Assessing applications is, possibly, the most fraught - and contested - aspect of all funding procedures.
While attending an IETM satellite meeting last year entitled The Art of Valuing: between evident and evidence-based, this subject was extensively discussed between the representatives from various Arts Councils and institutions all over the world. We shared our experiences, challenges and difficulties which, to my surprise, proved to be very similar to each other. Even from as far afield as Australia, the Australian Arts Council representative said that her Council also experiences the same difficulties in finding peer reviewers from the sector who are able to carry out the evaluation and who are not involved in funded artistic projects themselves. The pool of evaluators is small, she said. Well, relatively small, I thought.
I remember spending quite some time discussing evaluation methods - particularly peer reviewing. The concept of peer review, which involves different individuals coming directly from the sector to assess applications on the basis of established selection criteria (common to both applicants and evaluators,) has seemingly proved to be the most successful assessment channel which fosters and respects the principles of transparency, objectivity and criticism. We discussed how, for this to be fully successful, the funding bodies need to create the right conditions for assessments to take place in a transparent and fair manner. By ‘fair’ we do not necessarily mean only going through the applications in an equal and non-discriminatory manner - but also making the most out of the funds available and selecting the applications having the best potential to achieve the fund’s aims and to contribute significantly to the sector.
This is the method which Arts Council Malta has adopted all along, ever since the Malta Arts Fund was introduced back in 2009. Now, due to the fact that more funding programmes are being managed by the Council and in line with the funding policy as outlined in our Strategy2020, we are placing even more emphasis on choosing and collaborating with the group of independent evaluators we entrust with the very important task of selecting the projects to be funded. Knowing the resources available and finding the right partners for assessment is key to achieving a positive outcome. That is why, in an effort to make the process easier and more accessible to all those interested in being part of the evaluation teams, we have launched an ongoing open call for evaluators which will create a pool of evaluators for the next three years until 31st December 2018.
As highlighted in Strategy2020, ‘besides ensuring transparency and direct collaboration with experts from different fields, the call for evaluators would lead to the implementation of our holistic plan for the assessment, review, monitoring and evaluation of the quality and impact of the funded initiatives.’
Applying for this call does not necessarily mean automatic qualification. Evaluators will be chosen on the basis of their areas of expertise in relation to our funding programmes and on how the profiles and areas of expertise of the different members making up the board complement each other. There are different boards for each fund and, barring a couple of exceptions, for each evaluation session. Each board includes a range of different practitioners, managers and observers who are able to actively contribute to the discussion leading to the final decision about the projects to be funded.
If you would like to contribute to this process, send us your application form and CV on firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the call is available on our website - http://www.artscouncilmalta.org/pages/funds-opportunities/opportunities/call-for-evaluators. Names of evaluators will be published at the end of the year.
Elaine Falzon, Head of Funds & Brokerage, Arts Council Malta