $100-120K per year (and this amount would be different per Fed, as they do have different needs), for operations as well as programming, then the staff of the Feds would have tremendously more time during the year to do core work, rather than apply for funding in 2-10K chunks. Government goals are still met because funding is applied for, and final reports are required.

This would also cut the governments work load in processing applications. I assume good faith on the part of government. I assume they want their paperwork load cut too! I just don’t see how we get from stressed, underfunded and overworked to speaking with one voice, something the sector, from pure arts through to cultural industry , has never, ever done.