SPRINGBOARD: Cohort check-in report

When SPRINGBOARD 2023 ended on 2 March this year we were buoyed, not only by the overwhelmingly positive response to the assembly, but by the collective energy and brain power of the assembly’s 12 cohorts. But, writes Ben Twist, it wasn’t without some trepidation that we scheduled the first progress check-in for 6 June.

We had no idea what to expect. Would cohorts have met post-SPRINGBOARD? Would they have made any progress? Would they even turn up?

The aims of the assembly were many but one was to stimulate and support continued collaborative working on systemic change – which is necessary for the transformation of Scotland to a net-zero, climate-changed society – by diverse groups with shared interests. Often when you attend a normal conference you go, you listen and talk, you learn some things, but then you’re back at your work and the energy fades: it’s easy to settle back into normality. We wanted to find a way to help the discussions and the collaboration continue after the Assembly. If I’m honest, we had no idea how it would work. So, it’s genuinely thrilling to report that 11 of the 12 cohorts sent representatives to tell us about the progress they had made. It was very reassuring! Below is a brief rundown of some of the key points.

By the way if you’re new here and aren’t sure what SPRINGBOARD is all about (or need a refresh), read these two articles to get up to speed:

The cohorts

Some of the cohorts had changed their focus a bit, so it’s worth listing them here. Some are clearly culture focused and others more focused on societal change. If you aren’t a member, or started but have fallen away, and you’d like to get involved, then drop me a line and we can put you in touch with the cohort convenor.

  • Cohort A – Producing the future of theatre and dance in Scotland
  • Cohort B – Decarbonising classical music’s international touring
  • Cohort C – A changing culture and culture as an agent for change: Building a green arts charter
  • Cohort D – Getting Scotland’s cultural estate to reach net zero
  • Cohort E – Visual arts, design and craft: working towards a sustainable and ethical commissioning process (previously, Visual arts and sustainable legacies: Commissioners and producers supporting sustainable exhibition making and create enduring artworks)
  • Cohort F – Museums and communities collaborating for a resilient Scotland
  • Cohort G – Collaborations between climate and culture
  • Cohort H – Sited/public art can provide leadership and new ways of addressing global and environmental challenges
  • Cohort I – Degrowth, and creating the Creative Degrowth Network Scotland (previously, Culture’s role in imagining and driving radical transformation)
  • Cohort J – The role of creative freelancers in the climate crisis
  • Cohort K – Heritage playing its full role in the necessary transformation of society
  • Cohort L – The role of culture within 20-minute neighbourhoods

Read more about the cohorts and what they’re focusing on.

Inspiration and updates

It was energising and inspiring for everyone to hear about the range of work that has been going on, and how different cohorts have interpreted the task and organised how they want to collaborate. It is easy when working on challenging topics to feel alone – the check-in demonstrated that we are among friends and others are working hard, in varied and innovative ways.

There are several bodies of resources being created by different cohorts. There was a strong feeling at the check-in that we should consider how to bring these together both to avoid duplication and promote serendipity; information that one cohort has found will be useful to others.

There may be value in a central list of all cohort meetings to facilitate cross-cohort sharing, as there are crossovers and synergies between work that different cohorts are doing. We have therefore created a joint cohorts group in our Mighty Networks platform, and each of the cohorts has its own site there for discussion, sharing documents etc.

Fair work

During the assembly we discussed the question of fair work and how to support freelance and individual practitioners who want to work in this area but aren’t paid by an employer to do so, unlike most of the SPRINGBOARD attendees. This was raised again at the check-in.

Creative Carbon Scotland (CCS) paid the freelancers at the check-in a fee for their attendance, but we don’t have the budget to cover their work beyond that. I reported that we have drafted a discussion paper, which we will share with various individuals and organisations working with or supporting individuals, both in the cultural and climate fields, to spur discussion and develop a way to provide this support. We will continue to try to find funds for a limited amount of support for individuals to continue their culture/climate change work, but it may not be until next financial year that we can fully build it into our budget.


Finally, we outlined some thinking about next year’s assembly. These are draft ideas, so no promises, and equally we’re keen to hear people’s views so we can improve our plan.


The current vision is for a two-day event, with day one held one week and day two taking place on a different day the following week. The conference elements (talks, keynote speeches, panel discussions) are proposed for day one to provide opportunities to listen, learn, pick things up. Cohort meet-ups would happen on day one – not necessarily exactly the same as in 2023, more whatever is needed next year, and  providing opportunities to work together in different ways (eg intersections with other groupings like Climate Beaconslocal assemblies).

There are logistical challenges but CCS welcomes people’s views on the idea of day one taking place online but with the opportunity to participate in-person in local hubs, hosted by cultural organisations with suitable facilities (café, screen, wifi if needed) with the conference elements streamed on a big screen via Zoom or Teams and opportunities for attendees to chat and connect with others from their region. NB: this scenario relies on volunteer hosts to manage the logistics for their own venue.

Day two would take place on Zoom or Teams and in participants’ normal places of work.

Programme ideas

In terms of programme, the theme of the post-growth economy, and culture and the arts’ role in bringing that about and in shaping it, seems to have struck a chord this year, so we want to follow that up. Similarly, we are thinking about the topic of bringing about transformational change in a practical way – exemplified this year by Professor Carly McLachlan’s talk about the Super Low Carbon Route Map for music touring.

In 2024 many cultural organisations will be applying for Multi-Year Funding from Creative Scotland and others will be thinking about shorter-term funding. Place-based working offers both opportunities and challenges for cultural organisations and individuals, and discussion about how this can be integrated into programmes of work will be useful.

Creative Scotland’s Climate Emergency & Sustainability Plan highlights those organisations that it supports and its own collaboration with climate-focused actors outside the cultural sector – public bodies, charities, communities, for example. We are keen to welcome more non-cultural partners to the SPRINGBOARD assembly and explore how collaboration with culture can support climate action in society.

The group gave a general thumbs up to the outline above, and made the following suggestions:

  • A topic for day one could be around sustainable funding for long-term collaboration with communities; how we involve communities in curating artworks long-term. One person noted that this type of work – co-creation and shared authorship – is happening in the field of public art and The Barn in Aberdeenshire, for example, may be able to provide relevant speakers.
  • There’s value in exploring the power of symbolism in narrative and how that interfaces with the comment that we haven’t yet cracked the political narrative even with the national net-zero policy. How do we stop business as usual by accepting the power of the symbolism the country’s culture has? For example, there is significant return to air travel in the performing arts sector and this is supported by politicians’ views on international working in-person as an economic and reputational asset.
Summing up

Overall, the check-in was very encouraging for us at CCS and, I think, for those who attended. It feels as though we are on the right track and have hit upon a way of working that delivers results. It has spurred independent action by a varied group of people and organisations working on shared interests, which is perhaps slightly unusual. As I said above, we are keen to welcome more climate-change focused players to the assembly next year, and over the next few months we will be making contact with people working on climate change in various sectors to introduce them to our work, the role of culture and SPRINGBOARD. If you are one of those people, or know someone who is, please let me know and we can have a chat.

Ben Twist

Director, Creative Carbon Scotland

The next SPRINGBOARD cohort check-in is scheduled for 5 September.

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